The Atlanta Falcons were able to attack some weak points of their roster during the first two days of the 2015 NFL Draft, nabbing a pass-rusher, cornerback and running back with their first three selections. But the team is far from done as the third day of the draft approaches where rounds four through seven will be selected. The Falcons hold five picks today and thus will have five opportunities to help their roster.
The team had an obvious weakness in terms of generating pressure on the cornerback, and thus were able to improve that weakness by selecting Clemson’s Vic Beasley, considered by some to be the best pass-rusher in this draft class.
In the second round, the Falcons attacked a glaring hole at a nickel cornerback by getting one of the better cornerback prospects in the class in LSU’s Jalen Collins, who has the upside to be a perfect scheme fit in Dan Quinn’s press-heavy coverage schemes.
The Falcons capped off the second day by taking Indiana running back Tevin Coleman in the third round, addressing their need to bolster their ground attack. Quinn preached about becoming “fast and physical” upon his arrival, and adding a speed demon like Coleman helps the team become faster, and upgrading the ground game improves a more physical nature.
What other areas of the roster is the team likely going to attack today?
The Falcons have a need to get some much-needed youth on their roster with three of their top five receivers set to be on the wrong side of the 30 during the 2015 season. Most of the players the Falcons showed interest in during the offseason are still available. The big question is do the Falcons want to bolster their offensive depth or target a player that can help them out on special teams?
East Carolina’s Justin Hardy may have visited the Falcons and would headline the crop of potential offensive playmakers. He’s got good size and hands, but lacks the sort of game-breaking speed. But the Falcons would likely tab him as an heir apparent to Roddy White as a “chain-mover” to deploy opposite Julio Jones.
Vince Mayle (Washington State) possesses good size, but has inconsistent hands and only adequate speed. He’d be a developmental prospect that has the upside to be a starter down the road if wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie can polish him up some.
Potential returners like Jamison Crowder (Duke), Mario Alford (West Virginia) and Chandler Worthy (Troy) are all undersized receivers that were productive returners at the college level, should the Falcons want to groom the heir apparent to Devin Hester in the return game.
The tight end crop isn’t very strong this year, but the Falcons may be willing to take a flyer on a late-round prospect that they can develop down the road.
Blake Bell (Oklahoma), Wes Saxton (South Alabama), Rory Anderson (South Carolina), Randall Telfer (USC) and Nick Boyle (Delaware) are all talented enough to get drafted, and all have the potential to develop into role players at the next level.
Bell is an athletic, former quarterback that may possess the most upside given his limited experience at the position. Saxton is an undersized pass-catcher that could fit as an heir apparent to Jacob Tamme. Both Anderson and Telfer have dealt with injuries this offseason that have limited their ability to work out for teams, but both have upside. Anderson’s size is a plus, while Telfer is a competent blocker. Boyle offers both, but is more of a blocking tight end than a pass-catcher.
Alabama’s Austin Shepherd, Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings, and Coastal Carolina’s Chad Hamilton are some of the few remaining linemen that the Falcons looked at.
Shepherd was solid for two years as a starting right tackle, but may lack size and ideal athleticism to play outside on the next level. That should make him an interesting fit as a potential candidate to plug the left guard spot for the Falcons, which is an area where they need some more help.
Clemmings is a very talented player that at one point was considered a potential Top 10 pick, but a disappointing showing at the Senior Bowl coupled with the recent revelation of a foot injury have caused his stock to plummet. Clemmings is a former defensive end, that brought that sort of athleticism and nastiness to the offensive line. While he played right tackle at Pitt, he could make a fairly good convert inside to guard if need be. Teams just appear wary of his whether his foot injury will keep him out of hte lineup for an extended period of time.
Hamilton is a natural fit as a zone-blocking guard, having played left tackle in that scheme during his college. While he lacks ideal size for the next level, there’s a strong tradition of zone-blocking teams more than making due with 6’2″ 292-pound blockers in the NFL.
The Falcons could certainly use some depth at defensive tackle. Reuniting Beasley with his former teammate in Grady Jarrett makes a lot of sense for the Falcons. Jarrett was one of the more highly rated prospects in this class, and is also the son of former Falcons great linebacker Jessie Tuggle.
West Georgia’s Tory Slater showed impressive athleticism during his pro day, enough that he could figure into the mix at the tail end of the draft.
The Falcons may want to add more depth at the linebacker position, adding more speed to the spot.
Quinn is familiar with Florida outside linebacker Neiron Ball, whom he coached in college. He’s coming off a knee injury he suffered last year, but could be a solid developmental option at either outside spot and can also help out on special teams.
The other players the Falcons showed in interest in are mostly undrafted prospects, but Mississippi State’s Matt Wells and Oklahoma State’s Josh Furman are interesting in that they are both undersized prospects that some project more as safeties. But their speed as far as linebackers go is excellent and Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith had a lot of success in Denver with the sort of hybrid linebacker/safety types in Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan.
Even though the Falcons drafted Collins in the second round, they certainly might decide to add even more help at this position by targeting a developmental backup to bolster depth.
Julian Wilson (Oklahoma), Justin Coleman (Tennessee) Ladarius Gunter (Miami FL), Nick Marshall (Auburn), Tray Walker (Texas Southern) and Garry Peters (Clemson) all possess the sort of size and length that Quinn’s press-heavy scheme covets.
Wilson’s measurables are almost identical to Collins, while Coleman was the only corner to post a better three-cone time at the Combine than Collins. Gunter lacks ideal speed, but has a big, thick build at 6’2″ 202. Marshall may be the rawest of the group given he’s spent most of his career playing quarterback, but has the size, speed and athleticism to make a conversion at the next level.
Walker from a size standpoint is intriguing, measuring in at 6’2″ and having arms nearly 34 inches long, more than a full inch longer than that of Falcons’ top pick Beasley. Peters would give Beasley another former teammate and has 10-inch hands that could be very effective at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Fresno State’s Derron Smith might be the top center fielder left on the board, having picked off 14 passes over his final three season as a starter.
Virginia’s Anthony Harris lacks ideal bulk (183 pounds), but is also a play-maker after leading the nation with eight interceptions in 2013.
TCU’s Chris Hackett turned in a disappointing Combine performance, but is a better player with pads on. He was a two-time all-conference player that collected 10 interceptions over his final two years in college.