Even as the NFL owners and players continue their irresponsible greed-fest, fans still have one more thing to look forward to before the NFL season actually starts to contract and disappear. The NFL Draft is always one of the most fun events of the entire year, but this year it holds sway a little more since this may be the last football related event for a long while.
The fight seems to be getting worse, not better. You have owners, such as our own Arthur Blank, sending out letters basically trying to justify their position and say it’s not their fault and you have the players seeking damages for the owners stockpiling a billion dollars from TV contracts getting ready for the lockout. Just a matter of time before fans start turning to other activities and sports, where disappointment turns into anger and anger turns into ambivalence.
Well, at least we have the draft rapidly approaching and with that the 3rd installment of the Falcons Full Mock Madness. Remember that the goal of The Bird Cage is to put different players in each mock in an attempt for variety and getting familiar with various prospects. Be sure to include your own new mock in preparation for our 3rd Annual Falcons Full Mock Competition.
Gabe Carimi – Offensive Tackle – Wisconsin
One of the most interesting positions up for debate and as soon as you mention the offensive line, you’ll usually get a pretty passionate response on one side or the other. The offensive line is littered with huge question marks this off-season, where 3 out of the 5 starters (Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl, Tyson Clabo) are/were set to become free agents this off-season and another (center Todd McClure) is likely getting close to retirement. They have Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, Jose Valdez, and Will Svitek as possible starters. Thomas Dimitroff could elect to go ahead and upgrade their OL with talent, thus giving them definite options instead of possible options.
This draft class doesn’t appear to have the deepest or best offensive tackle prospects in recent memory, but several could be taken by the Falcons if they were to drop to #27. Gabe Carimi may be long gone by the time the Falcons pick, but if he falls he immediately upgrades the Falcons talent level. At 6’7, 314, Carimi has a prototypical left tackle frame. Many scouts believe he has the talent to start at left tackle out of the box and could move to the right if he struggles. He got a lot of attention at his Pro Day, where he showed off his agility and quickness. Some believe that Carimi may struggle mightily against speed rushers, but he’s considered a 1st round lock and an immediate starter at one tackle spot. Even though this goes against OL Coach Paul Boudreau’s comments and philosophy of slowly working in offensive linemen into starters, Carimi gives the Falcons a big talent upgrade and one certain option in a very unsure off-season.
Mason Foster – Outside Linebacker – Washington
Hard to imagine the Falcons staff going outside linebacker in the first two rounds two years in a row, but some of Stephen Nicholas’ actions this off-season have raised the possibility. Nicholas made some very interesting comments about the Detroit Lions, their upward trajectory, and how awesome it would be to play with Ndamukong Suh, seemingly out of the blue. He then changed agents around the same time. Much of it could just be chalked up to off-season craziness, but if #54 did leave for some reason than the Falcons would be in a serious bind.
Mason Foster out of Washington is shooting up draft boards and may not even be around when the Falcons pick in the second round. Foster has excellent size (6’1, 245) and posted a sub 4.8 forty yard dash. One of the most prolific tackling machines to come out of college football in some time. He led the Huskies with 343 total tackles in his career and an eye-popping 163 in his senior year alone. Has great range and fluidity on the field and very good in pass coverage, which the Falcons sorely need. Foster is also a good blitzer where he made 14 tackles for a loss (44 career) and 6.5 sacks (12.5 career). As fans saw with Weatherspoon, there will likely be growing pains and they’ll surely be hesitant to start basically 2 rookies at outside linebacker, but pairing Foster with Lofton and Weatherspoon would absolutely give the Falcons one of their most athletic LB corps maybe in history. Some are mentioning that Foster may even be considered as a first round target.
Edmond Gates – Wide Receiver – Abilene Christian
The Birds will most likely draft a receiver somewhere in the first three rounds this year, at least if you go by how many prospects they’ve worked out, talked to, or scouted and the fact that they’re all likely to go to in the first three rounds (thanks for the excellent research BA!). If the Falcons elect to pass on receivers in the first two rounds, than they’ll surely choose to take one in the third due to all their talk of needing “speed, explosiveness, and playmakers.” Not one of the biggest names at receiver, but Edmond Gates has some of the best speed and would fit as a prototypical slot receiver and could prove a needed spark on offense.
Gates is just a shade under 6 feet tall, weights in at 192 lbs, and is one of the faster wideouts in the draft (4.37). He had an excellent senior year with 66 catches, 1,182 receiving yards (2,885 career) and 13 touchdowns (27 career). He posted a career 18.3 yards per catch average, but had above 23 yards per catch average his freshman and senior years. Only concern is his lack of competition playing at Abilene Christian.
Jacquizz Rodgers – Running Back – Oregon State
This may be a good spot for the Falcons to look for a speedy back since they’ll likely be rolling with Michael Turner and Jason Snelling as their top two feature backs, even though they not as complementary as traditional two-back pairs. They are very outspoken on giving Jerious Norwood another shot at making the roster and returning to health, but everyone expects the Birds to take a running back at some point. Jacquizz Rodgers may not one of be the fastest backs, but he’s one of the quickest and most elusive.
