The No. 1 offseason priority is fixing the offensive line. The team doesn’t have any money in free agency to sign the top available guards.
They can get a few bargain-basement scheme-fits, but in order to fix the line they need to use the 14th pick on the best offensive lineman still on the board. That person will likely be Alabama’s Jonah Williams.
He played right and left tackle for the Crimson Tide, but he projects to be a Pro Bowler at guard, much like Zack Martin did when he was coming out of Notre Dame.
Martin went 16th overall to Dallas in 2014. He’s been to five Pro Bowls.
“I would love Jonah Williams (at 14),” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think that would make a lot of sense.”
After allowing 108 quarterback hits, giving up 42 sacks and being ranked 31st of 32 teams in “stuffed-runs” for no gain or loss yards, the Falcons’ line needs more than some free-agent retreads.
Williams’ arms were measured at only 33-5/8 inches at the NFL scouting combine. The 6-foot-4 and 305 pounder’s arms are considered short for a tackle and is why a lot of teams project him as a guard. Martin is 6-4, 315 pounds.
“I view him as an inside player,” Jeremiah said. “There are some teams that have him as a tackle. I think he can slide inside at guard and be a perennial Pro Bowler there.”
The Falcons played six guards last season and are moving on from Andy Levitre, who was the opening day starter the past four seasons.
Williams might be a plug-and-play option.
“To be able to put him in that system, you’d be off and running,” Jeremiah said. “That would make a lot of sense to me, but there will be some other good options in there.”
Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker will still be available. Possibly. Clemson defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.
But the Falcons like the depth in the draft at cornerback and defensive tackle, so they can come back to those spots later.
“I have him as the best corner in the draft,” Jeremiah said of Baker. “I don’t have a corner in the top 10, just in my personal rankings. I think he’d be in play for the Falcons.”
It will be hard to pass on the Clemson defensive tackles.
“It looks like Baskin-Robbins,” Jeremiah said. “What flavor do you want? For me, I have Wilkins as the top of the group.”
They are delighted to have the two extra compensatory picks and will get a returner like Georgia’s Mecole Hardman in the fourth or fifth round.
Here’s how the rest of the first round will shake out:
2019 NFL Draft Order
1. Arizona Cardinals (3-13) – Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Most of the early projections have either Bosa or Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen being selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. The combine, despite all of the Kyler Murray talk, didn't change that. Quinnen Williams has a shot to leap up, too.
2. San Francisco 49ers (4-12) – Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky: Allen caught the NFL's attention by getting 17 sacks for the Wildcats last season. Allen had 21.5 tackles for losses last season. "I think I'm one of the only guys who dropped into coverage half the season as well," Allen said. "I pass rushed, I also dropped in coverage as well so that separates myself from a lot of the guys here.'' Allen was a two-star recruit coming out of high school. "I carried that two-star chip with me for a very long time, until to now," Allen said. "I just worked extremely hard, the birth of my son really
hit home for me. He’s my biggest motivation.”
3. New York Jets (4-12) – Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Williams dazzled at the combine with a 4.83 time in the 40-yard dash. He didn't bench press, which left open the questions about his strength. He'll have to put up a good bench press number at Alabama's Pro Day on March 19. "I love his hustle and the way that he pursues," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. Williams was asked at the combine who had the toughest offensive line he faced last season. "Probably the Georgia offensive line," Williams said.
4. Oakland Raiders (4-12)– Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: Everyone knows the streets in Indianapolis talk during the NFL combine. One of the key spots is outside of the Steak 'n Shake in the early morning hours. While word is out that Arizona is doing its due diligence, Raiders coach Jon Gruden loves the Heisman Trophy winner. He won't slip past the fourth slot. He can't escape the comparison to former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. "Bake's success would be his success," Murray said. "He did come from Oklahoma. That's my guy. I wish him success, obviously. But again, I've got (to) do my thing. I've got (to) prove myself at this level."
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) – Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State: Sweat, who played at Stephenson High, is expected to be the first player from Georgia selected in the draft. He ran a ridiculous 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine. He started his career at Michigan State before transferring to junior college and resurfacing at Mississippi State. "I watch a lot of pass-rushers," Sweat said when asked who he models his game after. "I think old-time pass-rushers like Jason Taylor has a lot of my skill set. He's long, he's fast. I watch him a lot."
