Currently, the Falcons have seven selection available to them.
Below is a look at how things may fall and an explanation of why they went one way or the other with the pick...
Round 1: LB Brian Cushing, USC
Cushing is athletic and can play any of the three linebacker positions, however his best position is on the outside and most likely at the weakside position. He runs very well and he has outstanding instincts.
Initially, in my first mock draft (AFI Mock Draft 1.0) I had Mississippi DT Peria Jerry falling to Atlanta at 24, however things are always fluid and at this point, I see Jerry being selected earlier.
Another possibility is if a player like LSU DE Tyson Jackson or Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew were to fall to them, they would probably think long and hard about taking them. However, at this point Cushing would be a huge pickup for the Falcons defense.
Round 2: DT Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn
Unless they can pick up a big-time defensive tackle in free agency, Atlanta will be in the market for at least one defensive tackle. If they miss on Jerry, I don't see any other defensive tackles worthy of a first round selection -- although someone will likely reach -- so the problem then becomes which of the next group will fall to the late second round?
Boston College DT Ron Brace has been skyrocketing up the charts after and outstanding week of practice at the Senior Bowl and Missouri's Evander Hood is another player that has teams intrigued.
Marks is a player I liked as a sophomore and I think he would be a steal late in the second round.
Statistically, he had his worst season in 2008, posting only 40 tackles and two sacks. However, he's a force inside and with his quickness and athleticism, I see him being a factor early in his NFL career.
Had he waited another year and had a big senior season, he'd probably be at top 20 selection.
Round 3: TE Shawn Nelson, Southern Mississippi
If they don't opt for a tight end in either the first or second round, look for the Falcons to take a long look at players like Nelson, Florida TE Cornelius Ingram and South Carolina's Jared Cook.
Nelson is a real gem if he can maintain his concentration. He's very athletic and he can really stretch the middle seam on plays allowing receivers to run dig routes underneath him as he clears out the linebackers tasked with covering him.
Nelson will be a liability early on as a blocker since he lacks the bulk and lower-body strength to really root out defensive linemen, but he's a willing student who learns quickly.
Round 4: OT Fenuki Tupou, Oregon
Tupou has all the talent you could want in a strongside tackle.
He's got adequately quick feet to handle speed rushers and his lower-body strength is very impressive, so he won't struggle with bull-rushers either.
He's played the past two seasons in a wide-open attack that relied on quickness and the ability to get to the second level, which he excelled at.
With Todd Weiner retiring and Sam Baker appearing to be a fit at left tackle after an up-and-down rookie season, the need for another young bookend tackle would be fulfilled with Tupou's selection.
Round 5: S Kevin Ellison, USC
Because he isn't a great athlete, Ellison's stock has fallen. However, what he lacks in athleticism (which isn't much) he makes up for in smarts.
Ellison was widely considered another coach on the field for the Trojans able to read the offensive formation and get his defensive teammates lined up correctly to stop the ensuing play.
Ellison is also super-physical, using his prototypical size (6-1, 224) to be another linebacker type that can support the run.
The Falcons need a physical strong safety to eventually take over for Lawyer Milloy and Ellison would be a solid selection on day two of the Draft.
Round 6(a): LB Victor Butler, Oregon State
I think Butler is one of the more underrated players in the draft.
Why is that?
Because he has a reputation as a pass-rusher only, but I've see him drop into coverage and I believe he has the tools necessary to be a solid stronside linebacker at the next level.
He has outstanding edge-rushing abilities and he also possesses great speed, allowing him to track down ball-carriers on the opposite side of the field.
In Oregon State's scheme, Butler wasn't asked to do anything but rush the quarterback, so it will be a transition for him to become a true linebacker, but with his athleticism and tenacity I see him being a solid backup if not a marginal starter in the league.
Round 6(b): DT Nader Abdallah, Ohio State
Because defensive tackle is such a need for the Falcons, Abdallah makes a ton of sense here.
He's a player who had a reputation of being lazy until the light went on about halfway through his junior season in 2007 and he continued to show an improved work-ethic as a senior this past fall.
He has outstanding lower-body strength, allowing him to hold his ground versus double-teams and he uses his hands well.
Abdallah isn't a pass-rusher by any stretch, but he can hold strong against the run and he plays from snap to whistle.
So there it is...our first Falcons-only Mock.
Should the Draft end up falling this way, the Falcons would have addressed their biggest needs and added depth as well as playmakers at different positions.
Keep an eye out for more of these as we draw closer to the Draft.
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