Here we are, at the conclusion of the horrific train wreck that was the 2013 Atlanta Falcons season. The NFL Draft picture has cleared up in the past several days , and the Falcons will be making their selection at No. 6 overall. This gives Atlanta a wide array of prospects to chose from, any of whom would be literal game changers. This draft is filled with players who can fill the biggest needs of the team, and hopefully they will bring us back to real Falcons Football come this August.
Round 1: Jadeveon Clowney DE, South Carolina
With as bad as the Falcons’ pass protection has been this season, the pass rush is just as horrid. Atlanta only mustered 32 sacks on the season, with Osi Umenyiora leading the team with 7.5. Clowney is a rare, “once in a generation” type prospect that can not only rush the passer with ease, but also set the edge in the run game. In 2013, Clowney played much of the season with injury. Add that to the fact that he was facing double, and even triple teams all season long, and you will understand why he saw a dip in production. Even if Clowney didn’t match his sophomore stats, opposing teams devised entire gameplans around him. His presence alone can help the Falcons defense as a whole. Atlanta has needed an every-down Defensive End since Abraham left, and even then, he wasn’t the most effective due to age. If the teams ahead of the Falcons draft by need, and not by best player avaliable, Jadeveon Clowney will still be on the board at pick number 6. Under Dimitroff, Atlanta has not selected a DE in the first 3 rounds, so Clowney here would be a nice dip into a virtually untouched field.
Round 2: Cyril Richardson OG, Baylor
Here is where we start to address the offensive line. Many Falcons fans are wanting an offensive tackle, but it will not happen this early. The RG position has been a revolving door in terms of who’s playing it, and how they’re playing. We have seen everyone and their cousin play Guard for the Falcons this year, as Konz, Reynolds, and Schrader have all seen action. Obviously, Atlanta doesn’t have an answer, so a high quality prospect must be taken. Cyril Richardson is a big body who can effectively run, and pass block. With experience at both LT and LG, Richardson has the football smarts that you look for in a NFL quality offensive lineman. Richardson is known for his stellar pass blocking at LG, but I see no reason as to why Richardson could not play RG at the professional level. At 6’5″ and 340 lbs, Cyril can literally bulldoze through collegiate defensive linemen. His presence on Atlanta’s line can give the Falcons that push we have severely lacked for the last several years in 3rd and short situations. If Atlanta can snag him with this pick, don’t be surprised to see extensive improvement in the offensive trenches.
Round 3: Andre Williams RB, Boston College
Williams is a true north-to-south, downhill runner. At 6’0″ and 227 lbs, he has the ability to run over defenders and fight for every yard. Don’t let his height fool you, Williams gets low before contact, forcing the tackler to literally bounce off of him. With his long strides, defenders find difficulty wraping him up low. The Heisman candidate does not do well in the pass catching department, but his sheer power will make NFL scouts completely forget about that. Williams has decent enough speed to break for a big gain, but cannot make defenders miss in the open field. Regardless, Williams seeks contact, and thrives off it. Atlanta will need another bruiser if they decide to part ways with 30 year old Jason Snelling, or when Steven Jackson is no longer with the team. Atlanta would be a perfect landing spot for Williams, as Jacquizz Rodgers would be a good complimentary back to Williams’ play style.
Round 4: Daniel McCullers DT, Tennessee
Atlanta currently has three Defensive Tackles scheduled to hit free agency this offseason, so at least one roster spot will need to be filled. McCullers is a freak of nature. At 6’8″ and 350 lbs, the Tennessee product can anchor any defensive line on the professional level. McCullers does a good job clogging the interior offensive linemen to stuff inside runs. He isn’t the fastest DT on the board, but nobody will be asking him to play linebacker here. McCullers would thrive in a 3-4 defense, but played admirably well in a 4-3 at Tennessee this year. This versatility allows Mike Nolan to use him in a variety of ways in the Hybrid Front Atlanta has used in the past couple of years
Round 5: Telvin Smith OLB, Florida State
Telvin Smith would be great depth behind Joplo Bartu and Sean Weatherspoon. Due to his 218 pound frame, NFL teams may shy away from taking him, thus him falling to Atlanta this late. Smith has a nose for the ball, and is a very solid tackler who always wraps up. His coverage ability would be a true asset to the Falcons defense that has had trouble covering TEs in the past. Smith’s blazing speed would make him for a phenomenal special teams player, which is where he would shine in the red and black.
Round 6: Stanley Jean-Baptiste CB, Nebraska
Since Atlanta will probably let go of Asante Samuel this offseason, Thomas Dimitroff needs to fill a roster spot with a talented Cornhusker. Jean-Baptiste led a very talented secondary in Nebraska, and has a tall frame that is similar to Seattle’s Brandon Browner.
Round 7: James Stone C, Tennessee
A four year star for the Vols, Stone anchored a line that was considered one of the best in the nation for the last several years. With cuts definitely coming to Atlanta’s offensive line, Stone will be a camp body who may surprise.