6. New York Giants (5-11) – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: The classic dropback passer would be the heir apparent to Eli Manning. "I felt I was ready to be an NFL quarterback," Haskins said about leaving Ohio State early. "I was pro ready and thought I showed what I needed to show on film to make that jump." During the first quarterback session that the AJC was allowed to witness with other members of the PFWA, his deep passes seem to hang in the air, which would allow safeties time to come over and blast his receivers.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) – Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: He made 33 starts for the Gators and will be the first lineman taken in the draft.
8. Detroit Lions (6-10) –Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: Told great stories at the combine about his four horses and explained his sideline blow up last season. He was triple-teamed most of the season and still made a bushel of plays in the backfield. "Fighting with that horse is really the reason why I became fearless and have been able to go up against 6-foot-5 and 300-pound guys," Oliver said. "It's like a walk in the park after you've had to fight with a 1,000-pound animal. I ain't worrying about no 300 pounds."
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10) – D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi: He was the star of the combine, but projects as a one-trick pony. He can only run very fast in a straight line. His three-cone (change of direction) times were weak. He'd be the deep threat for strong-armed quarterback Josh Allen. He is the grandson of the great Terry Metcalf and nephew of Eric Metcalf, who both starred in the NFL. His dad, Terrence Metcalf, also played in the NFL with the Bears from 2002-08.
10. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Broncos general manager John Elway is going to keep swinging until he gets the quarterback situation in Denver fixed. With the Joe Flacco trade, the Broncos won't have to rush Lock out onto the field before he's ready.
“One of the best things I do is I’m able to make plays out of the pocket,” Lock said. “I’m not just the typical guy that’s going to stand in there and take shots. I want to be able to get out of the pocket when the pocket breaks down. I’m going to be a little more athletic than some people would peg me as in some of the drills we do out here. I’m excited to be able to show that to people.
Drew Lock of Missouri drops back to pass during the North squad practice at the Senior Bowl.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (6-10) – Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: He's 6-6 and 283 pounds. He can play end and slide down inside to tackle.
12. Green Bay Packers (6-9-1) – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: He's 6-5 and 250 pounds. He can run routes and projects well as an in-line blocker.
“I try not to pay attention to it,” Hockenson said about his pre-draft hype. “I'm doing my job right now. I'm here at the combine. I'm having a lot of fun meeting new people, building new relationships. And I'm just not worried about anything else.’
13. Miami Dolphins (7-9) — Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma: He's 6-4, 338 pounds and will help the running game. Some have him going to the Falcons, but he's too big to be an outside-zone scheme guy.
14. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama: Versatile lineman who could be a perennial Pro Bowl guard at the next level.
“Being in the SEC, every single year in practice and in games you face top competition,” Williams said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose to go to Alabama. I wanted to compete against the best. As a competitor, I love that challenge.”
He was asked to rated the top players he faced.
“You know, the Clemson guys were really talented, Georgia, Mississippi State … really, you can pick out of a hat any SEC team and they have phenomenal defensive ends,” Williams said.
15. Washington Redskins (7-9) – Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo: During the first session of the quarterbacks on Saturday, the 6-foot-7 Jackson stood over the crowd and had the best arm. He was shooting rockets at the receivers. Analyst Steve Smith got mad at Jackson for drilling the receivers. Washington executive Doug Williams has his bridge quarterback in Case Keenum and will take the Redskins' future quarterback with this pick.
16. Carolina Panthers (7-9) – Devin White, LB, LSU: He's the latest speedy linebacker to come out of LSU in the Deion Jones mold. He can take over for Thomas Davis.
17. Cleveland Browns (7-8-1) – Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia: Baker won the Jim Thorpe Award — given to the top defensive back in college football — as a senior. Baker bypassed the Sugar Bowl to start preparing for the combine. He can play opposite of last year's fourth overall pick Denzel Ward.
18. Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1) – Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: The Vikings can add Ferrell to their defensive front. He can get after the quarterback. He had 21 sacks at Clemson and has the prototypical size at 6-5 and 265 pounds for a 4-3 defensive end.
