By: John Wickham

Like many Atlanta Falcon Fans, I am severely disappointed in this season. I in a million years would never have predicted a season like this. But in the ashes of this season I do see a glimmer of hope. I see a chance for the Atlanta Falcons to rise again next season with a potential top-5 draft pick and plenty of cap space to fix their holes.

I do not plan on doing one of this frequently but this season is pretty much over and I am starting to look at other mock draft sites and player rankings to get a feel for this off-season. I just wanted to throw a quick one together to get it out there.

I am not going to predict any free agent signings because it is too early. I will only mention the Falcons own free agents and any cuts that I think they should/would do.

2014 Falcon Free Agents
• DT Jonathan Babineaux (UFA)
• DT Peria Jerry (UFA)
• DT Corey Peters (UFA)
• C/G Joe Hawley (UFA)
• G/T Mike Johnson (UFA)
• T Jeremy Trueblood (UFA)
• TE Chase Coffman (UFA)
• WR Kevin Cone (ERFA)
• WR Drew Davis (ERFA)
• WR Brian Robiskie (UFA)
• FB Patrick DiMarco (RFA)
• CB Robert McClain (RFA)
• CB Dominique Franks (UFA)
• LB Omar Gaither (UFA)

Quick Definitions
UFA– Means Unrestricted Free agent. Can sign with any team without restrictions from his former team.
RFA– Means Restricted Free agent. If his former team tenders him, can sign offer with any team but his former team can match offer or former team declines and can receive a pick compensation.
ERFA– Means Exclusive Rights Free agent. Only can sign with former team.

DT Corey Peters- Young and has played well.
DT Jonathan Babineaux- Only on a reasonable 1-3 yr deal.
C/G Joe Hawley- Depth piece
G/T Mike Johnson- Depth piece
TE Chase Coffman- #2 receiving TE behind Levine Toilolo
WR Kevin Cone- Good special teamer Solid Depth
WR Drew Davis- Solid Depth
FB Patrick DiMarco- Depth and can fight Bradie Ewing for starting FB role
CB Robert McClain- Having a down year but still a solid NB
CB Dominique Franks- Depth piece

Released/ Not resigned
DT Peria Jerry- Has been ravaged by injuries. Has not been the same guy. Getting a little long in the tooth.
T Jeremy Trueblood- I do not see a reason for him to be back
WR Brian Robiskie- With Roddy and Julio coming back healthy next season he is no longer needed
LB Omar Gaither – Solid depth guy, could be brought back later
CB Asante Samuel- With emergence of Trufant and Alford, Samuel becomes an expensive backup
Stephen Nicholas- Declining skills with a high salary Has been relegated to a backup role with the emergence of Bartu and Worrilow
G/T Garrett Reynolds- Shouldn’t be a starter in my eyes. Could be kept as a backup

I know I said that I’m not going to do any free agent signings but I will say what positions or type of players in those positions I think they should look at.

