Mock drafts are big money for football media, sometimes starting the day following the previous season’s draft. But when it comes down to it, it’s extremely unlikely that a player ends up where everyone thinks they will. The Falcons have been linked to multiple players pre-draft, such as Michigan athlete Jabrill Peppers or Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp, usually based on need or smokescreen.
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But here are three players that they should avoid:
Jabrill Peppers, safety – Peppers is so hot now! Or was mid way through me writing this article. Thanks to a diluted drug test at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last month (which the league counts as a positive), his stock will see him drafted around where he should be.
The Ringer’s Mike Lombardi correctly stated that the only thing Peppers can do at an above average level is return kicks. He has wiggle and quickness, but was a liability for Michigan’s defense. Michigan defensive coordinator Dom Brown designed his scheme to cover up Pepper’s shortcomings, and, before he ended up sitting out of the Orange Bowl, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher game planned to pick on him.
As cover32 writer Mike Lederle mentioned on Sunday, the Falcons have built their defense on speed and size. Peppers lacks these characteristics as a safety or linebacker on this team. Now, if they were taking a mid round flier on Peppers as a running back/kick returner, that would be a better fit.
Tyus Bowser, edge rusher – Bowser, one of the many edge rushers in a deep class, has become a favorite darkhorse pick thanks to a good combine and quick twitch athleticism. While he was productive for Houston last season, he’s still new to the position. At 250 pounds, Bowser is also undersized for the position while unlikely to be able to add any more good weight.
It’s difficult to pass on athletes like him, but the higher potential ceiling also comes with a lower floor when factoring in his lack of experience. Pass rushers like FSU’s Demarcus Walker, KSU’s Jordan Willis or Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt may be a better choice towards the end of the first round since they should all bring similar production more consistently.
Dan Feeney, guard – Everyone knows one of the Falcons’ only true holes is at guard following Chris Chester’s retirement. And with Lamp skyrocketing up the mock draft boards, Atlanta may be left with Feeney. He’s a good player; third-team All-American, four year starter, and team captain. He’s even blocked for Tevin Coleman during the running back’s time at Indiana.
But Feeney is the type of guard you can find in later rounds given his zone blocking style. He also tends to get too upright post-snap. If Lamp isn’t available, there is the potential that Alabama’s tackle Cam Robinson is. Like fellow former Tide tackle D.J. Fluker, his slow footwork may be better suited at guard (at least in the short term).
The Falcons have gotten some steals in the past couple of drafts and developed a roster with few weaknesses. They have two options on how to work this draft: 1) Take the best available player left on the board or 2) try to pigeonhole players into positions of perceived weakness.
In 2008, the Jacksonville Jaguars felt that they were on the verge of something big, missing only a quality threat off the edge. Sound familiar? They chose option two, trading up for Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey who went on to only disappoint, ending up out of the league within four seasons.
A few years before, the 2004 New England Patriots were coming off a Super Bowl winning season with a young franchise quarterback in place and depth at the majority of positions. Their first pick that season? Nose tackle Vince Wilfork of Georgia. They already had Keith Traylor at that spot and had other former first rounders, like defensive end Richard Seymour, throughout the line. That extra depth helped them repeat as Super Bowl champions and Wilfork was a staple on the line for the next decade.
While I know most Falcons fans don’t like the Patriots after the last Super Bowl, their blueprint is the best one to follow. You never know when a player will be injured or holdout or get popped for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. A position of depth can quickly turn into an area of weakness. The Falcons’ roster is in a good position, and they should take the best available player on the board regardless of need.