On our path to the draft, we’ll drop the latest mock draft from D. Orlando Ledbetter, our Atlanta Falcons Beat writer, each Friday. Here’s version 4.0 for the NFL Draft, which is set for April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.
With the countdown to the draft in full swing, the Falcons’ needs have come sharply into focus.
They need a defensive tackle, offensive guard, fullback, linebacker and wide receiver/returner. The Falcons have seven overall picks and could trade up in the draft if one of the top two defensive tackles – Washington’s Vita Vea or Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne – slip to a within their grasp.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has traded up in the first round four times over his 10 seasons of drafting for the franchise.
Here’s my working list of the five players on the Falcons’ radar screen for the 26th pick of the NFL draft, which is set for April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.
Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander, Notre Dame offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, Georgia offensive guard Isaiah Wynn, South Carolina tight end Maurice Hurst and Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan.
The team’s decision makers went to Louisville last weekend to work out Alexander. McGlinchey was in for a visit. Hurst and Wynn have been linked to the team from early in the pre-draft process, while Bryan is an apparent scheme fit.
In the Mock Draft 4.0, Wynn falls to the Falcons, who would snap him up immediately with their pick.
Byran, who was the team’s pick in the 3.0 version, remains intriguing.
“He's a dynamic interior pass rusher,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
Bryan is the type of project that Falcons coach Dan Quinn and defensive line coach Bryant Young could undertake. Also, Travis Jones was hired this week as the assistant defensive line coach.
“He does not know exactly what he's doing,” said Jeremiah, a former scout. “I always say with him, when you watch him, there's a lot of times when he wins the battle and loses the war.
“He will beat the dude in front of him and it is wildly impressive. He's just (got to) do a better job of finding the football and making more plays.”
NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks, a former player and scout, believes Quinn and Young can fine-tune Bryan’s game. Quinn came up in the NFL as a defensive line coach.
“If you go back and look at Dan Quinn's history, he does a really good job of taking guys that -- I think the Falcons use the term ‘urgent athletes.’ (They are) explosive athletes that have some skills, have the athleticism and the burst to make things happen. Then they believe they can coach up some of the (technique) stuff.”
The Falcons didn’t re-sign defensive tackle Dontari Poe and need a less-expensive rookie in that spot.
“You put him in the center of that defense and allow him to kind of hunt quarterbacks, I think it adds something with Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley and some of the other guys they have coming off the edges.”
2018 NFL Draft Order
1- 1- 1 Cleveland – Sam Darnold, QB USC -- He got plastered by Ohio State in his final collegiate game in the Cotton Bowl. He took his licking and tried to keep on ticking. After that spanking 24-7, Darnold elected to by-pass his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the draft. He was a four-star recruit and red-shirted one season before playing the past two seasons. He completed 549 of 846 passes (64.9 percent) for 7,229 yards, 57 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. “Sam Darnold should be the pick for the Cleveland Browns (at No.1 overall),” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I think he's the right guy there. I personally think he's the best quarterback in his class. And I think he's, at 20 years old, is just scratching the surface of what he can do.”
1- 2- 2 New York Giants – Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State -- Quarterbacks in the ACC are happy that Chubb is gone. He was notorious for snatching the little towels that they tucked into their pants. He kept stealing Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s towel in a national televised game. He’s pilfered the towels from several others. “It’s just something I do to get in people’s heads,” Chubb said. “I do it in lightheartedness. Then it came to the point where I saw it really bothered (Bryant). So if I see something bothers you, I’m just going to keep doing it. ... They ended up winning the game, but I got in his head a little bit.” NFL scouts like Chubb not for his towel-snatching prowess, but for his quarterback sacks. He had 10 sacks in each of his junior and senior seasons. He had 25 sacks over his career and is considered the top pass-rusher in the draft.
