The 2015 NFL Draft is less than a week away. Rest assured, the Atlanta Falcons have left no stone unturned in their preparation for the first draft selection of the Dan Quinn era. The Falcons enter this draft with a bevy of holes to fill, and luckily, there are many viable ways to go about filling them, but the Falcons must come away with an impact player with their first pick. Let’s take a look at the Falcons’ options come April 30th.
The Falcons’ most obvious need is for a young, impact edge-rusher that they can build their front seven of the future around. The top edge-rushers in this class include Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Missouri’s Shane Ray, and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory.
Fowler and Beasley might be the only players worth trading up for. Beasley’s a fan favorite, and he’s stated himself that it’d be a dream come true to be a Falcon. In the end, I think the Falcons will opt to go with Fowler because of his direct connection to Quinn, along with his elite size, length, and versatility.
Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr.
General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has proven in the past that he’s not afraid to move up and get the guy he covets. WR Julio Jones and CB Desmond Trufant are two of the best players in the NFL at their positions, and both are guys that the Falcons traded up for.
Trade Scenario: The Falcons trade their first and third-round picks to the Washington Redskins for the fifth-overall selection, select Dante Fowler Jr., OLB/DE, Florida. The Redskins select OT/G Brandon Scherff, Iowa.
The Redskins should be more than happy to move back three spots, grab an immediate-impact starter at guard, and pick up an extra top-75 pick to continue the rebuild of their team.
The Falcons land a guy that’s tailor-made for Quinn’s system and becomes a linchpin of the defense from the day he steps in. Fowler’s tenacity and relentlessness are missing components of what the Falcons want to embody on defense going forward. Fowler may not ever be a 15+ sack guy, but his ability to disrupt quarterbacks from anywhere on the line in addition to providing stout run defense makes him invaluable for the Falcons.
Many fans are against trading any picks away to move up for a player, and rightfully so, considering the negative side effects trading up often comes with. Staying put means Atlanta can potentially let the player they wanted all along fall right in their lap – as Jake Matthews did last year – while keeping all of their picks. In this scenario, the Falcons stay put and contemplate their options at number eight.
More than likely, this pick will come down to a group of talented-but-risky players: Gregory, Ray, Dupree, Beasley, and Georgia RB Todd Gurley, with an outside chance of Scherff. This could be an extremely tough decision for the Falcons.
Drafting Gregory means landing a pass rusher who might have the highest ceiling in the draft, but he also comes with baggage and a lot of question marks.
Ray would bring production and swagger to a defense in sore need of both, but his limited athleticism and injury concerns could make him a bust in Atlanta.
Dupree has the size, strength, and speed Quinn covets in an edge rusher, but his lack of production and technique could mean he never develops into an impact player.
Gurley is going to be very tempting at this spot. Medically cleared from his ACL tear, Gurley could be the next Adrian Peterson and would make the Falcons’ offense extremely hard to defend. However, drafting a running back in the top-10 isn’t typically a good idea. Additionally, new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has had plenty of success with ‘backs drafted very late or not at all.
Beasley would make a lot of sense for the Falcons here, as he’d likely be an impact pass rusher on third downs right out of the gate. Beasley isn’t an exceptional run defender as of today, and scouts’ opinions of him vary wildly.
Scherff is an intriguing option, as the Falcons could immediately plug him into left guard, leaving no reason to have the expensive and unreliable Sam Baker on the roster. As a rookie, Atlanta could unleash Scherff to smash opponents in the run game while developing his pass protection skills next to Matthews. Though Scherff isn’t a bad option, there might be better value at this spot than at left guard.
Assuming he’s still on the board, I think the Falcons will play it safe and jubilantly select Vic Beasley. Beasley proved many doubters wrong when he obliterated the combine with his newly-added weight, showing that he could still turn the corner blazingly fast with all that extra muscle packed on. Many scouts believe that Beasley is the most pro-ready pass rusher in the entire draft, and the Falcons selection of him should yield early results. Beasley will likely become an every-down player in year two, but for now, he can just pin his ears back and get after the quarterback while he develops the rest of his game.
Clemson’s Vic Beasley
For a team with as many holes as the Falcons have, a new head coach, and a roster in dire need of a talent influx, trading down might make the most sense. For the Falcons to trade down, they’ll need to find a trade partner. At pick number eleven overall, the Minnesota Vikings make a lot of sense. The Vikings have a serious need for a number-one wide receiver to pair with Teddy Bridgewater on offense. If West Virginia’s Kevin White is available at eight, the Vikings would be smart to leapfrog the St. Louis Rams and grab arguably the best receiver in the draft.
Trade Scenario: Falcons trade #8 overall to the Vikings for #11 and #76 overall. Minnesota selects WVU WR Kevin White. The Atlanta Falcons select Nebraska OLB/DE Randy Gregory.
This is a trade that makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Vikings get a dynamic playmaker to grow with Bridgewater for the next ten years, and the Falcons land a premier talent at a position of need while securing value and an extra third-round pick.
Nebraska’s Randy Gregory
Gregory is the biggest boom-or-bust player in the entire draft. He idiotically failed a drug test at the combine. He’s having trouble keeping on weight. He’s not impressing teams in his interviews. All of these concerns scream immaturity, which isn’t all that surprising for a 22-year old kid, but it could be much worse – he’s not going around abusing women and throwing them onto a couch covered in loaded guns.
Why should the Falcons draft someone like Gregory? When you turn on his tape, you’ll see a rare specimen on the field with unreal speed and limitless potential. What Gregory needs to succeed is the Bryan Cox treatment. It seemingly is working for a guy that was in a similar situation as Gregory, Ra’Shede Hageman, who appears to be in the best shape of his life after being taken under Cox’s wing. With Cox and Quinn keeping a watchful eye on Gregory and his development, there’s no reason at all why he can’t become a perennial pro-bowler for Atlanta. Plus, Gregory thinks New Orleans is boring, so he’s already got the dirty bird mindset.
What do you think the Falcons should do on draft day?