If the order for the next NFL draft were determined before Week 11 games, the Falcons (2-7) would flip a coin with Minnesota (2-7) for the No. 3 pick.
Only Jacksonville (1-8) and Tampa Bay (1-8) would select earlier.
At the top of the draft there are several impact players, including South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, who could help the Falcons immediately.
“He’s still No. 1,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Thursday of Clowney. “You have (outside linebacker) Anthony Barr from UCLA and Jake Matthews from Texas A&M, those are your top three. They pretty much are interchangeable (as the projected top pick).”
The Falcons may want to go defense early, because Kiper projects that there will be several good left tackles in the next draft.
Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, LSU’s La’el Collins, North Carolina’s James Hurst, Florida State’s Cameron Erving, Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson and Auburn’s Greg Robinson could all be available in the first round.
“He’s fun to watch because he just dominates as a run blocker,” Kiper said of Scherff. “He’s got good feet. He’s light on his feet.”
“Greg Robinson is a third-year sophomore left tackle at Auburn who has done a spectacular job. I love the way he goes out and just takes pride in his work. He’s a mature kid, professional in terms of his approach and his demeanor.”
Here’s a look at some players who might be available if the Falcons finish with a top-10 pick in the draft:
Clowney. Teams have successfully walled him off this season, and his sack production has dipped. “It’s about … quarterbacks, receivers, cover guys and pass rushers,” Kiper said. “Those are the four things you’ve got to have. Clowney is a pass rusher, and there is going to be tremendous value. There is going to be a reason to bring him into the fold. My attitude will be unless you need a quarterback, or a great left tackle, you take Jadeveon Clowney.”
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. He projects as a three-down linebacker in the NFL. “C.J. Mosley is coming off a great game this past week against LSU,” Kiper said. “He was all over the field. He can cover. … For the NFL right now, to have a guy who can cover and be on the field on every down like he can, that’s a huge asset to a coordinator.”
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who is signed through 2015, isn’t getting any younger, and Julio Jones is on crutches right now.
Barr. He has 20 career sacks. His dad, Tony Brooks, played fullback at Notre Dame and was a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1992 draft. He also has three uncles to play in the NFL.
Matthews. He is the son of Bruce Matthews, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 after a stellar 19-year career with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans. The Falcons may not be able to pass on one of the Matthews family members this time around. They could use Clay Matthews III right about now.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame. He’s a native of Monroe. “He’s definitely got the size and the speed,” said Falcons rookie safety Zeke Motta, who played at Notre Dame. “He’s been doing good. I know that he got ejected (from) the last game on a helmet-to-helmet hit. He’s definitely good at rushing the quarterback. He has a pretty good first step. He’s got good size and speed.”