Lots of places claim to be Draft Central. Today we come to you from Mock Draft Central, the place where everyone guesses as to what NFL teams will do. My longstanding guess has been that the Falcons will draft a pass rusher of some sort, be he a defensive end (more likely) or an outside linebacker (less likely). I’m encouraged that a majority of draft-watchers agree with me.
Of 12 mock drafts surveyed from the Big Six online sites — ESPN, SI.com, CBSsports, Sporting News, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com — eight foresee the Falcons taking a defensive end in Round 1. (Although NFL.com, for reasons unclear, lists Cameron Heyward of Ohio State as a defensive tackle. But he seems a DE to me and to most everybody else.)
Five of those eight mocks have the Falcons taking Adrian Clayborn of Iowa, which is about as close to a consensus as you’re apt to get when a team picks 27th. Of the three mocks that have the Falcons taking a DE other than Clayborn, two project him to be gone by the time the Falcons select.
Mocks that have the Falcons picking Clayborn include: Mel Kiper of ESPN (link requires registration); Don Banks of SI.com; Rob Rang of CBSsports; Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, and Pro Football Weekly (as done for Yahoo! Sports).
Mocks that have the Falcons picking a DE with Clayborn off the board: Todd McShay of ESPN (link requires registration) goes with Brooks Reed of Arizona, projecting Clayborn to New Orleans three picks earlier, and esteemed former colleague Steve Wyche of NFL.com goes with Heyward, having projected Clayborn to Tampa Bay with the 20th pick.
The one mock that has the Falcons picking a DE with Clayborn available: Pat Kirwan of NFL.com, who likewise goes with Heyward.
The four mocks that have the Falcons addressing a different position: Chad Reuter of CBSsports, who projects offensive tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin; Charles Davis of NFL.com, who projects defensive back Aaron Williams of Texas; Brian Baldinger of NFL.com, who projects tight end Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame, and Pro Football War Room for Sporting News, which projects cornerback Ras-I Dowling of Virginia.
Not one of the 12 mocks has the Falcons taking a man of local interest: Justin Houston, the Georgia outside linebacker. (Although five project him as a first-rounder, with three of those leaving him available at No. 27.) I’d thought a while back that Houston might be a fit here, but now I think he’s more apt to land with a 3-4 team.
Having drafted Sean Weatherspoon, an outside linebacker, in Round 1 last season, the Falcons probably won’t take another so soon. (At least not this high.) Having spent big on Dunta Robinson in March 2010, they probably won’t take a cornerback in Round 1, either. And I know they want to bolster their offensive line for the years ahead and find the eventual heir to Tony Gonzalez at tight end, but I don’t think those are necessarily first-round priorities.
The Falcons won 13 games last season but showed a clear need for a better pass rush. This is one of those times the mocks might have it right: DE is so obvious a way to go that it’s almost the only way to go.
By Mark Bradley