The NFL Draft is two and a half months away, and with the 17th overall pick, Atlanta is in position to add a valuable piece in the first round. Here's a look at some of the latest mock draft projections for the Falcons:
Analysis:As expected, most of the pundits believe the Falcons will tab a defender on April 28. Jaylon Smith, named three times, is a particularly interesting choice: Although he's an exceptional talent, the former Notre Dame star tore an ACL and MCL just a few months back. Such a serious injury makes him a risky option and might prevent him from being effective in the short-term. That said, he was a tremendous playmaker at Notre Dame—one who could evolve into a franchise cornerstone at the NFL level.
Reggie Ragland's name comes up multiple times, too. With a couple of national championships under his belt from his time at Alabama, the 6-foot-1, 259-pounder could quickly improve Atlanta's rush and pass D with his natural instincts, sound tackling and coverage skills.
The lone offensive player listed, Michael Thomas, is someone to watch at the upcoming combine. Another national champion, this Ohio State product has the frame (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), route-running ability and hands to immediately become Atlanta's No. 2 WR behind Julio Jones.
Drafting a pair of Clemson defensive linemen worked out for Atlanta last year, and two more appear above. Mel Kiper, Jr. originally projected the Falcons to go in a different direction, but when junior Kevin Dodd declared for the draft, ESPN's longtime analyst changed his mind. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound athlete registered 12 sacks in 2015.
He also had 23.5 tackles for loss, good for second in the FBS. The only player who finished with more was the defensive end who lined up opposite him: Shaq Lawson. With 24.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, he too has established himself as one of the best D-linemen in this year's class.