Early Bird Report 4/9: Falcons add another Florida defender in recent mock draft

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(AP photo)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons going with a Florida defender in D. Orlando Ledbetter's latest mock draft as well as a suspension for Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.

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The Falcons have had success in drafting former Florida Gators in the first round of the NFL Draft – safety Keanu Neal did make the Pro Bowl in his second season, after all – and it's possible they may go that route again this year. In his third mock draft this year, *The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's *D. Orlando Ledbetter has the Falcons selecting Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan.

Ledbetter says this will be a "needs" pick for the Falcons at No. 26. With the loss of Dontari Poe, who signed with the Panthers in free agency, as well as Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin, who remain unsigned free agents, the Falcons need depth and talent along the interior of their defensive line.

Included in Ledbetter's reasoning is a passage from Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide, which explains Bryan's athleticism and strength.

"Overall, Bryan is still in the development phase with his rush plan and run-defending skills, but he has the athleticism of a defensive end, the power of a nose tackle," Brugler wrote.

Bryan's father is a former Navy SEAL, and that exposure to a military household is something that could help the Florida defender acclimate to the Brotherhood rather quickly.

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NFL.com: Panthers LB Thomas Davis violate PED policy, will miss four games

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis will miss the first four games of the 2018 season, according to a report on NFL.com. Davis announced in a video on Twitter that he has violated the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, leading to the suspension.  

Davis has been one of the top linebackers in the NFL while on the field for the Panthers, and he has been named the three straight Pro Bowls, starting in 2015. Davis is also viewed as a tough competitor on the field and someone who gives back to his community off of it. In 2014, Davis was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work in the community.

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