Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, who’s 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, is a popular pick for the Falcons in some pre-combine mock drafts.
At this juncture in the offseason, Vea makes sense because the Falcons may not be able to re-sign defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
Poe played last season on an incentive-laden $8 million contract. His market value is at $10 million to $12 million a year, according to CBS Sports NFL business analyst Joel Corry.
“Even with (Dontari) Poe, Grady Jarrett is going into a contract year,” Corry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “Poe is going to try to get the going rate for a run-stuffer which is $10, 11 to 12 million per year. Can you really do that and also pay Grady Jarrett? There may be a choice between the two.”
With the Falcons committed to a contract extension for quarterback Matt Ryan, they may not be able to financially compete for Poe.
With so many teams out there with a lot of salary-cap room, it would be agent-malpractice by Jimmy Sexton to not let Poe test the open market.
In one mock draft by CBS Sports, the Falcons take Vea with the 26th pick.
“Vea would give Dan Quinn a Brandon Mebane- or Red Bryant-type of mammoth nose tackle who can two-gap when needed or get upfield in obvious passing situations,” Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports wrote.
In another three-round mock draft, the Falcons trade up with Seattle to 18 to guarantee that they get Vea.
“The only projected trade that doesn’t target a quarterback, the Falcons make a move to secure one of their few glaring needs,” Luke Easterling of USAToday.com’s draftwire wrote. “The Falcons have a track meet on the edge with the talented tandem of Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley, but they need a young presence in the middle to replace the likely departing Dontari Poe. With the Cowboys and Lions both in need of a massive, athletic nose tackle like Vea, the Dirty Birds move up just ahead of them to get their man.”
Seattle then takes running back Derrius Guice from LSU with the Falcons’ second-round pick. In this three-round mock, the Falcons select Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III at 58th overall.
Vea started all 13 games for the Huskies last season and was named first-team All-Pac-12. He also won the Pac-12 Pat Tillman defensive player of the year award.
He made six tackles against Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Like most college players, he has some issues.
Here’s what NFL.com’s draft profile has to say abour Vea: “Vea's tape can be frustrating because he flashes star potential one series and then looks average the next. With that said, he's still very raw and should be judged by his ability rather than just his results as he should unlock his potential with more coaching. Vea has the size and power to play nose in an odd or even front, and he could be targeted by 3-4 teams looking for dominant run defender on the end. He should work into a defensive line rotation immediately and has the ability to become a good NFL starter for years.”