The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter joins CineSport’s Noah Coslov to identify the players that the Falcons may reach for in the draft.
The COVER 9@9 is back every Wednesday at 9 a.m. We are gearing up for the start of the offseason conditioning program on April 18 and the NFL draft (April 28-30).
1. MOCK DRAFT 3.0: Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff keeps using the word “creative” when discussing the team’s approach to the upcoming draft.
The Falcons only have five picks for the upcoming NFL draft, which is set for April 28-30 in Chicago. In the NFL draft world, “creative” is left open for interpretations.
I’m taking that to mean the Falcons are going to trade back out of 17th spot and secure additional picks. So, in the Mock 3.0, we have the Falcons trading back, which can be lucrative, with the Minnesota Vikings. In the Desmond Trufant trade, the Falcons sent a third- and sixth-round pick to St. Louis to move up eight spots. They also received a seventh-pick in the subsequent draft.
There isn’t much difference in the player they’d get at the 17th spot over the one they’ll get at 23rd. The Vikings want to come up to the 17th position and snap up Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
With the 23rd pick the Falcons will select stout Clemson defensive Kevin Dodd, who was the Tigers' best-kept secret.
Here’s how my Mock 3.0 stacks up:
- Tennessee Titans. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
- Cleveland Browns. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
- San Diego Chargers. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
- Dallas Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
- Jacksonville Jaguars. Jalen Ramsey, FS, Florida State
- Baltimore Ravens. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
- San Francisco 49ers. Jared Goff, QB, California
- Philadelphia Eagles. Veron Hargreaves, CB, Florida
- Tamp Bay Buccaneers: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
- New York Giants. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
- Chicago Bears. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
- New Orleans Saints. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
- Miami Dolphins. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
- Oakland Raiders. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
- Los Angeles Rams. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. His Pro Day is today in Memphis.
- Detroit Lions. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
- **Minnesota Vikings. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
- Indianapolis Colts. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
- Buffalo Bills. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Mississippi
- New York Jets. Leonard Floyd, DE, Georgia
- Washington Redskins. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
- Houston Texans. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
- **Atlanta Falcons, Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
- Cincinnati Bengals. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
- Pittsburgh Steelers. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
- Seattle Seahawks. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
- Green Bay Packers. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
- Kansas City Chiefs. William Jackson III, CB, Houston
- Arizona Cardinals. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
- Carolina Panthers. Vonn Bell, FS, Ohio State
- Denver Broncos. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
* There will be only 31 picks in the first round in 2016, with New England’s first-round pick forfeited.
**Falcons trade back with Vikings and land additional picks in the draft.
2. WHERE THE PASS RUSH?: When the dust settles after the draft, the main question will be how have the Falcons improved their pass rush?
“What's been hard for a lot of people is these quarterbacks get rid of the ball pretty fast, now,” NFL Network’s Charles Davis said. “And that's made it very difficult. So, we're trying to take numbers from guys getting the five, seven-step drop and hanging in the pocket and getting it, and it's harder and harder to get that now. So, you have to get your numbers in different ways.”
Davis, like Falcons coach Dan Quinn and former coach Mike Smith, talk about harassing the quarterback, blocking passes, getting hurries, hits and moving the quarterback off the mark. In Super Bowl 50, Denver got old-fashioned sacks to help them take down Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
“Can they get their hands up and knock the ball away sometimes like a J.J. Watt who is so famous for doing that,” Davis said. “These guys are taught that because a lot of times the ball is snapped, and you might get two, three steps in towards the quarterback, and you better get your hands up because the ball's on its way out. But developing these guys and getting them is never an easy thing anyway.”
Davis believes the top edge rushers in the draft are Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, Clemson's Shaq Lawson and Dodd.
“I think Dodd kind of equates to me like Ziggy Ansah coming out of BYU, not a ton of experience, although Dodd grew up in the United States and knew a little more about American football, he only played one year of high school and had one year of production at Clemson," Davis noted. "We weren't sure what we were getting, but he's been one of the top 10 in the draft because it's such a premium on pass rushers.”
3. WHERE DO PASS RUSHERS COME FROM?: We don’t have to rehash the Falcons problems with establishing a pass rush, but where do the top pass rushers come from? What are they looking for? How do you project growth in the NFL?
“A lot of these guys are still outside linebackers in college,” Davis said. “That's where your pass rushers are coming from as well. You have one in Atlanta that's playing a full-scale defensive end that they drafted in the first round last year (Vic Beasley). So, they're still trying to get that sorted out. And (coach) Dan (Quinn) and his crew are very, very creative in figuring out ways to get those guys on the field and turn them loose.”
4. THE INDIANAPOLIS PLAN: The Falcons may try to follow the old Indianapolis plan. With Peyton Manning at the controls, the Colts went up by two touchdowns early on a lot of teams and then unleashed smallish and fast defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
“People worried about how they'd hold up in the run game,” Davis said. “How did they help them? With offense. It's the old joke. You're starting up 14-0, so your pass rush becomes something. So, that's one way teams do it.”
5. SOME PASS-RUSH SLEEPERS: Boise State’s Kamalei Correa, Stony Brook’s Victor Ochi and Grand Valley State’s Matt Judon are some players with pass-rush skills who will be available in the middle rounds of the draft. Although Correa is started to creep into the late first-round of some mocks drafts.
“Correa is one of my favorite players, the ideal outside linebacker can really rush,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said. “He’s got a great motor.”
6. LOCALS DAY, OFFSEASON CONDITIONING: The Falcons are hosting several players with local ties today. The offseason conditioning program starts on April 18. The offseason schedule has been set.
7. ICYMI - Falcons transactions since March 1.
8. CHEERLEADER AUDITIONS: The pre-lims of the Falcons cheerleader auditions are set for Sunday, April 24, 2016. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
9. UPDATED DEPTH CHART: Here’s an updated look at the post-free agency depth chart after the signings of Courtney Upshaw and Philip Wheeler:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester, 18 Jordan Leslie
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Collin Rahrig
C 51 Alex Mack, 62 James Stone
RG 68 Mike Person 63 Ben Garland, 67 Adam Replogle
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris
TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 86 Beau Gardner
WR Mohamed Sanu, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams, 89 Aldrick Robinson, 89 C.J. Goodwin
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 12 Sean Renfree, 8 Matt Schaub, 1 Matt Simms
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 33 Terron Ward, 35 Gus Johnson
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
NICKEL DEFENSE (60 PERCENT)
RDE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 94 Tyson Jackson
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux 97 Grady Jarrett
DT 90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 74 Joey Mbu
LDE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 93 Malliciah Goodman, 41 Tyler Starr
LB 52 Sean Weatherspoon, 56 Brooks Reed, Philip Wheeler
LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 53 LaRoy Reynolds
RCB 32 Jalen Collins, 28 Akeem King
NCB 23 Robert Alford
LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke
FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie
S 30 Charles Godfrey, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Damian Parms
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems
PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
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