The day is finally here. All the mocks, all the predictions and rumors get tossed out the window, and we find out how the Falcons will attack the first round of the draft. This will be my second time doing this piece. Last year, I nailed the Calvin Ridley pick (which nobody saw coming), so I’ll give myself a congratulatory pat on the back. However, I’ll toss it up to beginner’s luck because I didn’t think the Falcons would take Takk McKinley and was more than shocked to hear Keanu Neal’s name called the year before. But for now, I’m a perfect 100%, and nobody can take that away from me.
I’m going to start this year with every Falcons’ fans favorite prospect – Ed Oliver. The tremendously athletic defensive tackle out of Houston has been raved about by Dan Quinn and rumored to be Atlanta’s dream pick. The problem is Oliver probably isn’t falling outside of the top ten and maybe not even the top eight. Thomas Dimitroff loves to trade up in the draft, and he has the picks to do it, but I don’t see it this year; which eliminates Ed Oliver.
The Falcons have too many needs to give up multiple picks to draft a defensive tackle. They probably need an offensive tackle more than anything, and good luck finding one without a second or third round pick. There are three or four defensive tackles that will be taken in the first round and possess elite potential. If Atlanta is hell-bent on selecting a DT, they can sit back and see which one of them falls to them.
Now, I’ll move onto the cornerbacks. We all are well aware of how much Dan Quinn loves a good cornerback. He’s selected one in three of the four drafts since coming to Atlanta, and the Falcons already had a starting tandem of Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Greedy Williams out of LSU is a prospect Dan Quinn has probably fallen in love with. Once again, however, Williams could be selected in the top ten, and if the Falcons trade up to draft another corner, I might have a heart attack. He won’t be the pick.
That leaves Byron Murphy and Deandre Baker as the other corner options at #14. I like both of these guys, especially Baker who has not allowed a touchdown in two full seasons, but I don’t see the Falcons taking either of these players with their first-round pick unless they trade back. That leaves us with four position groups remaining – defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker and offensive tackle.
I’ll start with the defensive end spot. On the defensive side, this is the position that the Falcons need the most work. Vic Beasley and even Takk McKinley have not cut it. Adrian Clayborn was a quality depth add but is only a one-year solution. I would love for the Falcons to address this position correctly for the first time in what seems like forever. I just don’t think it’s there for them this year.
Brian Burns is not a prospect I’m high on and would be shocked to see him taken by Atlanta. Montez Sweat was a combine warrior but his tape doesn’t show him making the most of his speed, and he lacks a lot of skill as a pass rusher. Combine that with his heart condition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell to the late first-round or maybe even the second.
Clelin Ferrell is a prospect I could see fitting well in Atlanta. He was effective against the run as well as the pass and would bring some much-added juice to the pass rush. The Falcons may be lying in the weeds here because there hasn’t been a peep suggesting Atlanta is interested, but I’ll hold off on saying he will be the player the Falcons chose.
At linebacker, there are only two possible choices – Devin White and Devin Bush. The Devin’s would both bring a lot to Atlanta’s linebacking core that is lacking depth. White would be a gamechanger, but I don’t even see him making it out of the top-five. Bush has the potential to be there, and there are even whispers about the Falcons trading up to get him. Remember, Atlanta almost snagged Rashaan Evans a year ago out of Alabama. However, I think the Falcons focus on one of their more pertinent needs in the first round.
Now we are getting to the nitty-gritty. The Falcons first-round pick is going to be at one of the tackle positions on the offensive or defensive side. For a while, I was leaning defense. I love Christian Wilkins and think he will be a slam dunk, but I have a feeling a team before the Falcons might be thinking the same thing. There’s a rumor out there now that Atlanta may be looking to trade up to snag Wilkins, but I can only see that happening if it’s a couple of spots. It pains me, but I’m eliminating him from contention.
On the offensive side, four tackles are a lock to go in the first round – Jonah Williams, Jawaan Taylor, Andre Dillard, and Cody Ford. Of those, Jawaan Taylor is the least likely to end up with the Falcons – as in I am eliminating him from contention. Andre Dillard has begun to earn some top ten steam, even more so than Jonah Williams, which perplexes me. If Williams is still around at #14, he’s the pick. He will solidify the Falcons offensive line and be a standout right tackle in year one. But if you’re noticing a trend here, the most enticing prospects are going to garner the most attention come tonight, and I don’t imagine him being available.
So who does that leave us with? At the offensive tackle position, we have Andre Dillard and Cody Ford. On the defensive side, we are left with the one and only Rashan Gary. A defensive tackle out of Michigan – Gary is a freak of nature athletically. His ceiling in the NFL is as high as anyone’s in this class, but he’s got a ton of work to get there. I’m not sure he’s even a day one starter in the NFL, and that’s something the Falcons must have in the first round – not a project.
Atlanta’s first-round pick is going to be an offensive tackle, and it comes down to Dillard and Ford. There’s a legitimate possibility Dillard isn’t around when Atlanta selects. I’m pretty sure Ford will be there. Regardless, I’m going to decide this pick as if they’re both there, and with the 14th pick in the NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons will select (drum roll, please) Cody Ford out of the University of Oklahoma.
Ford is a mauler in the run game, and we’ve heard Dan Quinn talk about how he wants to re-establish that physicality on the offensive line. Cody might be the most physical tackle option in the entire draft. There are some concerns about his ability to play tackle, but I believe he will be just fine on the outside due to his incredible athleticism and length. The Falcons may even be able to trade down and select Ford while picking up an extra draft pick or two; which would be the ideal situation. However, I believe tackle is the pick in the first round, and Cody Ford makes the most sense based on where Atlanta is selecting.