Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: End/linebacker
Free agent signing Brooks Reed makes sense as the "Otto" strong-side presence in new Falcons coach Dan Quinn's Seahawks-like defense. The "Leo" position is a glaring need. Leos are generally long and athletic with explosive edge-rush ability. The Falcons have lacked threatening pass rushers for the majority of GM Thomas Dimitroff's tenure.
No. 2 Team Need: Running back
If you're going to hire run-game guru Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator, you need to give him a back. Shanahan's system doesn't necessarily require an early-round rusher, but does need one capable of handling a lot of volume -- a quality current first-stringer Devonta Freeman lacks. Shanahan's feature runner will need to have the capability of effectively reading blocks before making one cut, sticking his foot in the ground, and maximizing yards.
No. 3 Team Need: Offensive line
The current makeup of Atlanta's offensive line is probably a bit better than commonly perceived, assuming LT Jake Matthews makes sophomore strides. Jon Asamoah is a quality starting right guard, and Ryan Schraeder's 2014 emergence solidified right tackle. Former LT Sam Baker is a viable option at left guard. Atlanta's biggest up-front weakness is at center, where Joe Hawley struggled mightily last season before tearing his ACL. The zone scheme run by Shanahan prioritizes strong center play.
Norris’ Mock Draft
Round 1 (8): EDGE Dante Fowler, Florida - The obvious connection is there: Dan Quinn coached Fowler at Florida, where by all accounts the edge player was a fantastic teammate ... which plays into the Falcons’ preference history. Fowler tested like an average athlete in terms of SPARQ scores, but does have the requisite length. He uses it to convert speed to power and has an aggressive motor to finish plays.
Round 2 (42): RB Melvin Gordon III, Wisconsin - Evan mentioned a zone scheme. Gordon III has plenty of experience running behind slanting offensive lines to hit the bend, bang, bounce and cut lanes. Now, he’s far from perfect at them, but that experience could lead teams to a “at least we know what we are getting” mindset. Gordon stops his feet behind the line of scrimmage too often, but can make the most of yards blocked for him.
Round 3 (73): C Andy Gallik, Boston College - A number of centers could be selected here. I think the NFL has a higher opinion of Gallik than he is getting credit for from the media. He did not test like a great athlete which could cause some concern in the zone scheme, but from game watching I think Gallik can make an impact at the anchor spot. Young centers are playing earlier and earlier.
Round 4 (107): TE Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State - Heuerman was not a perfect fit in Ohio State’s offense. He does offer receiving skills, but he might be the best blocking tight end in the draft. He isn’t Tony Gonzalez in the passing game, but Heuerman is likely an improvement over Levine Toilolo.
Round 5 (146): LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia - Wilson is receiving buzz in the form of workouts and visits. Teams likely think there is a drop off after a specific round and are trying to find third day prospects at the position. I think Wilson looked better in 2014 compared to 2013.
Round 6 (184): DL Bobby Richardson, Indiana - If Richardson is still on the board in this area, a team will get a sub-package rusher who can attack from a variety of alignments.
Round 7 (227): WR Rannell Hall, UCF - Hall made some of the most ridiculous catches during Senior Bowl week, many extended away from his body. Somewhat quietly, Hall produced the same SPARQ score as Amari Cooper and Jaelen Strong.
Falcons Current First-Team Offense
QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Devonta Freeman
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Roddy White
TE: Tony Moeaki
TE: Jacob Tamme
LT: Jake Matthews
LG: Sam Baker
C: Joe Hawley
RG: Jon Asamoah
RT: Ryan Schraeder
Falcons Current First-Team Defense
LE: Adrian Clayborn
NT: Paul Soliai
MLB: Paul Worrilow
WLB: Justin Durant
SLB: Brooks Reed
CB: Desmond Trufant
CB: Robert Alford
FS: Kemal Ishmael
SS: William Moore