1- 3- 3 New York Jets from Indianapolis (a) --- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming -- He was a late-bloomer who was lightly recruited coming out of high school and junior college. Only Wyoming and Eastern Michigan gave him offers. He has the biggest arm in the draft and the most imposing physical stature. He was not very accurate at times, while completing just 56.3 percent of his passes for the Cowboys. He has drawn comparisons to Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz since they both played in the same offense. Allen was under center and in the shotgun for the Cowboys. He was proficient with read-pass option concepts. Most of his woes have been attributed to his weak supporting case. “I’ve done a bunch of his tape and saw him live at the Senior Bowl,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s got as live an arm as anybody I’ve seen since JaMarcus Russell. I heard people thought that was a negative because of JaMacus’s career. But to qualify that, all I’m talking about is arm talent. I’m not talking about the ability to play in the NFL. His arm talent is the best I’ve seen since Russell.”
1- 4- 4 Cleveland from Houston (b) – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State -- Some analyst consider him the top player in the draft and a generational type running back. He rushed for more than 3,800 yards over three season before entering the draft with a year of eligibility left.
1- 5- 5 Denver – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA -- He has survived some questionable comments from his former coach Jim Mora, but is immensely talented. His bizarre behavior and ability to lead has been heavily scrutinized during the pre-draft process. But physically, there is no question about his talent. He was a five-star recruit, but didn’t win big at UCLA while playing under three different coordinators. Rosen was the first true freshman in UCLA’s storied history to start the season opener. He passed for 3,670 yards, 23 touchdowns and had 11 interceptions, while setting several UCLA freshman records on the way to an 8-5 record. He had a shoulder injury and played just six games as a sophomore before going 6-7 last season as a junior. “Rosen needs to stop trying to do too much with his arm and improve his feel in the pocket, but his instincts and movements are reminiscent of Matt Ryan, projecting as a NFL starter,” according to Dane Brugler’s 2018 NFL draft guide.
1- 6- 6 Indianapolis from New York Jets (c) – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia -- Smith was measured at 6-foot, 7/8 inches and weighed 236 pounds. He was listed at 225 pounds last season at Georgia. He said that was his sophomore year weight.
“I love Roquan Smith,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he’s today’s NFL off-the-ball linebacker and it’s mostly about speed. He’s 225 pounds. Deion Jones was drafted in the second round in Atlanta two years ago. He’s the prototype. I think Roquan Smith takes it a step farther. A very similar type guy. I love the way he plays.” If he slips past the Colts here, the Raiders, who need a middle linebacker, will snap him up with the 10th overall pick.
1- 7- 7 Tampa Bay – Quentin Nelson, OG, Notre Dame -- He can handle himself in the trenches at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds. He started 36 of 37 games over his career at left guard. “Quentin Nelson in my opinion is one of the two best players in this draft,” Mayock said. “Barkley and Nelson are the two best players in this draft...You’ve got a bad offensive line. You can talk all you want about the (quarterbacks) and the (running backs) and the wideouts. But if you can’t block for them. . . if you’re talking quarterback and what else is important, it’s fixing the offensive line.” Bucs get some protection for quarterback Jameis Winston right here.
1- 8- 8 Chicago – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State -- A speedy cornerback with great coverage skills. He’s 5-10 and 183 pounds.
1- 9- 9 San Francisco – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama -- He started 38 games the last three seasons at cornerback, hybrid nickel and safety.
1-10-10 Oakland – Tremaine Edmonds, LB, Virginia Tech -- He started all 13 games as a junior and led the Hokies with 109 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was a first-team All-ACC selection.
1-11-11 Miami – Vita Vea, DT, Miami -- Vea is the top defensive tackle in the draft.
Vea is 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds. “Obviously, he’s a big man who a lot of the league is really honed in what he can do,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said.
“I think the feeling is that he can come in and play right away and be an impact type of player in this league. It’s fun watching him move around. He’s a big man, who can cover some ground.”