QB-In good hands with Matt Ryan and Dominique Davis. Sean Renfree coming back next year.
RB- I think Steven Jackson’s woes are more on the offensive line than on him. Jason Snelling, Jazquizz Rodgers and Antoine Smith round out a solid group.
FB– Bradie Ewing looks good when he is in there but is always hurt. Patrick DiMarco has been solid in place of him. Could look at bringing in someone either in free agency or draft.
WR- It really sucks that Julio Jones and Roddy White have been hurt but I think we have seen some solid depth with them out. Darius Johnson has played pretty well, so has Drew Davis. Harry Douglas has been exceptional for the most part. Kevin Cone had a good 3rd down catch but his true value lies on special teams
TE– Losing Tony Gonzalez is going to hurt. I think the Falcons can do a couple of things. Make a big splash in free agency with a guy like Jimmy Graham if he becomes available or draft a stud in the early rounds. Or they could let Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman be the top 2 guys and get a depth guy to be the blocking TE.
OL– Where don’t they need help on the offensive line? They could stand to improve all 5 spots but that is unrealistic. If Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith are smart (if they are still here) they will spend money in free agency and high draft picks on the offensive line.
DL– Again, I ask where don’t they need help. They need to decide what they are trying to do. Do they want to run a 3-4 or a 4-3? They can continue to run the hybrid scheme but pieces are still needed. To me a big NT would benefit them a lot. They could add a DE but it would have to be a proven piece in free agency or a high draft pick or else they get lost with the Falcons other DE pieces.
LB– This for the most part is a stable group. With Weatherspoon, Bartu, Worrilow and Dent that is a solid 4. If the Falcons stick with a 4-3 look I think they are fine but if they want more 3-4 looks than a pass-rushing LB is needed.
CB- Is in good shape. Trufant and Alford look to be really good. McClain has been okay at nickel. If they bring back Franks he can be the dime back but still another guy is needed. A depth free agent move or late pick.
S- As much as I am disappointed in the combo of William Moore and Thomas Decoud they both have recently signed long-term deals and are also just a season removed from making the Pro Bowl so I will have a little faith that they can get back in that form. They have also just drafted 2 backups so I don’t see any moves here.
K– Matt Bryant has been great since he has been here but is getting to be pretty old. I could see a late pick or undrafted free agent brought in to compete.
P- In good hands with Matt Bosher
KR– Would like to see someone more dynamic back there
PR- As long as you don’t turnover the ball and make too many dumb mistakes I can’t complain.

Okay now for the long awaited draft. Thank you for staying with me. I am going to use draft rankings from several different sites to get a good idea. The Falcons could end with some compensatory picks but I will not get into that and I will not do any trade downs in this mock. I might do one later with some trades but for right now I will stay where we are. I will put my draft reasoning after the draft to not muddy it up.

As of November 13, 2013 the Falcons hold the 3rd overall pick.

Round 1 pick 3 (3)- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Round 2 pick 5 (37)- Gabe Jackson, OG, Miss State
Round 3 pick 4 (68)- Michael Sam, DE, Mizzou
Round 4 pick 3 (99)- Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
Round 5 pick 5 (133)- Andrew Jackson, ILB, W. Kentucky
Round 6 pick 4 (164)- Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn
Round 7 pick 3 (195)- Cairo Santos, K, Tulane

I went into this draft without the benefit of free agency so that meant that I had a bunch of holes that I did not have filled. With the 3rd overall pick of the draft that meant I pretty much had the choice of anyone I want. With Jacksonville and Tampa Bay ahead of me I expect at least one of the QBs to be off the board if not two. So I should expect that some combination of DE Jadeveon Clowney, OT Jake Matthews, OT Taylor Lewan, and OLB Anthony Barr available. Also a trade down could be available if a run on QB happens and a QB-hungry team wants to jump in and get their signal caller. But for this draft I did not want to do any trades.

The three most important people are the guy throwing the ball (QB), the guy protecting the guy throwing the ball (LT) and the guy going after the guy throwing the ball (DE/OLB). The Falcons have locked up the guy throwing the ball in Matt Ryan. Now they need to protect him. So with my first pick I got a premier LT with NFL bloodlines in Jake Matthews. With the next pick I grabbed Gabe Jackson wo is another guy to help protect Matt Ryan and help get the Falcons anemic rushing attack going. In the 3rd and 4th round I grab some guys that I think coupled with some free agent moves can help the Falcons front 4 get going. In the 5th I got Andrew Jackson because he is a big body that can back up Dent and Worrilow in the middle and only if we move to more of a 3-4. If we go to a 4-3 this could be a different move or get a passing rushing 3-4 OLB. In the 6th round I get a FB that is a sledgehammer. He really is only good at one thing and one thing only and that is putting LBs on their backs. He is not going to catch the ball a ton or run the ball a lot but that is okay to me. Then in the 7th I get one of the highest rated kickers in the draft to at worst compete with Matt Bryant and at best unseats him and becomes our kicker for the next decade.