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Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft Remix: Surprise Players And Potential Steals

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The NFL is no stranger to witnessing surprise picks and steals during the draft. The Falcons may pull the first head-scratching pick in the draft by getting North Carolina TE Eric Ebron. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.
The NFL is no stranger to witnessing surprise picks and steals during the draft. The Falcons may pull the first head-scratching pick in the draft by getting North Carolina TE Eric Ebron. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

The Atlanta Falcons are ready to find their future stars this evening and as we’ve seen in the past, the NFL Draft always seems to generate surprises. Sometimes, a team’s target player may be off the board and they have to find someone who can do well for the organization. The player they choose may be unknown to fans at the time, but he can end up become a longtime starter or All-Pro player. It can happen to Atlanta too. What if any of the Falcons prized prospects, like OT Jake Matthews or DE Jadeveon Clowney, are off the board by the sixth overall pick? Will they draft someone earlier than experts expected?

The Falcons can also wait until Day Two or Day Three to find diamonds in the rough who can mature into starters and elite players. Their biggest draft steal was Jamal Anderson, the bruising running back who helped lead the Dirty Birds to a berth in Super Bowl XXXIII. Anderson was the 201st player chosen in the 1994 draft. Eight years later, he would retire with 5,335 rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns. In Atlanta's NFC Championship season, he was 154 yards away from breaking the 2,000-yard mark with Terrell Davis. Not bad for a seventh rounder out of Utah.

The following mock draft highlights potential sleepers and surprise picks that the Falcons may decide to go with in each round.

Round 1:  Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Offensive line, outside linebacker and defensive end are positions that Atlanta needs to fill during the three-day draft. It would make sense for the team to pursue Clowney, Matthews, OT Greg Robinson, LB Khalil Mack or OT Taylor Lewan. But with Tony Gonzalez (presumably) retired, it won’t hurt to add another inviting pass target to the roster. Eric Ebron is like a “Vernon Davis”, where Atlanta can have him line up in multiple spots as a tight end on the line, a H-back or a slot receiver. I can see him becoming QB Matt Ryan’s preferred receiver for medium-range passes and red zone situations. Ebron will be a shocker because the Falcons already have a receiving tight end in Lee Toilolo and they just signed Bear Pascoe as well. It’s hard to pass up a potential passing threat like Ebron, though.

Round 2: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU

Kyle Van Noy can actually be the best fit for Atlanta’s multiple offense, though most fans would prefer Dee Ford or local star pass rusher Jeremiah Attoachu. Van Noy may not be the most athletic second rounder on the board, but he is one of the more fundamentally sound outside linebackers available. Not only does he use his quick reaction to cover and defend passes, but he can also slip past the offensive line and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. That makes Van Noy pro-ready to the point where he can play any linebacker position in either a 3-4 base defense or a multiple defense that requires linebackers to use their football IQ and play recognition ability.

Round 3: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

I understand that his numbers are a result of playing in a “weaker conference”, but you can’t ignore how well Davante Adams played in his last two seasons at Fresno State. He caught 233 passes for over 3,000 yards and he led the NCAA in receptions last season. Adams can be Ryan’s best option when it comes to catching short passes and running comeback routes. He’s also no stranger to toughness, running through defenders and blocking for runners. I wouldn’t mind seeing Adams team up with a receiving corps filled with speedsters like Julio Jones and Devin Hester.

Round 4: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern

We’re looking at a future starting running back in Jerick McKinnon. In fact, he may be a Pro Bowler by the time his career ends because he has plenty of upside, despite playing in only an option-oriented offense throughout his collegiate career. He has great outside speed, which he showed scouts by running the 40-yard dash in 4.35. Even though he’s only 5-9 and weighs 205 pounds, he did manage 32 reps on the bench press, showing off his strength. McKinnon is more than capable of absorbing punishment, taking runs for TDs and playing as an every down back. Atlanta may also help develop his receiving skills and add plays where he can take snaps as a wildcat quarterback.

Round 5: Isaiah Lewis, SS, Michigan State

As a strong safety, Isaiah Lewis may slip to round seven or become an undrafted free agent because he wasn’t known to hit ball carriers hard like fellow prospect Calvin Pryor. But considering that they need another starting safety, the Falcons can shock fans by not getting a free safety with the sixth pick and drafting Lewis instead as a free safety. As a “tweener”, he can fit perfectly in the multiple defense. Atlanta can start Lewis as a free safety and allow him to cover the deep ball, though he would need to work on reading the quarterback better. He can also switch spots with William Moore at times and attack the line of scrimmage. Lewis may not be as physical as Moore, but he can make the open-field tackles and read the run very well. He’ll get the job done, which is all that matters at the end of the day.

Round 6: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami (FL)

The former "can’t-miss" high school prospect came to the University of Miami as a five-star recruit and was expected to win All-American honors and other individual awards. Henderson is now a potential high-risk, high-reward draft pick that the Falcons may consider. The downfall is his constant off the field issues - he admitted to failing drug tests while receiving suspensions during two of his four seasons for team rule violations. Henderson will need to cut it out, as team owner Arthur Blank doesn’t condone ongoing misbehavior. However, the Falcons can turn the troubled tackle into a star. He has the size, strength and speed to shine in the pros. All he has to do football-wise is work on staying low and not overreaching defenders. Henderson will be a long-term project that can blossom into a starter in due time, as long he’s willing to stay out of trouble.

Round 7: Wesley Johnson, C, Vanderbilt

If he drops to the last round, C Wesley Johnson will be the biggest steal in Atlanta’s draft this year. Johnson started in every position on the offensive line, except right guard. He appears to be NFL-ready because of what he brings to terms of versatility, athleticism, sound fundamentals and intelligence. Don’t worry about him not being the biggest or the strongest offensive lineman prospect - Johnson will make up for it with skill. The Falcons may start him right away if he does well in the preseason. He can start in any position on the offensive line, and eventually take over as the leading center. Atlanta can also use him on special teams.

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