1-12-12 Buffalo from Cincinnati (d) – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma -- Played for Kyle Richardson at Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern High. Richardson is currently at Clemson as an offensive assistant. The ACC and SEC schools overlooked Rudolph, who went out to the Midwest and starred for the Cowboys. He left Oklahoma State with nearly all of the school’s passing records, including touchdowns (92), passing yards (13,618), 400-yard passing games (10) and 300-yard passing games (23). “Mason Rudolph is who he is,” Mayock said. “Big, strong, good-looking kid. I have a second-round grade on him. I don’t think his arm strength is in the same conversation (as the other guys).”
1-13-13 Washington – Derwin James, DB, Florida State -- He is the top rated safety in the draft and could help improve a NFL defense immediately.
1-14-14 Green Bay – Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio -- He’s a late bloomer who played for Larry Coker and has been working out with former NFL coach Jim Washburn. Scouts like his size (6-foot-5-7/8 and 259 pounds) and quickness. Coker compares him to Calais Campbell. “Marcus Davenport is intriguing to everybody ,” Mayock said.
1-15-15 Arizona – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama -- He caught 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns over three season. “He can come in day one and be your starting slot,” Mayock said. “He’s so tough and so quick.”
1-16-16 Baltimore – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville -- A team that is willing to re-tool on offense to blend in Jackson’s unique talents could end up with the steal of the draft. Former Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson, showed in a small sample size, how dangerous a quarterback with pass-run skills can be in the NFL. The former Heisman Trophy winner played three seasons at Louisville under former Falcons coach Bobby Petrino. He selected the school because Petrino ran a pro-style offense, and he had a chance to start as a freshman. The speedy Jackson rushed for 1,571 yards as a sophomore and 1,601 as a junior. The knock on Jackson is that he is not an accurate passer. He completed 619 of 1,086 passes (57.0 percent) for 9,043 yards, 69 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. "We ran the (Ron) Erhardt system," Jackson said. "Coach would probably call it from the sideline, and I would have to relay it to the line. My receivers had to look to the sideline to know what protection (was called). Simple stuff like that." Baltimore and New England appear to be most interested. “Jackson has the first-round athleticism of a right-handed Michael Vick and can have a better NFL career if he continues to develop his decision-making, mechanics and accuracy as a passer,” according to Dane Brugler’s 2018 NFL draft guide.
1-17-17 Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama -- He made 32 starts over his 44-game career. He was a disruptive force in the SEC. “The production hasn't always matched the ability but he is strong, he's athletic,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “You watch the Clemson game and see the interception he has there, he shows that off a little bit. Really quick hands. I think he's got a little bit of stiffness in his ankles. That's one of the only knocks I had on him. But he plays hard and he's a really intriguing player.”
1-18-18 Seattle – Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma -- He’s an athletic plodder, but uses his big body to his advantage. The Peachtree Ridge High product is massive at 6-foot-7 7/8 and 345 pounds. He’s a good run blocker. He lifted 225 pounds 14 times at the combine and 18 times at his Pro Day. He’ll need to get stronger in the NFL.
1-19-19 Dallas – Coutland Sutton, WR, SMU -- He was a big-time playmaker for the Mustangs after being converted to wide receiver from safety. He caught 195 passes for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns over his career. He’s 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the combine.
1-20-20 Detroit – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU -- He’s 5-10 and 224 pounds. He rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016 and 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. The Lions have been looking for quality running back since Barry Sanders retired.
1-21-21 Cincinnati from Buffalo (e) – Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College -- He had 16.5 sacks in 2016, but was hurt last season and only had five sacks.
1-22-22 Buffalo from Kansas City (f) – Rashaad Evans, ILB, Alabama -- He played middle linebacker in 2016 and weakside linebacker in 2017. “Rashaan Evans ... can play inside and outside,” Jeremiah said.
1-23-23 New England from Los Angeles (g) – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame --
He is Matt Ryan’s first cousin, and has visited the Falcons. McGlinchey, who’s 6-foot-7 and 309 pounds, is considered one of the top tackles in the draft along with Texas’ Connor Williams. He had trouble with Georgia’s speed rushers in South Bend last season.
