The Atlanta Falcons are looking for a quick rebound in the NFC South after barely missing a division title despite a 6-10 record. They will attempt to do so under the guidance of new head coach Dan Quinn, who has his work cut out for him turning around one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
It is no secret that the Falcons need to completely overhaul their pass-rushing personnel group. They started that process in free agency, signing Adrian Clayborn, O'Brien Schofield and Brooks Reed, but more help is needed. Which is why the first seven picks of our 2015 NFL mock draft has Dave Choate of The Falcoholic sprinting to the podium.
8. Falcons: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Choate: I’d sprint to the podium to take Randy Gregory, myself.
Gregory is a terrific athlete, a productive and effective pass rusher and ideal fit for the Falcons' need for a threat off the edge. There are legitimate concerns about his weight and less legitimate concerns about his motor, but he can be a force off the edge.
Even if it takes Gregory a year to become a truly impactful player, he should be insanely good in an attacking Dan Quinn defense. As he bulks up and adjusts to the NFL game, I think he can become at least an average run defender, and with his pass-rushing toolkit, that'll be enough to make him a three-down starter and perhaps — a man can dream — a perennial All-Pro. For now, Falcons fans will settle for Gregory representing a simple upgrade, and the John Abraham comparisons can hopefully come later.
Dante Fowler Jr. would likely be tempting for Quinn, given that he coached the guy at Florida, but Gregory is simply the best player left on my board. I would have loved to walk away with Vic Beasley, but Gregory gives the Falcons a projectable pass-rushing talent who can play a major role in fixing the Falcons’ annual inability to get after the quarterback.
Dan Kadar, SBNation.com: Indeed, this would be an easy choice to make for Atlanta. Gregory is a high-upside pass rusher, and head coach Dan Quinn should be able to put him in a position to be successful. But even though Gregory is the more highly rated player, some think Fowler might be a better fit. He could play the Michael Bennett role for the Falcons, and be moved around the line and used in a unique way. Neither choice would be wrong – and the Falcons need to improve their pass rush – but Fowler may be the better fit.
Dan's Top 5 players remaining
- 5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
- 6. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
- 8. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
- 9. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
- 10. Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
- 1-8: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
- 2-42: (coming April 9)
SB Nation presents: A breakdown of our latest mock draft