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Falcons land defensive tackle in our annual collaborative mock draft

Seems like an obvious choice, but which one?

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

One of the oldest annual collaborative mock drafts from the long-defunct CBS forums found its way over to Live4SportNetwork and is now in its 9th year. A collaborative mock is something special, with different people representing each team.

It isn’t just a case of some newspaper or TV guy saying “I think the Macon Mudskippers should take this guy in the first round, that guy in the second, and this other guy in the third”. This one is competitive, and your top candidates may be off the board long before your pick comes up, and you have to adjust on the fly.

So how did the Falcons fare in this year’s annual collaborative mock?

Round 1, Pick 26: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan

Why a DT? That one should be pretty obvious. Why Hurst? Because Vita Vea, Da’Ron Payne and Taven Bryan were already off the board. But Hurst was still available, making him a no-brainer of a choice at #26 overall.

One key issue worth noting while watching the draft on Thursday: Hurst had irregularities in his EKG at the Combine. He has been tested again since then, and teams have put him through physical exams during private workouts at team facilities. Teams (including the Falcons) have far more information on him than fans. If it turns out that he slips down the board on draft day, this is likely the reason why.

Round 2, Pick 26: TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma

Andrews is lacking as a blocker, but he’s a big, reliable pass catcher and a serious weapon in the red zone. As far as puzzle pieces go, the Falcons carried four TEs on the roster in 2016. We’ve lost Levine Toilolo and rising prospect Josh Perkins since then. Logan Paulsen is already 31 years old and only here on a one year contract. We don’t know yet if Eric Saubert will pan out.

Andrews and Austin Hooper should pair well as a TE tandem. It’s the true receiving threat at the TE position that the Falcons have sorely missed, and Andrews might be the most polished route runner in this year’s TE draft class. He had 62 receptions in 14 games this year, compared to 61 total receptions for Atlanta’s tight ends in 45 combined games. Andrews also scored 8 touchdowns and averaged over 15 yards per reception, compared with only 4 touchdowns and an average of under 11 yards for Atlanta’s TE group last year.

Round 3, Pick 26: DT B.J. Hill, North Carolina State

If anyone doubts the need for a second defensive tackle, take a look at the roster. The collaborative mock took place before the Falcons signed Garrison Smith and Justin Zimmer, but even so, a potential gap stuffer like Hill is still a top need. Offhand, I was quite surprised that he was still available. I’ve seen him projected in the second round and listed as a potential target for us at #58. I had suspected I’d be going for P.J. Hall at this point rather than Hill, but I’ll happily take Hill at #90 if we can get him.

Round 4, Pick 26: RB (and PR/KR) Nyheim Hines, North Carolina State

Think of this as a “puzzle piece” pick. For years, the Falcons have carried an extra wide receiver on the roster solely for return duty. If Hines can take over that role (he had two kick return touchdowns and one punt return touchdown in college) while also filling the #3 RB role, that would free up a roster spot and a spot on the 46-man active list. As a running back, Hines is a speedster (4.38) who is comfortable with the outside stretch run. He’s a home run threat and a solid system fit.

Round 6, Pick 26: S (LB) Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern

The Falcons have re-signed Kemal Ishmael, and last year the team drafted Duke Riley. Knowing how the coaching staff doesn’t hesitate to have players change positions, Igwebuike seems like a strong candidate to convert to linebacker, along the lines of Deone Bucannon, Mark Barron, Nate Gerry, Ishmael, or ex-Falcon Coy Wire. Igwebuike lists as 6-0, 205, almost identical to Ishmael at 6-0, 206. Add 10-15 pounds to his frame over the next two years, and he’d fit right in with Riley (218) or Deion Jones (222).

As for the attributes that made him my choice in round six, he’s fast (4.44), agile (6.56 cone), and a physical, aggressive defender who is strong against the run and on special teams. His coverage skills might be marginal for a free safety, but he’s well above average for a linebacker. So I selected him specifically with the idea of playing him mainly on special teams early on, while bulking him up a bit and developing him as a package linebacker. (For those of you who want a bigger linebacker to help balance our roster of undersized speedsters, keep reading...)

Round 7, Pick 16: CB Davontae Harris, Illinois State

Atlanta lost three developing cornerback prospects, with Jalen Collins being dismissed following his second suspension and both C.J. Goodwin and Deji Olatoye waived later in the season. I had Harris pegged as a strong system fit.

He’s a small school prospect, but that has never stopped the Falcons before. He has size (6-0, 200), speed (4.43), and is physical in run support (22 bench press reps). He’d need at least a year before he’s ready to contribute on pass defense (though he has good ball skills), but he would immediately be a top contender to play gunner and jammer on special teams. I had seen several fourth round projections on him, so when he slid into the 7th, I gave up our last pick to move up from 7-26 and grab him. Hey, it wouldn’t be a proper Falcons draft if Thomas Dimitroff didn’t trade up at least once, right?

UDFA FB Nick Bawden, San Diego State

This particular mock includes two UDFA signings per team. I took it as an opportunity to address the fullback position. If you’re going to play a true fullback, Bawden is as good as you could hope to land as a rookie. (For anyone wondering, Dmitri Flowers was taken at the top of the fifth round.) I would have drafted Bawden had I not traded up to grab the sliding Harris.

He was the lead blocker for both Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny, and he has solid pass catching skills as well. If our coaching staff wanted to work in a few gadget plays, Bawden would be an interesting choice for a Wildcat package as he was originally a quarterback. (He wasn’t a particularly good quarterback, which is why he became a fullback. But at least he knows the position and could get the ball to an open receiver on a RPO play.)

UDFA LB Quentin Poling, Ohio

Picture a faster version of 2013 small school UDFA linebacker Paul Worrilow. Poling has impressive workout numbers, with a 40 time right at 4.6 (hand timed 4.58 at his pro day), a 38” vertical, 10’ 7” broad jump, 24 bench press reps, a 6.88 cone drill and a 4.22 shuttle. On the field he had 7 career interceptions, 18 sacks, and 43.5 tackles for loss. It wasn’t all against small school competition either. Tennessee fans might remember him, as Poling had 9 solo tackles, 5 assists and a forced fumble against the Vols (then ranked #15) in 2016. He also has the intangibles we love, as he was a team captain and the defensive signal caller for Ohio.

If he does go undrafted, I hope we’ll be among the teams trying to sign him as a free agent.

And there you have it. That’s the group of prospects that I was able to acquire for the Falcons. Have at it...