As a Fansided site, ATL All Day is participating in a on going 2014 NFL Mock Draft with some of the Local and NFL sites of Fansided. You can follow the on going draft here (http://factoryofsadness.co/?p=1809) to see all of the picks leading to our selection below. Follow along as we complete all 32 teams First Round Picks.
Jake Matthews, Texas A&M, Offensive Tackle – The Atlanta Falcons select Jake Matthews with the 6th pick. Matthews is the perfect combination of an elite prospect and a “need” fit, as the Atlanta offensive line had an extremely difficult time keeping star QB Matt Ryan upright this season, and Matthews has been consistently ranked in the top 3-5 players in the upcoming draft.
From day one, he would be a massive upgrade over the left tackle conundrum of 2013, and even if Sam Baker is “healthy” and back to normal, Matthews would be, at worst, a very good starting right tackle who could move to the left when/if Baker falters. Other options for this pick include linebacker Anthony Barr of UCLA, and ideally, the Falcons would end up with one of the Matthews/Barr/Clowney combination to fortify their 3 biggest areas of weakness. I believe that Clowney will be in firm consideration if he dropped to this point, but Matthews is a “can’t miss” prospect at a position of great need, and it’s tough to go wrong with that.
In my mind, the “nightmare” scenario for Thomas Dimitroff in this draft is a spot where Matthews, Barr, and Clowney are off of the board. This is a QB-heavy draft at the top, and while it’s an awesome thing to not need a quarterback, the places where the Falcons are in desperate need aren’t exactly “loaded” areas. Clowney is the only pass-rusher from the DE spot that is worthy of the #6 pick (at least in my mind), and there is a severe drop-off after him. He would be my unquestioned selection if he falls to #6, but that seems to be unlikely given his ridiculous talent level, and I’m firmly opposed to the Falcons trading up again.
At tackle, Matthews is the best of the best, and there’s also a drop-off after him. Michigan’s Taylor Lewan and Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio are unquestioned top-15 picks, but neither would give Falcons fans anywhere near the level of safety that a pedigreed, no-risk guy like Matthews possesses, and because of that, it makes it more of a gamble than I’d want to stomach.
Outside linebacker is also a need (as stated above), but it falls far behind the other two spots in my brain, and the only reason that Anthony Barr is a realistic option is because he’s an elite player. Barr is currently ranked as the #2 overall player (ahead of Matthews) for ESPN’s Scouts, Inc., and he’s the type of no-doubt stud that this defense sorely needs. I would certainly rather have Matthews or Clowney than Barr, but it wouldn’t be a bad fallback option in a scenario where 3 quarterbacks go in the top-5.
Stay tuned for more analysis on the Draft as it approaches, but if the Falcons end up with Jake Matthews (as this mock suggests), that is a home run.