With the 30th pick in Pride Of Detroit's 2013 NFL mock draft, the Atlanta Falcons select UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. ATL Lion is serving as the Falcons' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
Having a good season means waiting on draft day while all your favorite guys are taken before your pick. With that said, the Falcons are set to pick Datone Jones, DE, UCLA. My reasons are below.
Let's start by looking at the Falcons' areas of need. On the offensive side, they are looking pretty good. They might want to think about a replacement for Tony Gonzalez one day, but the TE class this year is weak. Their offensive line is stout, yet unspectacular. I think they will use a late-round pick to develop someone rather than make a splash in the first. They picked up Steven Jackson to run the ball and have a couple prospects behind him to develop. The defense, on the other hand, needs some help.
The Falcons are in perennial need of a pass rush DE or OLB, only more so this year with the departure of John Abraham and the phenomenal flop of Ray Edwards. They let two of their top three CBs go this offseason, so a CB is a strong need as well. To throw a monkey wrench in things, there are strong rumors that the Falcons are looking at switching to a 3-4 defense. So let's look at where our board shows value.
My first choice is to grab a cornerback, but the Broncos beat me to the last real first-round talent in that group. I don't think the next group of CBs fits the Falcons' scheme enough to warrant a reach.
My second choice is to go for a pass rush via DE or OLB. There have already been runs at both of these positions, but the best of the remaining lot are Datone Jones from UCLA and Margus Hunt from SMU. Jones is tough to scout since he played at DT last year, but he played well and the versatility is interesting. Hunt is an athletic freak and a workout warrior, but this has not translated to his game. While he is still raw and could be molded into a great 3-4 DE, he is also 25. I briefly thought of Damontre Moore, but the Falcons put an obscenely high importance on character and Moore does not pass that test.
My third choice is to grab a huge nose tackle to ease the transition into the 3-4. I had been eyeing Johnathan Hankins only to have him gone by my pick. I like John Jenkins from Georgia; he is a mountain of a man and can't be moved. He may be too big, however, as he had trouble playing entire games in college and will probably only be a two-down player for his first year in the NFL. Still, it is hard to transition to the 3-4 without a NT that can hold the run, and Jenkins can hold the middle of the 3-4 like few players in the draft.
In the end, I have to go with Jones. His mix of versatility, size and athleticism makes him a great fit for the Falcons. While he is a better 4-3 DE, the fact he has played DT as well gives him the skill set to switch between 3-4 DE, 4-3 DE and 4-3 DT as needed. I think he would have gone higher in the draft, but being played out of position last year dropped his numbers. He did not have the kind of stats that the NFL wants to see in a first-round defensive end. He did, however, have an impressive 40 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which shows me he can get in the backfield and be disruptive. I think he will be an excellent, if not splashy, addition to the Falcons defense.
Check out the 2013 Pride Of Detroit Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.