19. Tennessee Titans (9-7) – Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson: He'll have to explain his suspension from the playoffs for using performance-enhancing drugs.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1) – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: He's long and fast, but his tape doesn't show that he's a willing tackler. The Steelers will believe they can remedy his tackling issues. "Sometimes you can miss a tackle here or there, but he hasn't been interested," Jeremiah said. "Hanging on blocks and not really making an effort at times."
10/13/18 - Baton Rouge - LSU Tigers safety John Battle (26), with assistance from LSU Tigers cornerback Greedy Williams (29), intercepts a Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm pass intended for Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman (9) late in the 4th quarter to seal the Tigers victory. The Tigers won 36-16. The University of Georgia Bulldogs played the Louisiana State University Tigers in a NCAA college football game Saturday, October 13, 2018, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Credit: Bob Andres
Credit: Bob Andres
21. Seattle Seahawks (10-6) – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: At 6-4 and 312 pounds, he was a disruptive force for the Seahawks. "He's the most disruptive player (of the Clemson defensive line players)," Jeremiah said. "He gets caught in the run game sometimes. You'll see him get washed and flat-backed. You just have to stomach some of that. It's going to happen."
22. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) – N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State: A big and physical receiver. He'd be a big target (6-2, 228 pounds) for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 27 times on the bench press.
23. Houston Texans (11-5) – Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson: His physical style of play would fit nicely with the Texans, who released former first-round pick Kevin Johnson.
24. Oakland Raiders (4-12) (from Chicago Bears) – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: An active sideline-to-sideline player who'd add some teeth to the Raiders' defense and help replace Khalil Mack. "I'm a tough player," Bush said. "I play hard, and my film speaks for itself."
25. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – Andre Dilliard, OT, Washington State: Jason Peters is not going to play forever. The Eagles need to re-stock the offensive line.
26. Indianapolis Colts (10-6) – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: Is the latest in the line of strong corners from Washington that was started with Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant followed by Marcus Peters and Kevin King. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds.
27. Oakland Raiders (4-12) (from Dallas Cowboys) – Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama: Jacobs was dazzling at times last season for the Crimson Tide. "His attempts, his carries for his career, his yards for his career are basically like one season for a lot of running backs, which means he's got a lot of tread left on the tires," Kiper said. "He hasn't been beaten up. He waited his turn."
28. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) – Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State: Started his career at Georgia before transferring to play at his home-state school. He visited with the Falcons. His stock is rising after a strong combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and has range.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware: With Abram gone, the Chiefs have to add some help for the secondary with Eric Berry getting closer to retirement. Adderley can cover tight ends, which was a problem for the Chiefs in the AFC title game. Adderley had a strong Senior Bowl performance. He's a cousin of Pro Football Hall of Famer Herb Adderley. "I talk to him all the time," Adderley said of his famous cousin."Actually, I just texted him right before I got (to Indianapolis), and he's just extremely excited for me and so supportive. It was a blessing to have him in my corner."
30. Green Bay Packers (6-9-1) (from New Orleans Saints) – Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame: The Packers must rebuild in the trenches. "I'm quick off the ball," Tillery said. "I have great technique, and when I approach the linemen, I have a big arsenal of tools that I use to my advantage."
31. Los Angeles Rams (13-3) – Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State: The Rams moved on from veteran center John Sullivan. Bradbury can replace him immediately in their zone blocking system. He was the Dave Rimington Award winner, which goes to the nation's top center.
32. New England Patriots (11-5) – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: Rob Gronkowski is not going to play forever. Fant ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
ON THE FRINGE: Players who dropped out of the Mock 1.0 after their combine performances:
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke: Mechanics are sound. Well-trained. Arm didn't look special during first quarterback session. He'll be a value pick in the second round.
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: Had Lisfranc surgery on his foot and will not take part in the combine. He's expected to be ready for training camp.
Jachai Polite, LB, Florida: A speedy run-and-hit linebacker who can cover backs out of the backfield. Had bad interviews.
A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi: We selected Harry over Brown to Baltimore.
Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia: Younger brother of Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Ran a slow 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Calvin Ridley ran a 4.43 seconds last season to secure a spot in the first round.
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