Very few people spend as much time thinking about the NFL Draft as Mel Kiper, ESPN's longtime draft guru. His knowledge of draft prospects and how each could fit with NFL teams is evident in his many mock drafts and big boards throughout the draft season.
During a conference call with the media Wednesday, Kiper shared his thoughts on what the Atlanta Falcons could do during the first couple of rounds in the upcoming draft. He views edge rusher and cornerback as the team's two pressing needs, and there are two players at the front of his mind for the Falcons.
"I think it gets down to K'Lavon Chaisson from LSU, if he were there, and C.J. Henderson from Florida, the corner, if he were there," Kiper said. "I think it will be interesting to see which direction they would go in that first round."
Chaisson and Henderson have been linked to the Falcons in many mock drafts, including Matt Tabeek's mock draft, throughout the offseason and for good reason. Many view Chaisson as the second-best pass rusher in this draft behind Ohio State's Chase Young, while Henderson is likewise seen as a top corner who locked down good SEC competition.
There's a chance that either of those players are on the board for the Falcons at No. 16, but NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted Wednesday that there's a belief among other teams that Atlanta could be looking to move up in the first round.
Whichever way the Falcons go in the first round, if they do indeed address one of those two positions, Kiper expects that to impact what the team will do in the second round. Kiper believes there will be a number of corners available in the second round, while the crop of pass rushers isn't nearly as deep.
"And then, in the second round what could you get at those two spots," Kiper said. "Could you get the pass rusher, maybe a Julian Okwara, how do they feel about him coming out of Notre Dame? Or, how do they feel about at that point a corner? And there will be some corners on the board in the second round. So, maybe they go Chaisson [in the first round] knowing you can get a guy maybe like Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois who played safety and had 13 career interceptions, also played a little corner. He had seven interceptions in high school as well, so he's a playmaker whose got dual versatility."
Chinn was Kiper's pick for the Falcons in the second round in his most recent mock draft, but he's far from the only defensive back who could be available at that point for Atlanta.
"Damon Arnette from Ohio State did a good job opposite Jeff Okudah, I like him," Kiper said. "Jeff Gladney, TCU, is another corner who's going to be right in that mix. Ashton Davis from Cal is a safety, very athletic kid, track guy who could project to corner. Trevon Diggs from Alabama, mixed opinion on him, but he'll be in that second-round discussion, as will Cameron Dantzler from Mississippi State. So there's going to be a lot of corners. Kristian Fulton may be there from LSU, mixed opinion on him."
Draft night is always full of surprises and it's extremely difficult for even the best experts to predict how things will unfold. It makes sense that Atlanta would want to add more juice to its pass rush or find a replacement for Desmond Trufant in the secondary, but there are some other paths the Falcons could take as well.
In Kiper's mind, however, he knows what he would do if he were calling the shots:
"I think you might want to go Chaisson first and then corner second if you're Atlanta."