NFL

2015 NFL Draft Primer: Atlanta Falcons

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Team Needs: Pass-Rusher, Tight End, Guard, Free Safety

Falcons’ Selections

Round 1- 8th overall

Round 2- 42nd overall

Round 3- 73rd overall

Round 4- 107th overall

Round 5- 146th overall

Round 6- 185th overall

Round 7- 226th overall

Round 7- 250th overall

Good fits early:

Alvin “Bud” Dupree:

One of the most explosive defenders in this draft is Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more explosive and powerful pass-rusher than Dupree in this draft. In college, Dupree won a lot of snaps because of his get off alone, as he blew past offensive tackles on a regular basis. When you look at Dupree’s lower body, you see a fluid athlete who sets up his pass rushes extremely well. However, when you look at Dupree’s upper body you see a player who needs a lot of development. Luckily for the Falcons, head coach Dan Quinn is one of the best teachers in the NFL for pass-rushers. Quinn would get the most out of Dupree and turn him into a star.

Randy Gregory:

Nebraska’s Randy Gregory has the highest ceiling out of any pass-rusher in this draft. Gregory is a fantastic edge-rusher who uses his length and athleticism to beat offensive tackles on a regular basis. Gregory has one of the best motors in this draft class and he makes a ton of plays based on hustle alone. Gregory would be a perfect fit at the Leo position for the Falcons and he would give them the dynamic pass-rusher they sorely need for Quinn’s defense.

Eric Rowe:

For Quinn’s defense to play at an optimal level, he needs a free safety who can play the deep middle at a high level. Rowe has the range to make all the plays between the hashes and he can cover up some the mistakes of his teammates. Rowe is a fantastic tackler who isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against the run. Rowe plays a physical brand of football that meshes extremely well with Quinn’s ideology. Rowe would be a great player for the Falcons to target in the second round and he could really maximize the effectiveness of the defense.

Don’t Be Surprised If…

The Falcons target a wide receiver on day two of the NFL draft. With Julio Jones and Roddy White, it wouldn’t appear that the Falcons have a need at wide receiver; however, White is getting up there in age and the Falcons may look to find someone to groom to replace White in this draft. The Falcons could target speedsters like Phillip Dorsett and Chris Conley or big a receiver like Jaelen Strong.

Potential late-round targets:

Shaquille Mason:

One of the most underrated offensive linemen in this draft is Georgia Tech’s Shaquille Mason. The reason mason has been overlooked is because he comes from an unconventional offense at Georgia Tech. A lot of what Mason did won’t translate to the NFL, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good player. Mason held his own at the Senior Bowl as he showed the strength and movement skills to be a fantastic run-blocker and serviceable pass protector. Mason could potentially be one of those late-round offensive linemen who steps in as a starter in year one.

Blake Bell:

The Falcons don’t have anything resembling a good tight end on the roster at the moment. One player they may look to fill that hole is Oklahoma’s Blake Bell. As a converted quarterback, Bell still has a lot to learn, but has a ton of potential to develop into a very good tight end in the NFL. Bell knows how to exploit zones when he runs his routes and he plays with a great intelligence on the field. He is a good blocker, which is amazing considering he had never done it before last season. Bell is a low-risk, high-reward player who could pay dividends for the Falcons in the future.

DeAndre Smelter:

DeAndre Smelter is an imposing force on the outside who will present huge problems for cornerbacks across the NFL. Smelter has fantastic hands and he consistently wins at the catch point. He uses his large frame to box out and physically dominate opposing cornerbacks. He’s not a very quick or fast receiver as he wins because of his elite physical traits. Smelter could be a fantastic weapon for Matt Ryan for years to come.

What Would Be A Good Draft:

The Falcons need to improve on their abysmal pass rush and this looks like just the draft to do just that. The Falcons need to come away with an elite pass-rusher in this draft and even possibly add another one late in the draft. The Falcons also need to get an interior offensive lineman who can adequately protect Ryan on a consistent basis. Finally, the Falcons need to find a player who is comfortable playing the deep middle so that Quinn can run the type of defense he wants to.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com