Many teams likely dropped Rodgers way down their boards when he ran a shocking 4.74 forty time at the combine. He redeemed himself a good bit at his pro day with a 4.47 forty time. He is a very diminutive back measuring right at 5’7 and weighing 197 lbs. He could be in an excellent position in Atlanta to work his way into the lineup as a 3rd down back and pass catcher out of the backfield. Even though not the fastest back in the draft, his production is stellar. Rodgers ran over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons as a starter and amassed an amazing 3,790 rushing yards in his career with a high of 1,440 as a sophomore. He also was very productive in the pass game with over 1,000 yards receiving and posted over 500 yards receiving as a sophomore. The Falcons will have to use a higher draft pick if they want to get one of the fastest backs in the draft and with Turner and Snelling they may not be willing to do that.
Cortez Allen – Cornerback – The Citadel
Of all the positions to watch, cornerback looks to be one of the most intriguing. Everyone knows that there is an open spot for at least one cornerback to make the roster and possibly more with the release of former nickel back Brian Williams. The folks at Flowery Branch continue to speak loads of confidence about what Chris Owens will bring in his 3rd year after a really terrible showing against Green Bay (even though he was an easy scapegoat for a really awful showing from the entire defense and even worse coaching gameplan). Dominique Franks figures to be in their plans as well after he was considered a steal in the fifth round last year. He notched his first career interception against Arizona and was never heard from again. The Falcons may go much earlier at cornerback, potentially even 1st, or they could go later.
Cortez Allen seems to be an interesting prospect out of The Citadel. He has nice size at 6’1, 197 lbs and runs a 4.46 forty yard dash. His stats aren’t blistering (22 tackles, 5 pass break ups, 2 Int’s as a senior), but he could bring some much needed size and speed to secondary and slowly work his way up with both Owens and Franks getting most playing time and looks in the secondary being in their 3rd and 2nd years, respectively. Level of competition is certainly a concern.
Cliff Matthews – Defensive End – South Carolina
If the Falcons don’t go defensive end early, they may elect to skip the position altogether, but there are a few candidates they could bring in as projects to develop under Abraham, Biermann, and Sidbury. Matthews played in every single game at South Carolina in the SEC and could have some serious potential to develop.
Matthews weighs in at 257 lbs and stands 6’3 ½ inches tall. Even though a little light for NFL defensive ends, he has a nice forty time (4.82) and had good, solid production playing in a very tough conference. Had 44 tackles (149 career), 8.5 tackles for a loss (26 career), and 5.5 sacks (15.5 career). Would need to add weight and would need time to develop, but could be plugged in the pipeline to produce at some point. Question is how many more “projects” can the Falcons afford at defensive end?
Dejon Gomes – Strong Safety – Nebraska
Important to remember that we as fans might as well be throwing darts when the Falcons start nearing the end, as evidenced by drafting rarely heard of safety Shann Schillinger last year. The Falcons could elect to go safety much earlier since there’s at least one spot open with the release of Erik Coleman and maybe more with the season-ending injury to Shann Schillinger.
Dejon Gomes played on a big stage at Nebraska and helped engineer their defense as one of the best in the country. He has good speed (4.48 forty) to pair with a prototypical strong safety size (5’11 ½ , 208) and had almost 100 tackles as a senior. Broke up 7 passes (12 career) and picked off 3 passes (7 career) in only two years after transferring from a JUCO.
Schuylar Oordt – Tight End – Northern Iowa
As with cornerback, tight end is another position that could go either way. Initially, the Falcons seemed to be in good shape with Tony Gonzalez coming back for another year and having sure-handed Justin Peele backing him up with nice surprise Michael Palmer showing potential glimpses he could eventually be the main guy to replace Gonzalez. Then the lockout happened and you get guys like Gonzalez possibly ending their careers on an awful note. The Birds will likely get a tight end at some point, it’s just a matter of when.
Oordt could be a late round gem to pick up if the Falcons believe in Peele’s ability to bridge a gap and Palmer’s potential to be an eventual starter. The tight end has a nice frame at 6’6 and 261 lbs and runs a 4.67 forty yard dash. Had very nice production catching 1,170 yards and 11 TDs in his career with a 17.7 yards per catch average. His production may have only been a product of playing low-level competition. Not only will Oordt or any TE have to compete against Peele and Palmer, he’ll also have to battle against practice squad player Robbie Agnone, who they recently resigned.
Josh Jasper – Kicker – LSU
Many will definitely disagree with this since most believe that kickers can be taken as undrafted free agents and groomed accordingly. Point well taken, but having 3 7th round draft picks gives a luxury of basically having early dibs on players who are very close to not being drafted. They tried that route last year with Garret Lindholm only to cut him even before training camp even started. Even though his longest career field goal is 53 yards, Jasper had a 72% field goal made percentage at LSU as a four year starter.
-Give your own 3rd version mock, be sure to mix it up and be different
-Thoughts on mock #3: decent, good, awful, terrible?
-Should Falcons go OT in first?
-Is Carimi even a good prospect?
-Should Birds look at Nate Solder, Tyron Smith, or Derek Sherrod instead?
-Will Mason Foster last until Falcons in second?
-Should Foster be a candidate for #27?
-Is there value after expected 2nd round run on WR’s?
-Can Gates offer any spark on offense?
-Should Birds consider Jacquizz Rodgers with his “slow” combine time?
-What about other prospects: Cortez Allen, Cliff Matthews, Dejon Gomes?
-Should Falcons go TE much ealier?
-Should they definitely wait for UDFA for a kicker?