Aaron It Out: Rise Up or Be Deflated

Oh, how interesting, the Patriots are in another Super Bowl.

The ridiculous narrative will be how, in the face of admitted cheating and having served a suspension the first four games of this season, Tom Brady is ready to stick it to Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. It sells both teams short.

But it particularly sells the Atlanta Falcons short, and I’ll do what I can to make up for it in this portion of my column. The Falcons are seeing the culmination of several years of rebuilding, dating back to when Matt Ryan was drafted. It was a short time after the Michael Vick scandal and people were still extremely loyal to Vick. Ryan has done his part, slowly building his talent, slowly learning the game, and becoming one of the most excellent quarterbacks (albeit an underrated one) in the NFL. Smart coaching and smart drafting are what have allowed the Falcons to excel. Atlanta needed a coach that would be able to lead them to the next level, and they replaced Mike Smith with Dan Quinn. They needed a go-to receiver so they sacrificed many draft picks to trade up and select Julio Jones. They had to add a quality number two guy that could complement Jones but also had their own unique skill set so they had probably the best free agent acquisition of the last offseason in Mohamed Sanu. And they have quietly and effectively built a great defense to go along with their high-quality offense.

It really says something about the skill level of Julio Jones when, hampered by turf toe (not as insignificant as it sounds), is still the fastest guy on the field.

You think that defense is overrated? They held Green Bay (you know, the same team that had an amazing comeback against Dallas the week before) to no score until midway through the third quarter in the NFC Championship game. Only 2 of their 5 losses on the year came by more than a touchdown; the rest were by three points or less. They regularly stop mobile quarterbacks.

Oh, and the Falcons haven’t lost since December 4.

Can you tell who I’ll be rooting for? I think that of all the teams that could possibly beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, it would be Atlanta. They can score when needed and I think their defense is good enough to take away the dink-and-dunk low-yard-chewing offense Tom Brady likes to run and also hurry Brady up, which makes him uncomfortable.

This doesn’t seem to me a situation like the last time the Falcons were in the Super Bowl, led by Chris “Chandelier” Chandler, who was able to get hurt on a pin drop and who didn’t have a lot of great talent. I seriously think that the Falcons are going to surprise people.

Rise up, indeed.

So I mentioned that this week would be a different sort of column, and it is. It’s my first and hopefully entertaining… AARON IT OUT MOCK DRAFT 1.0 (numbered as such because I have to have something to write about in the coming months)!!!

I’m doing the first round, and a little bit of exposition with each pick.

Are you ready? Here we go!

1. BROWNS – Myles Garrett, DE – The Browns have a multitude of draft picks and should be smart with them. If I were them, I wouldn’t sell the farm and go QB at number one, especially with such great defensive players available, and they seem to be shoring up their defense and seeing what they have on offense. I think Garrett makes a great and immediate impact for that team.

2. 49ERS – Jonathan Allen, DT – Call me crazy, but I think that the 49ers try to keep Colin Kaepernick around for another season or two, because nobody else will want him. I don’t like them taking a QB right here, and their new GM will want to make a swift, positive impact – not with a young QB that will need development. Jon Allen will do that and become a great leader on defense there.

3. BEARS – DeShaun Watson, QB – Here you go. The Jay Cutler era is over in Chicago, and if John Fox and Ryan Pace want to keep the fans happy, they want a big-time QB signing, and who better than the player who led the most recent national championship team? If the Bears keep Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White can stay healthy, the Bears may just go back to being a contender in the tough NFC North.

4. JAGUARS – Dalvin Cook, RB – I am admittedly a little prejudiced on this pick, but I think the running game has been one of the most glaring deficiencies in the Jags’ offense over the past couple of years. I think that Coughlin will shore up the offensive line and defensive ends through free agency (GO GET JPP, TOMMY!) and make an impact player a part of the Jags. A long time ago, a notable running back was taken “too high” from a Florida school by the Jags that was one of the main missing pices of the offense – Fred Taylor. I expect Dalvin Cook to have the same impact, if taken.

