Falcons could look to add an offensive weapon

Maryland’s D.J. Moore has excellent run-after-catch ability
In a recent mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had the Falcons selecting dynamic Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Credit: Steven Branscombe

Credit: Steven Branscombe

In a recent mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had the Falcons selecting dynamic Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Third of five-part series on the Falcons’ draft needs. 

Today: Wide receiver

Don’t expect quarterback Matt Ryan to storm into the draft room and bang his cleats on the table for some offensive help when the Falcons select 26th overall on Thursday.

After all, in each of the past three drafts the Falcons have selected defensive players with their top two picks.

“I have no input,” Ryan said. “That’s not my job. We have a top front office that does a great job evaluating talent. They’ll find, along with our coaching staff, the best players that fit our team.”

The NFL draft runs Thursday through Saturday and will be held in Arlington, Texas.

What’s a quarterback to do?

In 2015, the Falcons took defensive end Vic Beasley and cornerback Jalen Collins. In 2016, they took safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones. Last season, they selected defensive end Takkarist McKinley and linebacker Duke Riley (third round).

In addition to the 26th overall pick, the Falcons hold picks 58 (second round), 90th (third round), 126th (fourth round), 200 (sixth round) and 244 (seventh round). Atlanta was awarded the final pick in the draft (No. 256) -- referred to as Mr. Irrelevant -- as a compensatory pick for losing five players in free agency in 2017. 

“That’s another exciting thing,” Ryan said. “The draft process, when you can add good players to your team that can help you win, that’s huge.”

The Falcons are thin at wide receiver after letting Taylor Gabriel (Bears) and Andre Roberts (Jets) leave in free agency. Also, their top two receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu are 29 and 28 years old, respectively.

Roberts mostly handled the punt and kickoff returns for the Falcons.

Some Mock drafts have the Falcons selecting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley or Maryland's D.J. Moore in the first round. Also, South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst could be selected to give Ryan another pass-catching weapon.

“Ridley is an (inside) guy only, even though he runs great routes and his acceleration and burst is tremendous, at 188 pounds,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I struggle with him (outside).”

Moore, who’s 6-foot and 200 pounds, caught 80 passes for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

“D.J. Moore has a little bit more versatility, plus he's a return guy,” Mayock said. “So, I kind of like D.J. Moore a little bit more than Ridley. ... This kid might not give you as much early because he's a little bit raw, but he's built like a running back. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's special.”

Moore, who played quarterback in high school, appears to be a clone of Sanu.

“I can play multiple positions: quarterback, running back, receiver, which I mainly want to do,” Moore said. “Whatever helps the team.”

Moore started 35 of 37 college games and had 146 career catches and 17 touchdowns.

“Once the ball gets in my hands I just become a different person, like a playmaker,” Moore said. “Just go out there and make the plays that are out there, find the seams in the defense and just go make a play out of it.”

Mayock believes the Ridley and Moore will be selected between the 20th and 30th picks.

Memphis’ Anthony Miller, SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk are also top prospects.

“Christian Kirk might be at the top of that list as far as the combination of that type of ability,” said Phil Savage, the Senior Bowl director and analyst for SiriusXM NFL radio. “A player that has set a bunch of records as a return man at the University of Washington, but he’s been hurt, is Dante Pettis. He’s another name that if you’re looking or a true return man that can give you some reps as a wide receiver.”

Pettis, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at Washington’s Pro Day, had four punt returns for touchdowns in 2017 and set the NCAA record with nine punt returns for touchdowns over his career.

The Falcons will also look for a sleeper at wide receiver.

“LSU's got a wide receiver named Russell Gage, who pretty much nobody has ever heard of, yet when I went to their Pro Day about three weeks ago, I had three different special teams coaches call me before I got to Baton Rouge and said you better check out this Russell Gage,” Mayock said.

Gage is 6-foot and 182 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds. He started his career at LSU as a defensive back.

“He's probably going to be a sixth-round wide receiver,” Mayock said. “He's going to be a core cover guy in special teams. And the great thing as a wide receiver is he's going to be active 16 Sundays every year because of the special teams, and that will give him a chance to develop.”


Former Georgia wide receiver Javon Wims discusses his chances of making it in the NFL. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

A quick look at the wide receivers:

List of first-day (first round) picks: Ridley, Moore, Kirk and Sutton.

Second day (second-third rounds): Miller,  Pettis, Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown,  Colorado State's Michael Gallup and LSU's D.J. Chark.

Third day (fourth-seventh rounds): UCF's Tre'quan Smith, Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton and Clemson's Deon Cain.

Georgia: Javon Wims (Projected fourth-round pick by nfldraftscout.com.)

Georgia Tech: Ricky Jeune (free agent)

SEC:  Missouri's J'mon Moore, Florida's Antonio Callaway, Vanderbilt's Trent Sherfield, Alabama's Robert Foster and Texas A&M's Damion Ratley.

ACC: Florida State's Auden Tate, Syracuse's Steven Ishmael, Miami's Braxton Berrios, Virginia Tech's Cam Phillips, Clemson's Ray-Ray McCloud and Louisville's Reggie Bonnafon.


Part 1: Defensive tackles -- Falcons have a gaping hole at defensive tackle 

Part 3: Wide receivers, Today

Part 4: Linebackers, Tuesday

Part 5: Offensive line, Wednesday