You can debate the pros and cons of Atlanta making a move up to the No. 1 overall pick all you want. Here's the reality: they would get the rare chance to acquire a player who could become a transcendent talent and a complete gamechanger.
There are worries about Jadeveon Clowney's motivation. There's definitely concern about how much Thomas Dimitroff would pay for the right to Clowney. If it involves a 2015 first-round pick, it's hard to imagine Atlanta being willing to make this move. They saw first hand just how badly a season can turn out when things don't break your way.
Look no further than the No. 2 pick, where the Rams pick for the Redskins because Washington underwent a completely unexpected nightmare season in 2013.
Atlanta can't afford to lose on the depth that giving up a high pick next year would cost them. Maybe they can't afford to give up the depth that moving up this year would cost them.
But maybe they can't afford to miss out on a chance to see what happens if they plug Clowney into their defense.
1. Atlanta Falcons (VIA MOCK TRADE with Houston Texans) -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina -- Talk about a draft day stunner. Thomas Dimitroff shoves his chips into the center and walks out with a once-in-a-generation defensive talent and the best player in this draft. This would be a bad season to finish .500 or below.
The fallout for the rest of the draft is kind of interesting (I think). In this instance another team sees an opening to get the quarterback they want and makes a move up. Meanwhile, a slew of top prospects take a tumble because of the quarterback jockeying that takes place up top when the Falcons move to No. 1.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson — Les Snead might be so stunned seeing the Falcons bust a move he could forget to turn in his card. But landing Watkins, the second-best player in this draft, should put some pep in his step.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo — The Jags really are in great shape in this draft. Three’s the ideal number because you’re getting one of the players you want, regardless of what the teams in front of you do. Mack might be their favorite.
4. Cleveland Browns -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — Can’t quit giving Manziel to the Browns. He makes too much sense in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and he’d revive Cleveland with his penchant for stepping up his play in the spotlight.
5. Minnesota Vikings (VIA MOCK TRADE with Oakland Raiders) -- Blake Bortles, QB, UCF — Oh the games we play. Rick Spielman, sensing a chance to grab his quarterback with Houston out of the top spot, dials up Reggie McKenzie, who’s willing to move a few spots down and acquire extra picks.
6. Houston Texans (VIA MOCK TRADE with Atlanta Falcons) — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville — Pro-ready quarterback as a consolation prize? Not too shabby.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M — The wideout depth chart behind Vincent Jackson is scary looking. Combing Jackson and Evans would give either Josh McCown or Mike Glennon a massive pair of downfield targets.
8. Oakland Raiders (VIA MOCK TRADE with Minnesota Vikings) — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn — Well this played out nicely for Oakland. A road-grading tackle fell into their laps after they helped instigate plenty of positioning to acquire quarterbacks.
9. Buffalo Bills -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M — They like Cordy Glenn but EJ Manuel needs all the protection he can get. Matthews gives them some flexibility on moving personnel around on the line.
10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, OSU — It’s the “easy” pick I suppose. But with Watkins and Evans off the board, the Lions have to grab a player that helps them now and down the road. Gilbert does just that.
11. Tennessee Titans -- Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA — A perfect fit for Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense, it’s tough to project much of a different pick than this for Tennessee.
12. New York Giants -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh — Watch his film and you’re blown away by his first step. He can help improve the pass rush from the middle of the defensive line and won’t be required to become a big-body anchor for the Giants.
13. St. Louis Rams -- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama -- Having solved their WR problem with Watkins, the Rams grab a game-changing safety with their second first-round pick.
14. Chicago Bears -- Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota — Big, strong, athletic and violent at times when pursuing the ball, Hageman can plug in the middle of the Bears line, which has a major void at this point.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State — Kevin Colbert’s gotta be thinking replacement for Ike Taylor … before the season even begins. Pittsburgh needs help in a lot of places and cornerback is certainly one of them.
16. Dallas Cowboys -- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State — Jernigan isn’t always the fastest guy off the ball and that’s a major problem for a defensive lineman. But under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli he could blossom into a devastating presence in the middle of the defensive line for Dallas. Hard to see how they can bypass drafting for need and the front seven is easily their biggest hole.
17. Baltimore Ravens -- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU -- Wide receiver isn't the most immediate need but Beckham's the best player on the board.
18. New York Jets -- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech — Physical corner who could blossom under Rex Ryan. They could go wideout but the offense is … in pretty good shape? The Jets need someone else across from Dee Milliner.
19. Miami Dolphins -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama — Miami definitely needs help on the offensive line, but with Mosley’s ability to step in and impact their defense from the get go, they can’t pass up on the pro-ready product.
20. Arizona Cardinals -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan — The Cards signed Jared Veldheer in free agency and have Bobby Massie on the right side. But with Lewan falling this far (I didn’t expect it either) Steve Keim has to pounce on a guy who can suddenly turn Arizona’s biggest weakness — the line — into a strength.
21. Green Bay Packers -- Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois — Versatile enough to play in the box and work in coverage, Ward would be a welcome addition to the back end of a secondary that needs help, particularly in today’s NFL where defenses benefit from big-time safeties.
22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Brandin Cooks, WR, OSU — The speedy replacement Chip Kelly needs for DeSean Jackson. He’s not a 1:1 swap but he’s cheaper and won’t be a(n alleged) problem in the locker room.
23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC — Fluid athlete and polished receiver who would be much higher if 2013 hadn’t been such a wash. KC needs receiver help and gets it here.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri — The replacement for the departed Michael Johnson. Cincy’s fortunate to be in a position to draft the best player but they also want to keep the talent flowing into their defensive line.
25. San Diego Chargers -- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU — Who cares that he’s too short. Verrett’s a stud. Even if he’s best suited for locking people down in the nickel, you can plug him into an aggressive game plan and watch him make plays.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU — Bit of a reach for the unfinished product but Benjamin’s upside makes him worth the Browns' gambling on him here. Suddenly they’ve got Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and Benjamin for Manziel. That’s a potent offense and maybe unstoppable in the red zone.
27. New Orleans Saints -- Dee Ford, DE, Auburn — The Saints might like to load up their secondary further with the addition of a cornerback, and I wouldn’t rule them out for a wide receiver here. But getting a high-end pass rusher at the back end of the first round isn’t so bad either.
28. Carolina Panthers -- Eric Ebron, TE, UNC — Local guy ended up on the local team and, honestly, I never planned for him to fall this far. But he did and so Dave Gettleman took the best player available, just like he promised. Someone has to fall you know?
29. New England Patriots -- Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame — The Pats have Vince Wilfork in the middle but what’s wrong with improving the defensive line and pass rush from the inside out? That’s a lot of pounds of dudes to account for.
30. San Francisco 49ers -- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State — Red flags flying! Whatever. The 49ers need the talent at cornerback and have to trust their leadership to keep this guy in check.
31. Denver Broncos -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame — The rich get richer and Peyton Manning gets another offensive lineman who’s versatile enough to play multiple positions. At this point I’m getting nervous at the people who are dropping in my mock.
32. Seattle Seahawks -- DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State — Guessing who the Seahawks will take in the first is always a crapshoot. When in doubt, give them a pass rusher who fits the LEO mold and can do damage, regardless of who’s on their roster.