5. TITANS – Mike Williams, WR – The Titans’ receiving corps has not exactly struck fear in the hearts of opposing defenses for several years. This draft is an opportunity to change that, and I think that they go receiver here and pick up the great Mike Williams, who had a great couple of games during the college playoffs. He will give Mariota a deep weapon and really allow Tennessee to open up the offense.

6. JETS – Mitch Trubisky, QB – Breaking news: the Jets need a quarterback. I don’t trust any of the options that they currently have, and this pick may be very, very wrong – but Trubisky came out of nowhere to be one of the top quarterback prospects this year and he looks like he has the disposition to handle the pressure of working in New York, and has the demeanor to work well under head coach Todd Bowles.

7. CHARGERS – Malik Hooker, S – Gus Bradley is bringing his awful defense from Jacksonville across the country to San Die-… uh, I mean, Los Angeles, and for those that aren’t aware, he runs a lot of Cover 3 that forces the free safety to sort of sit in center field and watch what happens. Their current safeties aren’t built for that and so Hooker feels like a natural fit.

8. PANTHERS – Leonard Fournette, RB – Cam can’t do it all, and so here they take Fournette off the board. There may be one or two other players they could take here, but they need another difference-maker on offense. I’m in the camp that Fournette isn’t as good as Cook, but he can definitely pound the ball and I think that he will have a good impact in Carolina.

9. BENGALS – Derek Barnett, DE – Cincy definitely needs some help on their pass rush, and I think that this gives them the best chance. They can address WR and other needs later in the draft but this is a great chance to pick up an elite rusher that will cause new worries for Flacco and Roethlisberger.

10. BILLS – Corey Davis, WR – Buffalo needs a solid complement to Sammy Watkins and a reliable replacement when Watkins is hurt. Davis didn’t rise on peoples’ boards until the end of the season but he has the skills to be a top-10 pick, and whoever is throwing the ball next year for the Bills will definitely appreciate the help.

11. SAINTS – Marshon Lattimore, CB – The Saints have tried to out-offense other offenses in their games and that needs to stop at some point. They really need a ball-hawking cornerback that can defend the pass well, and Lattimore seems to be it for them. If they shore up a few other spots with FA and the draft they’ll no longer have to just outscore opponents.

12. BROWNS – DeShone Kizer, QB – This is a spot that makes more sense, in my opinion, for Cleveland to take their quarterback of the future. He’s not first overall so there’s not an immediate sense that he HAS to play now, and Kizer has the athleticism to make things happen around a rebuilding offense.

13. CARDINALS – Jamal Adams, S – The Cardinals are about to lose one of their starting safeties to free agency and they could definitely use someone athletic and versatile to pair with Tyrann Mathieu. He was the last safety they drafted from LSU and it turned out to be a pretty good decision.

14. COLTS – Forrest Lamp, OL – The Colts’ biggest deficiency is an offensive line to protect Andrew Luck long enough to let plays develop. They began developing it with Ryan Kelly but here is another interior lineman who has the skills to keep the play going another few seconds.

15. EAGLES – Marion Humphrey, CB – The Eagles are hurting in their secondary, and if they can bring in a decent-level free agent and add Humphrey to the mix, they should be in slightly better shape. Humphrey has definite skills and athleticism, which is good considering he’ll be facing Dez and Odell twice a year each.

16. RAVENS – John Ross, WR – Baltimore needs a speedy, sure-handed wideout to replace Steve Smith and give Joe Flacco something to gun it to. John Ross seems to possess the traits needed there and will supplement the Ravens’ offense well.

17. REDSKINS – Reuben Foster, LB – The Redskins seem to know that the defense needs to be enhanced and this draft pick will definitely allow them to do so; Foster is an athletic and strong LB that can run their system if needed as the middle or play the role of the SAM, or strong side, linebacker.

18. TITANS – Solomon Thomas, DE – Two draft picks in the first round gives the Titans a chance to make impacts on both sides of the ball, and they definitely will be able to here. A great defensive end that has the presence of mind to make a good move and rush the quarterback.