1-24-24 Carolina – Connor Williams, OT, Texas -- Started 28 games at left tackle for the Longhorns. “Williams will be a guard/center on some draft boards because of his lack of length, but his sophomore tape showed a capable NFL starter at tackle and NFL teams will need to trust the 2016 tape to draft him in Round 1,” according to Dane Brugler’s 2018 NFL draft guide.
1-25-25 Tennessee – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville -- Alexander, who’s 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, is the third rated cornerback in the draft behind Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. “Alexander isn’t getting any bigger, but he displays the requisite athleticism, intelligence and toughness to fight for immediate starting reps and if his technique and decision-making develop, he will be a NFL difference maker,” according to Brugler.
1-26-26 Atlanta – Isiah Wynn, OG, Georgia -- Wynn played left tackle last season for the Bulldogs. The Falcons signed Brandon Fusco and Andy Levitre is heading into the last year of his contract. Wynn would help to solidify the interior of Matt Ryan’s passing pocket. He also fits in the team’s outside-zone blocking system. “He doesn’t have elite size for the next level, but he generates inline power with his body control to create movement in the run game,” according to Brugler. “Wynn has excellent feet in pass protection, sinking his hips and striking with a violent punch to keep rushers at bay. He has the skills-set to line up at any of the interior line positions in the NFL with the functional experience to kick out to tackle in a pinch. Overall, Wynn is a plug-and-play NFL starter and the second-best offensive line prospect in the 2018 draft class (behind Nelson), projecting as a potential Pro Bowler.”
1-27-27 New Orleans – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida -- Bryan, 22, is 6-foot-5 and 291 pounds. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds. He grew in Wyoming helping his father, Brandy, a former Navy SEALS, with the family construction business. He’ll fit in the Falcons’ brotherhood theme and also has some Navy SEALS training from his upbringing. At Florida, he redshirted in 2014 before playing three seasons and entering the draft after his redshirt junior season. He earned the nickname “Wyoming Wildman” while amassing 10.5 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks over his career.
1-28-28 Pittsburgh -- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State -- He started 22 of 40 games over his three-year career. He made 29.5 tackles for losses and had 16.5 sacks.
1-29-29 Jacksonville – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State -- He’s considered the top tight end in the draft. He caught 198 passes for 2,988 yards and 21 touchdowns over his career.
1-30-30 Minnesota – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA -- He played right tackle and left tackle for the Bruins.
1-31-31 New England – Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State -- Played for Kyle Richardson at Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern High. Richardson currently is at Clemson as an offensive assistant. The ACC and SEC schools over-looked Rudolph, who went out to the midwest and starred for the Cowboys. He left Oklahoma State with nearly all of the school’s passing records, including touchdowns (92), passing yards (13,618), 400-yard passing games (10) and 300-yard passing games (23). “Mason Rudolph is who he is,” Mayock said. “Big, strong, good-looking kid. I have a second-round grade on him. I don’t think his arm strength is in the same conversation (as the other guys).”
1-32-32 Philadelphia – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa -- He had eight interceptions last season for the Hawkeyes. He was named the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson defensive back of the year, earning first team All-Big Ten and unanimous All-America honors. Jackson also received the Jack Tatum Award (nation’s best defensive back) and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
(a) Jets acquired pick from Colts for first-round pick, two second-round picks and second-round pick in 2019, March 17, 2018.
(b) Browns acquired pick and first-round pick in 2017 (S Jabrill Peppers) from Texans for first-round pick in 2017 (QB Deshaun Watson), April 27, 2017.
(c) Colts acquired pick from Jets: see (1a).
(d) Bills acquired pick and sixth-round pick from Bengals for T Cordy Glenn and first-round pick, March 14, 2018.
(e) Bengals acquired pick from Bills: see (1b).
(f) Bills acquired pick and first- (CB Tre'Davious White) and third-round picks in 2017 from Chiefs for first-round pick in 2017 (QB Patrick Mahomes), April 27, 2017.
(g) New England acquired the pick in a trade with the Rams for WR Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick. The Patriots also picked up a sixth-round pick. April 3, 2018.