On our path to the draft, here’s the mock draft 5.0 from D. Orlando Ledbetter, our Atlanta Falcons beat writer.
The Falcons had their pre-draft news conference Thursday.
It went on for 35-plus minutes.
The team has spent much of free agency rebuilding the offensive and defensive lines. They left us with the impression that they’ll continue to do so when they are on the clock with the 14th pick Thursday.
“This is a unique year,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Defensive line is heavy as well as offensive line. There are other positions that are thriving this year that haven’t in the past in numbers. It’s great to see that.”
I’m going to call “smokescreen” and double-down on cornerback Greedy Williams for the Falcons.
Offensive linemen Jawaan Taylor (Florida) and Cody Ford (Oklahoma) will be gone by 14. Jonah Williams of Alabama would be my second choice.
“Let me tell you about this draft and how I see it,” Godfather Gil Brandt said to a question from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the SiriusXM NFL radio conference call Thursday. “I think there is 15 to 17 players in this draft that you can say, without question, they are first-rounders. You can bet on them going in the first round.
“Then there is (a group of) about 17 to 70 that pretty much all look alike.”
The Falcon have the 45 and 79th picks in the draft.
“By that, I mean they are all good players, but there is just something that keeps them from being a cinch first-round pick,” Brandt said.
The Falcons have signed two defensive tackles (Tyeler Davison and Ra’Shede Hageman) in free agency. They also signed three defensive ends Steven Means, Chris Odom and Adrian Clayborn.
“I think the strength of this draft is the defensive line, both pass-rushers and the tackles,” Brandt said. “I think the hidden part of this draft that is very good is the safety position. I think the safety position in this year’s draft has as many quality players as I can remember ever being in the safety position in one year.”
Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, both of Clemson, should still be on the board when the Falcons pick.
“I look at the Falcons, and clearly the defensive line could use someone that can dominate,” said Mark Dominik, former Tampa Bay general manager. “It’s the most talented spot in the draft. At the defensive tackle spot, there are a lot of good ones. At their spot, that makes sense that they could be going defensive tackle.”
After all of the moves in free agency, the black hole on the roster is at cornerback. They released Robert Alford and let Brian Poole and Justin Bethel walk out the door.
“I also like your idea, but I don’t think corner is strong enough to grab one at 14, but it is certainly (a possibility),” Dominik said. ”I know they like (Isaiah) Oliver that they took last year. They think very highly of him, but they don’t have the depth there. I think very highly of him.
“That will be something for Thomas to really explore in second and certainly the third round. I wouldn’t pass up the chance to take a tackle at 14 if Taylor drops or if Cody Ford is still there. I think it becomes a very difficult spot for them not to want to re-bolster that offensive line.”
The Falcons signed five offensive linemen (counting blocking tight end Luke Stocker) in free agency.
“It’s never a sexy pick, but keeping Matt Ryan healthy is something that they understand how important that is,” Dominik said. “I think defensive tackle or offensive tackle seem to make the most sense to me. The defensive line has the best depth overall in the draft.”
Because it makes sense means the Falcons are going in the other direction. They’ll think they can fill the offensive line and defensive line holes later in the draft and go for the player with the most upside in Williams.
Here’s a look at our Mock Draft 5.0:
1. Arizona Cardinals (3-13) – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: Murray’s father, Kevin Murray, played quarterback at Texas A&M from 1983-86. Murray doesn’t mind the comparisons to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. “I’ve studied a lot of quarterbacks in the league, but him in particular just because we’re similar in height,” Murray said. “He’s had a lot of success, obviously. I’ve gotten to talk to him a couple of times. It’s good to have him in my corner as a resource. Obviously, I look up to him. Watching him do it at 5-11 and kind of putting doubters to rest.”
2. San Francisco 49ers (4-12) – Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Tried to clean up his digital image with the 49ers in mind. “You can make an argument that (the top player in the draft) is Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen, any one of those three you could argue are the best players in the draft,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.
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 perform the bench press at the combine or at his Pro Day after having hand surgery. 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) – 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.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) – Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: The folks in Tampa Bay are saying their good-byes to Gerald McCoy. They appear set to replace him with Oliver. They can figure out how to replace linebacker Kwon Alexander later, but will be tempted to select Devin White in this slot, too. Oliver crushed his Pro Day. He was triple-teamed most of the season and still made a bushel of plays in the backfield.
6. New York Giants (5-11) – Devin White, LB, LSU: The Giants are going to pass on Dwayne Haskins and pick the latest speedy linebacker to come out of LSU in the Deion Jones mold. “I’m a big Devin White fan,” Kiper said.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) – Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: He made 33 starts for the Gators and will be the first offensive tackle taken in the draft.