19. BUCS – David Njoku, TE – Jameis Winston likes to dump it to his TE when he doesn’t have a solution downfield, and the Bucs are deficient at that position. I think this is a smart pick for them that gives them versatility on offense.

20. BRONCOS – Christian McCaffrey, RB – Total vanity pick by yours truly, but I think John Elway likes himself a good storyline, and he wants someone that can pair with Devontae Booker as a long-term answer for the Broncos’ running game. They can bolster the offensive line in free agency and later in the draft, but the idea of Tony Romo handing the ball off to Christian McCaffrey is a fun one.

21. LIONS – Jabrill Peppers, S – I think that the Lions have a chance to do what the Jaguars have been doing recently and go after the homegrown talent every once in a while. Jim Harbaugh has made Michigan a place for great players and Peppers is definitely one of them, and will be an asset on defense to whatever team drafts him.

22. DOLPHINS – O.J. Howard, TE – When Miami head coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver, he really liked surprising people with athletic tight ends and dialing up long passes to them. Julius Thomas benefited from that greatly. Here, we see another opportunity for the same to happen in Miami, and I think Howard will bring another weapon to an already good lookin’ Dolphins offense.

23. GIANTS – Garrett Bolles, OT – New York’s offensive line was a headache for them in the regular season as well as the playoffs. There are some pretty high-quality players here and I think that they will spend their pick on a quality lineman that will hopefully be there for many years to come.

24. RAIDERS – Malik McDowell, DT – Jack Del Rio has been said to want some interior rush on his defense, and so this pick makes sense. McDowell seems fast off the snap and can punish an offensive lineman trying to single-block him.

25. TEXANS – Cam Robinson – OT – I think that if the Texans intend to make Brock Osweiler their quarterback of the future, then they need to protect him by shoring up that offensive line. Pretty simple equation here, as it allows DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller to get open and make pass windows happen.

26. SEAHAWKS – Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Russell Wilson’s big problem this year (other than his wife’s ex showing up at his playoff appearance) was being able to stay upright, and the Seahawks need to be able to keep their star QB uninjured so he can make plays. Can’t get much simpler than that.

27. CHIEFS – Teez Tabor, CB – I like this as another piece of that punishing Chiefs defense, and I think there is enough WR depth in this draft they can risk waiting until round 2 or 3 to grab a guy there. Tabor is athletic and I think he can hang with the likes of Cooper and Thomas in the division, once he gets his bearings.

28. COWBOYS – Taco Charlton, DE – Who doesn’t love a good taco? Sorry for the joke, but after investing in that great offense, Jerry and the Cowboys are going to bolster that defense and Charlton is a great piece to begin doing so.

29. PACKERS – Carl Lawson, DE – One of the few good things coming out of Auburn this year is Carl Lawson, and he should be able to help the Packers’ nonexistent pass rush, which was a glaring opportunity while Matt Ryan hung back and scanned the field, ordered a pizza, checked his Twitter, and drank a refreshing lemonade before completing a pass during the NFC Championship game.

30. STEELERS – Takkarist McKinley, LB – Jarvis Jones and James Harrison are set to become free agents, and the Steelers sometimes let their free agents walk when the opportunity for new talent arises. I think that is what will happen here.

31. PATRIOTS – Zach Cunningham, LB – Cunningham was a bright spot for Vandy and the Patriots need another non-body-off-the-street guy after trading Jamie Collins during the season at this position, and Cunningham seems to fit the bill.

32. FALCONS – Dan Feeney, OG – Here’s breaking news: the ability to keep your quarterback on his feet raises the probability of winning football games. Alex Mack was a great offseason signing for the Falcons last year but this is another chance to make the line better, and I’m thinking they do it.

Hope you enjoyed my first-round mock; please stay tuned for more draft and free agency coverage after the Super Bowl. See you next week for more NFL coverage and bad jokes!

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