The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is almost upon us and I want to map out one possible complete draft class for the Atlanta Falcons before it arrives. So let’s look at seven potential selections for the Falcons in this upcoming 2018 Draft.
I should note that I’m factoring in the team receiving an extra seventh-round pick as a compensatory pick based off the projections from Over the Cap.com. Per that site, the loss of offensive lineman Tom Compton a year ago should merit an additional late-round selection for the Falcons.
That should make up for the fact that the team lost a fifth-round pick as part of the trade to acquire offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo last summer.
I should also note due to the compensatory projections, I have made the appropriate adjustments to the draft order to reflect all 256 picks.
First Round, Pick 26
OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
Per my good friend Charles McDonald, the Falcons showed considerable interest in Wynn during the week of practices at the Senior Bowl in late January. A three-year starter, Wynn spent his final season at Georgia playing left tackle after two years at left guard. While he lacks the size and length NFL teams look for in offensive tackles, he is a perfect fit for the Falcons outside zone-blocking scheme inside at guard thanks to being a scrappy, athletic finisher.
He should be able to come in right away to compete and potentially overtake Wes Schweitzer as the team’s starting right guard. That would allow Schweitzer to kick over to the left side, where he can be developed as the heir apparent behind Andy Levitre, who will be 32 at the outset of the 2018 season.
Second Round, Pick 58
DT Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
Despite hailing from a Division II school, Shepherd had an opportunity to work over some higher profile offensive linemen during his brief stint at the Senior Bowl. He suffered a broken hand, yet is still expected to participate in the Combine. But he’s flashed enough ability and potential to merit a selection this high. The biggest knock on Shepherd may be his age, as he’ll be a 25-year old rookie this fall. Meaning he will be approaching 30 by the time his rookie contract is done.
Shepherd has the raw tools, size, strength and motor to play across the Falcons defensive line, but likely will get an opportunity to replace Dontari Poe as the team’s go-to three-technique in their base defense. He also should line up beside Grady Jarrett in the team’s nickel subpackage and give the team a “fearsome foursome” pass rush to further spearhead their recent defensive resurgence.
Third Round, Pick 90
CB Quenton Meeks, Stanford
The son of former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Ron Meeks has the toughness and smarts to play at a high level in the NFL. Hailing from Stanford, Meeks’ size and length might prompt some Richard Sherman comparisons, although others compare him more to Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith. However, he may not be quite the athlete that Sherman was as how fast Meeks runs at the Combine could go a long way to determine how high he could be selected.
Meeks is comfortable playing either press or off coverage and should have little issue transitioning into the Falcons defensive scheme. He gives the team a much-needed backup at outside cornerback behind both Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant. He could push Brian Poole for the third cornerback spot as a rookie and should he win that battle, you can expect the Falcons to bump Alford inside in the nickel on third downs. At the very least, at 6’2″ Meeks gives the Falcons much-needed size at cornerback to help deal with the likes Michael Thomas, Mike Evans and Devin Funchess, NFC South receivers that stand 6’3″ or taller.
Fourth Round, Pick 128
DT Deadrin Senat, South Florida
Short and squatty at a robust six-foot, 322-pound frame, Senat possesses excellent power and a high motor to plug the middle of any NFL defense. He was a productive player at USF, finishing this past season with six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He is said to squat 675 pounds, giving him the lower body strength and explosiveness that the Falcons covet.
Senat will be in the mix to take over as an early-down defender that can play the nose tackle position often filled by Ahtyba Rubin late last season. While he may never be a regular in the Falcons’ subpackages, he possesses the power to push the pocket whenever he does get opportunities to rush the passer.
Sixth Round, Pick 203
WR Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa
Fountain was one of the risers at the East-West Shrine Game in January, earning Offensive MVP honors for the game. He was a highly productive player at UNI, leading the team in receiving for three straight seasons. He combined for 140 catches for 1,960 yards and 22 touchdowns in that span. While he didn’t have many opportunities as a return specialist during his collegiate career, he did manage to return a punt 30 yards in the Shrine Game, flashing potential there.
Fountain’s size, speed and return potential makes him a good fit in Atlanta, as the team looks to replace impending free agents Taylor Gabriel and Andre Roberts. Fountain will likely be tasked with playing special teams early in his career, but has enough upside to think he could develop into a reliable third option for Matt Ryan down the road.
Seventh Round, Pick 244
CB Taron Johnson, Weber State
Johnson showed his competitiveness during the Senior Bowl practices and was one of the standout corners there. While he lacks ideal size, he possesses the competitiveness that should make him a solid slot corner at the next level.
The Falcons double dip at the cornerback position as the look to supplement their depth due to the losses of Jalen Collins and C.J. Goodwin during last season. Johnson will compete for a role on special teams as a rookie, but has the potential to grow into the nickel role down the road.
Seventh Round, Pick 256 (Compensatory)
OT Brett Toth, Army
Should the compensatory projections prove accurate, Toth will be Mr. Irrelevant, also known as the last pick in the draft. The Falcons have already shown considerable interest in the long, athletic tackle. To many, Toth has the tools and athleticism to be a mid-round selection, but his military commitment could prompt teams to pass on him since he won’t likely be able to see the field for two more years.
The Falcons won’t be too concerned about that as they are looking for a long-term developmental option to potentially replace Ryan Schraeder at right tackle. Schraeder will be 30 this year and should be able to stick around as a starter for at least another year or two, buying the Falcons plenty of time to wait on Toth.
There you have it! Seven possible draft picks for the Falcons. I’ll drop another seven-round mock at some point before free agency begins on March 14. By then we’ll have the Combine results and the complete draft order and see what adjustments need to be made.
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