8. Detroit Lions (6-10) – 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 a 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.” The Lions have to replace Ziggy Ansah.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: He’s 6-foot-6 and 283 pounds. He can play end and slide inside to tackle. “Rashad Gary is an enigma,” Kiper said. “You expect more than 10 sacks in a career for a guy with that kind of talent. You expect 20-plus career sacks with that kind of talent and you didn’t get it. Will the scheme allow him to get turned it loose in the NFL? Will that allow him to be productive as a pro than he was in college. That’s a roll of the dice.”
10. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: The classic dropback passer would be the heir apparent to Joe Flacco. “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.”
11. Cincinnati Bengals (6-10) – Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma: The Bengals have to start rebuilding their offensive line.
12. Green Bay Packers (6-9-1) – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: Fant ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
13. Miami Dolphins (7-9) — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: The Dolphins decided to get Lock and have him learn under Ryan Fitzpatrick.“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 (combine) drills.”
14. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: He’s long and fast, but his tape doesn’t show that he’s a willing tackler. The Falcons will believe they can remedy his tackling issues. “Sometimes you can miss a tackle here or there, but he hasn’t been interested,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Hanging on blocks and not really making an effort at times.”
15. Washington Redskins (7-9) – D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi: Redskins can pass on a quarterback and get West Virginia’s Will Grier in the second round. Metcalf was the star of the combine, but projects as a one-trick pony. He can run very fast only in a straight line. His three-cone (change of direction) times were weak. 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.
16. Carolina Panthers (7-9) – Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: The Panthers need a replacement for Julius Peppers on defense. Ferrell 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.
17. New York Giants (5-11) (from Cleveland Browns) – Brian Burns, DE, Florida State: He’s a fast-riser in the pre-draft process. He ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
18. Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1) – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama: Versatile lineman who could be a perennial Pro Bowl guard at the next level. He was short with the media at his pro day. He’s probably getting tired of the guard questions.
19. Tennessee Titans (9-7) – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: An active sideline-to-sideline player who would add some teeth to the Titans’ defense. “I’m a tough player,” Bush said. “I play hard, and my film speaks for itself.”
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1) – 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.
21. Seattle Seahawks (10-6) – Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State: Bradbury was the Dave Rimington Award winner, which goes to the nation’s top center.
22. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: He’s 6-5 and 250 pounds. He can run routes and projects well as an in-line blocker.
23. Houston Texans (11-5) – Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson: He’ll have to explain his suspension from the playoffs for using performance-enhancing drugs.
24. Oakland Raiders (4-12) (from Chicago Bears) – Rock Ya Sin, CB, Temple: The former standout at Presbyterian and Southwest DeKalb High has been climbing up the draft boards. Teams like his toughness and agility. “He’s got great athletic ability,” Kiper said. “He’s got real good feet. Smooth hips. He almost had a 40 (inch) vertical (jump). He’ll support the run. He gets interceptions.” Played for Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins at Temple.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: At 6-4 and 312 pounds, he was a disruptive force for the Tigers. “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.”
26. Indianapolis Colts (10-6) – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: Is the latest in the line of strong corners from Washington that began 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.
“I just loved his tape,” Kiper said. “He’s 5-11 and half, 211 pounds, he ran 4.45. He can be in the box. He’s a guy who can make plays down the field. He’s got tremendous range. Real good instincts. Great blitzer. I just think he’s one of the best 20 to 25 football players in this draft.”
29. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – Andre Dilliard, OT, Washington State: The Chiefs need to re-stock the offensive line.
30. Green Bay Packers (6-9-1) (from New Orleans Saints) – Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State: He’s a speedster. Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds at the combine.
31. Los Angeles Rams (13-3) – Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College: The Rams need to improve the interior of their offensive line after moving on from Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. The Falcons are reportedly working out Lindstrom soon.
32. New England Patriots (11-5) – Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama. The Patriots have to get a replacement for Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement.
ON THE FRINGE: Players who dropped out of Mocks 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0
Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson: His physical style of play.
Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware: 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.”
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State: A big and physical receiver. He’d be a big target (6-2, 228 pounds). He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 27 times on the bench press.
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo: Has a big arm.
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: Had Lisfranc surgery on his foot and did not take part in the combine. He’s expected to be ready for training camp.
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke: Mechanics are sound. Well-trained. Arm didn’t look special during first quarterback session at the combine. He’ll be a value pick for the future.
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: Has first-round talent at a position that is under-valued.
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.