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Monday, April 14, 2014
Falcons eyeing second-round pass-rusher?

By Vaughn McClure

The Atlanta Falcons continue to do extensive homework on pass-rushers with the NFL draft less than a month away.

Of course, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Buffalo's Khalil Mack lead the group, and the Falcons are likely to host both players for visits soon. But if the draft unfolds as expected, Clowney and Mack are likely to be gone if the Falcons stay put with the sixth overall pick.

ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay believe, based on their latest mock drafts, that the Falcons will end up selecting Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews at No. 6. Such a move would likely make a pass-rusher even more of a priority in the second round.

Three pass-rushers McShay identified as second-round picks seem to be high on the Falcons' radar. Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence visited Atlanta last week. BYU's Kyle Van Noy is scheduled to visited the Falcons on Wednesday. And UCLA's Anthony Barr will visit sometime next week.

McShay actually has Barr as the first pass-rusher off the board in the second round with the 36th overall pick to Oakland. He has the Falcons taking Auburn's Dee Ford at No. 37. Ford, of course, impressed the Falcons at the Senior Bowl and seems likely to visit or have a private workout with the team, if he hasn't already.

Going back to McShay's board, he has Lawrence going as the 52nd pick to Arizona and Van Noy as the 57th pick to San Diego.

Regardless of which pass-rusher seems to be the most appealing, the Falcons seem to be in good position to land an impact player. Ford or Barr would be a steal considering they were projected as first-round picks early in the process.

The curveball in the whole equation might be the safety position. If the Falcons view safety as a more pressing need, they might take a player such as Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward in the second round.