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Thursday, February 6, 2014
Kiper/McShay mock draft reax: Falcons

By Vaughn McClure

Mock drafts are basically meaningless this far before the NFL draft. Teams haven't even had a chance to address their needs via free agency.

Still, such mock drafts give die-hard football fans plenty to talk about after the Super Bowl. And it gives us reporters something to write about.

The latest mock drafts released by ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider both have the Atlanta Falcons targeting a lineman with their first-round draft pick. Kiper and McShay just happen to differ on which side of the ball the Falcons will address with the sixth-overall selection.

Kiper has the Falcons taking pass-rusher Anthony Barr from UCLA, while McShay has them selecting offensive tackle Jake Matthews from Texas A&M.

Most consider Barr a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. I talked about it with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and he agreed Barr could fit in a 4-3 or 3-4, as long as he gets to the quarterback. As Kiper noted, Barr has exceptional quickness. The one game I watched Barr play this season, he seemed relentless in terms of getting after the quarterback.

Some will question Barr's size at 248 pounds, but the 6-foot-4-inch Barr can put on some pounds before the season starts -- as long as he doesn't lose his quickness.

All that being said, I tend to side with McShay in terms of the Falcons needing an offensive tackle first. Matthews has the bloodlines, being the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. He is probably the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft, although Auburn's Greg Robinson might have a bigger upside, from what a couple scouts tell me. But if the Falcons want someone to come in immediately and helped protect Matt Ryan, Matthews would be the guy.

We'll see how things change after the NFL Scouting Combine in a few weeks. Maybe another player will emerge as the must-have guy for the Falcons.

For now, Barr and Matthews are two safe choices.