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NFL Draft: Surveying the Atlanta Falcons' best options with the 14th pick

Of the 14 mock-draft recommendations for the Falcons at No. 14 overall, 12 involve premium athletes on the defensive side of the ball.



The Athletic (Dane Brugler) – DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
The Sporting News – DT/DE Ed Oliver, Houston
Sports Illustrated – DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
CBS Sports – DT/DE Ed Oliver, Houston (trade up to No. 8 spot)
WalterFootball.com – OT Andre Dillard, OT Washington State
Great Blue North Draft Report – DT/DE Ed Oliver, Houston
DraftInsiders.com – CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
Fantasy Football Toolbox – DT/DE Ed Oliver, Houston
NBCSports.com – DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
NFL.com (Charles Davis) – OT Jonah Williams, Alabama
AtlantaFalcons.com – DE Brian Burns, Florida State
NFL Draft Geek – DT/DE Ed Oliver, Houston (trade up to No. 8 spot)
Yahoo Sports – DE Brian Burns, Florida State
USA TODAY Sports – DT Rashan Gary, Michigan

With the NFL draft just two weeks away, 11Alive Sports explores 14 different updated mock drafts and their (above) preferences for the Atlanta Falcons' pick at No. 14 overall (Round 1).


Oliver (6-foot-2, 287 pounds ... viewed as a slighter version of Aaron Donald)  rates as the most popular choice, at No. 14, among the (above) draft gurus.

But here's the kicker: In two instances (CBS Sports and NFL Draft Greek), the Falcons were also projected to execute a first-round trade with the Detroit Lions ... as a means of snagging Oliver at No. 8 overall.

Which brings us to this: We know NFL teams often say they don't pay attention to media narratives and exploits; but as a former employee for an NFL club (Lions), trust me when saying that's only partially true.

**During the regular season, NFL teams are quick to dismiss the media's opinions and research methods.

**During draft season, however, the clubs are always interested in getting fresh gossip ... especially if it has a direct impact on their options for an upcoming draft pick.

In this case, however, the Falcons could second-guess their aggressiveness in moving up six slots to land Oliver ... if there's a decent chance he'll remain on the board after the 13th pick.


Wilkins (6-3, 315 pounds, supremely athletic for his size) serves as a great Plan B for the gurus who coveted Oliver ... but didn't mind settling for the mammoth Clemson defender.

Speaking of which, if the Falcons are feeling an emotional attachment to Clemson players, there's an outside chance that either defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell or Dexter Lawrence will make it to Round 2 (45th pick).

You remember Lawrence? He missed the College Football Playoff games, due to a PED suspension, but still has plenty of power, grace and natural athleticism.


The Burns pick would appease the cluster of Falcons fans who don't want to break the bank in re-signing Vic Beasley next winter.

Especially with Burns groomed as a likely plug-and-play replacement.

Burns is a physical monster with edge-rushing prowess; and unlike previous years, NFL scouts can't justify doubting a Florida State star defender ... on the rationale that other FSU defenders carried him during the previous college season.

(The Seminoles are in a slump, no doubt about it.)

On this flip side, check out this clip at the 1:00 mark.

Yes, Burns was extremely impressive in executing a spin move and sacking the Virginia Tech quarterback. 

However, this same highlight clip doesn't demonstrate elite-level lateral movement -- a gripe that has legitimacy when discussing Beasley, as well.


There are two schools of thought here:

a) Dillard could be construed as a 'reach' for this high in Round 1, since his grades don't fully sync up with 2019's best O-line prospects (Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, Jonah Williams). 

Of course, if that's the case ... the Falcons would still have a chance at Taylor, Little and/or Williams at 14 – so why not make the pre-pick adjustment?

b) For the 2008 draft, seven O-tackles were taken in the first 21 picks – including USC's Sam Baker to the Falcons at No. 21

Within this story, I also have vivid recollections of pundits praising the Falcons for snagging the last blue-chip O-line prospect (Baker) ... and then chiding the Texans for supposedly reaching on Duane Brown at No. 26 overall.

Fast forward 11 years: Of the first-rounders from 2008 (Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Chris Williams, Branden Albert, Gosder Cherilus, Jeff Otah, Baker, Brown) ... only Brown (four Pro Bowls, one All-Pro berth) remains in the league; and last year, Brown played at a high level, starting 16 games for the Seahawks.

In other words, today's reach in the first round can easily be tomorrow's stealth stud.


On paper, this pick would be tremendous for the Falcons, since Gary's a physical freak with a high-upside body for the NFL level.

Now for the bad part: It would be a mild surprise if Gary dipped to the No. 12 spot ... let alone got passed over by the Packers at the same slot. 

Bottom line: If the Falcons truly covet Gary's speed, power, athleticism and low center of gravity, it would likely warrant a trade.


Williams has a mock draft range of 10-24, so Falcons fans could likely make their peace with this rock-solid, but hardly sexy choice.

It also makes logistical sense for Atlanta, since back in January, head coach Dan Quinn explicitly said that three O-line spots required an offseason upgrade.


Let's end with the sentimental choice ... which also doubles as a necessary move. 

Yes, Baker was a star at Georgia, essentially buying him two or three years of local goodwill at the NFL level.

Luckily for the Falcons, Baker also possesses the speed, versatility, intellect, instincts and supreme confidence to be a No. 1 or No. 2 cornerback. 

He would quickly become an ideal asset in the secondary, operating opposite cornerback Marcus Trufant.

One last thing: Baker has a wild mock-draft range of 9 to 37

So, within that logic, the Falcons could afford to trade back in Round 1 (perhaps twice) and still secure an attractive building block for the future, combating the pass-heavy likes of Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston.