BIRDLAND – The top of the draft is in a state of flux.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes there is a group of eight players worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.
Kiper also believes that LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller would all be worthy No. 1 picks.
Gabbert is moving up on some boards after his pro day workout. Here’s a look.
“Gabbert, just because of his size, his arm, quick release and mobility,” Kiper said.
The key for the Falcons is how the defensive end and offensive tackle groups break down.
They are going to have options with the 27th pick in the first round. Under the draft scenario set forth in Mock Draft 3.0, the Falcons will pick between Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith and Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod.
Look for the Falcons to add another Missouri Tiger to the defense to join safety William Moore and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and pick Smith.
Smith is a 6-foot-4, 264-pounder. He was a playmaker for the Tigers. He made 46 plays behind the line of scrimmage over the last two seasons.
Smith has rebounded nicely from a broken bone in his leg. He missed the last three games of the season with the injury.
“The leg’s fine,” Smith said at the NFL scouting combine. “I got some x-rays. It looked good to me and the doctor.”
Smith doesn’t view himself as a designated pass rusher.
“Something a lot of people don’t know about me is that I can stop the run,” Smith said. “I can help out in that area, too.”
SECONDARY HELP: The Falcons have drafted eight defensive backs over the last three drafts.
In 2008, they drafted cornerback Chevis Jackson (3rd round), safety Thomas DeCoud (3rd) and cornerback Wilrey Fontenot (7th).
In 2009, they drafted William Moore (2nd), Christopher Owens (3rd) and William Middleton (5th).
In 2010, they drafted Dominique Franks (5th) and Shann Schillinger (7th).
They appear to have hit on all of the safeties, while Jackson and Fontenot are out of the league. Middleton, the Marist and Furman product, plays for Jacksonville.
One cornerback to keep on the radar screen in Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Buster Skrine, of Etowah High.
“Buster Skrine from Chattanooga had a real good combine,” Kiper said. “He’s a guy in the third or fourth round who can help some team. There are a lot of corners. If you don’t get one in the first or second round, you can find a nickel back in the third or fourth round. Maybe even a guy who can be your second corner.”
POLL RESULTS: Should the Falcons select Robert Quinn if he falls to them at 27 in the draft?
* Yes, he’s a stud. (64%, 516 Votes)
* Maybe, if he passes the background check. (20%, 164 Votes)
* No, they should make a safer pick. (9%, 76 Votes)
* No, he’s a character risk. (7%, 54 Votes)
Total Voters: 810
1. Carolina: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: The Panthers take a building block for their defense. “Marcell Dareus is certainly worthy (of the top pick),” Kiper said. “He has his weight up to about 319. He’s got a ton of talent.”
2. Denver: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: He had his weight back up to 297 at Auburn’s pro day and moved well through the drills.
3. Buffalo: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Chan Gailey gets a quarterback to groom.
4. Cincinnati: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: This could be a tough place for Green to land as their quarterback situation is
on shaky ground.
5. Arizona: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was real intense at Newton’s workout at Auburn’s pro day. Whisenhunt had Newton make some extra passes after his scripted workout.
6. Cleveland: Da’ Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: He was a dominant run stuffer and a productive pass rusher for the Tigers.
7. San Francisco: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: His raw talent is too much for the 49ers to pass up.
8. Tennessee: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The Titans have to rebuild their defensive line.
9. Dallas: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M: He is an explosive player who had 27.5 sacks over the last two seasons. “I really like Von Miller and the great, great leverage that he has coming off the edge,” Kiper said.
10. Washington: Cameron Jordan, DE, California: The Sporting News compares him to a young Richard Seymour.
11. Houston: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: The Texans have to improve their secondary.
12. Minnesota: Tyron Smith, OT, Southern California: He’s moving up on most draft boards.
13. Detroit: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: He is a big corner at 6-1, 205 and could be converted to safety at
some point in his career.
14. St. Louis: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The Rams get a weapon for quarterback Sam Bradford.
15. Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: The Dolphins look to improve their rushing attack.
16. Jacksonville: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: “He gives you versatility,” Kiper said.
“You know what you’re getting with this kid. He ’s been disruptive. He can stop the run. . . He was productive while he was a marked man.”
17. New England: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: He’s a massive anchor at 6-foot-8 ¼ and 314 pounds.
18. San Diego: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: “He would have been the No. 1 or No. 2 pick if he was not suspended last year,” Kiper said. “Minnesota may take him at 12.”
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Some consider him the top tackle in the draft.
20. Tampa Bay: Justin Houston, DE, Georgia: The Bucs have to address their defensive end position.
21. Kansas City: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Projects as a right tackle in the NFL. He played left tackle for the Badgers.
22. Indianapolis: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: The Colts need to add some pop to their defense. Heyward can rush inside and outside.
23. Philadelphia: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: He is rugged with his hands in press coverage. He is a tall corner at 6-2 3/8.
24. New Orleans: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: “Clayborn’s stock has dropped to a certain extent because of that arm situation,” Kiper said. “He’s dropped to the late first round.”
25. Seattle: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: He will get a chance to sit and watch Matt Hasselbeck for a year or two. Locker is athletic, but needs to work on his accuracy.
26. Baltimore: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: He was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes.
27. Atlanta: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: He has great acceleration coming off the edge and can reach his top speed in milliseconds. He also can chase down running backs from the backside.
28. New England: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple: He’s massive at 6-5, 305 and could play end in the Patriots’
29. Chicago: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: He has the quickness and athletic ability to play left tackle.
30. New York Jets: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: Braylon Edwards is a free agent and Baldwin may be a more dependable option for the Jets.
31. Pittsburgh: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: He has great instincts and plays the ball in the air well. Also, Williams is quick to diagnose plays and comes up strong in support.
32. Green Bay: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois: Ran for 1,697 yards last season, including 330 yards against Northwestern. He also had 17 touchdowns last season.
Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Akeem Ayers , LB, UCLA
Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Titus Young, WR, Boise State
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor
Martrez Wilson, LB, Illinois
Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog