FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons will have a shot at one of the top linebackers with the 17th overall pick.
Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, Ohio State’s Darron Lee and possibly UCLA’s Myles Jack could be available. My vote is for Ragland because I think Floyd is going to the Giants at the 10th spot.
Ragland is a traditional linebacker, who tackles with force and power. The Falcons have been missing this element since they let Curtis Lofton walk out the door in free agency after the 2011 season. No one seems to fear the Falcons’ defense. They need an intimidator and Ragland fits that description.
You have to remember that Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley were the architects of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense. The Falcons need some “Boom!!!”
“We are battling to find the right guys and keep competing to see the right fits and how they go,” Quinn said. “We’ve certainly invested a lot of time in the guys here and they’ve invested a lot time in us too, now that we are adding to this group, it’s a pretty exciting time to find the right guys, and when we bring them in, how they are going to fit. I think that’s probably one of the unique connections that we have.”
If Floyd slips, the Falcons should snap him up. He’s perhaps the second-best pass rusher in the draft. Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence is the top pass rusher, but the two failed Ecstasy tests at Ohio State have scared me off.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes that Floyd needs to play with more power, but still could be a top 10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Chicago.
“Leonard Floyd is one of my most conflicted players,” Mayock said on Friday. “There’s a big part of me that wants to say he’s a top 1o talent and there’s another part of me . . . when I’ve looked back at my notes and I’ve (reviewed) at least six of his games. All over the place I have the word ‘under-powered.’ Not just at the point of the attack, but he gets stuck in the pass game also rushing the quarterback.”
Floyd is scheduled to work out for the Falcons on Saturday. The Falcons have the 17th overall pick in the draft.
“If he doesn’t win with speed …he gets stuck,” Mayock said. “That worries me.”
Because pass-rushing is at such a premium in the league, Mayock believes teams will overlook Floyd’s lack of power. He also noted that Floyd has a nice up-and-under pass-rush move.
“He showed up at the combine bigger and heavier than all of us expected,” Mayock said. “His athletic ability is amazing and his burst off the edge is rare. So, at the end of the day in a pass-first league. Teams are going to lean toward what he can do as opposed to what he can’t do.
“What he can do is come off the line and get off the edge.”
Floyd is appealing to 4-3 and 3-4 teams. The Falcons, who were last in the league with 19 sacks, are a 4-3 team.
“For a 4-3 team, I think he’s a linebacker on first and second downs off the line of scrimmage and when you go to your sub package, which is 60 to 70 percent of your snaps, he’s going to be a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end,” Mayock said. “I think the 3-4 teams look at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. But at the end of the day, could he be a top 10 pick. I think he could surprise some people and get in the top 10 somewhere, yes.”
Teams in need: New York Giants, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City and San Francisco.
Need area for Falcons? Yes. The Falcons have struggled covering running backs and tight ends. They also gave up 20 rushing touchdowns, which was tied for first in the league.
The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter gives his top players for the Falcons to draft at #17, talks about the interest in LB Myles Jack & tells CineSport’s Noah Coslov where the team may go in round 2.
NFL DRAFT 2016 – POSITION BY POSITION SERIES
Sunday, April 17 — QUARTERBACKS
Monday — RUNNING BACKS
Tuesday – WIDE RECEIVERS
Wednesday — TIGHT ENDS
Thursday — OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Friday — DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Saturday, April 23 — LINEBACKERS
D. Led’s breakdown of the Linebackers
A look at the top 10 linebackers
Sunday, April 24 — CORNERBACKS
D. Led’s breakdown of the cornerbacks
A look at the top 10 cornerbacks
Monday, April 25 — SAFETIES
D. Led’s breakdown of the Safeties
A look at the top 10 Safeties
Tuesday, April 26
D. Led’s breakdown of the Specialists, kickers, punters and returners
Position by position: Specialists chart
Wednesday, April 27
Final mock draft