With the NFL Draft arriving on Thursday evening (it’s already here?!?!), it is time to take a look at the Atlanta Falcons and their draft needs. With “just” one pick each in the first three rounds (#30, #60, and #92), the fireworks that have been prevalent with Thomas Dimitroff may not arrive this year. With that said, there is plenty of talent available and there are some needs to fill. Today, we’ll look at round one (pick #30) and some possible targets should the Falcons stay put and select in position.
Needs: Defensive End, Cornerback, Offensive Line (Guard and Tackle), Linebacker, Tight End
- Defensive End – Even with the signing of Osi Umenyiora, the Falcons are still in desperate need of a pass-rusher. With only Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann on the roster (neither of whom can play every down at this stage), I believe that DE is one of two primary needs. The 2013 draft is littered with talent on the offensive and defensive lines, and there are some big-time guys worth targeting in round one. Cornellius (Tank) Carradine (Florida State), Datone Jones (UCLA), and Bjeorn Warner (Florida State) would all look good in a Falcons uniform at pick #30.
- Cornerback – Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson aren’t walking through that door (copyright, Rick Pitino) and the defensive backfield is a big issue at the moment for Atlanta. Asante Samuel and the emerging Robert McClain are penciled in as the starting corners right now, but no Falcons fan enjoys that, and it’s a necessity to grab a corner early in the draft in my opinion. After Dee Milliner (the Alabama stud), the cornerback positions plateaus a bit, but there are still some good end-of-1st-round options. Xavier Rhodes (Florida State), DJ Hayden (Houston), Jamar Taylor (Boise State), and possibly Desmond Trufant (Washington) could all slip to Atlanta at #30 and be nice value picks.
- Offensive Line – This wasn’t “supposed” to be an issue, but after the unexpected release of Tyson Clabo, Atlanta could use some O-line help in a hurry. The right side of the O-line is currently Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes, and with neither guy having any job security (at least they shouldn’t), it would probably be an immediate upgrade with a 1st-round lineman. I’ve seen mock drafts that have included OL in recent days, and guys like Kyle Long (Oregon), Justin Pugh (Syracuse), Menelik Watson (Florida State), and Larry Warford (Kentucky) would be fits.
- Linebacker – The middle of the defense isn’t a pure “need”, but it’s certainly a spot where Atlanta could look to upgrade. Akeem Dent isn’t exactly a proven commodity and with no depth behind him, it wouldn’t shock me to see a linebacker slip to Atlanta. Manti Te’o (of Notre Dame and “catfish” fame) and Alec Ogletree (hometown guy from Georgia) would be the two guys that I could see Dimitroff targeting, but both are “expected” to go before pick #30. Ogletree is the best player at any position that I’ve mentioned so far, but he has off-field baggage that the Falcons would normally shy away from.
- Tight End – Unpopular opinion alert!!! I don’t think Atlanta needs to draft a tight end. Consider the fact that a) Tony Gonzalez is coming back, b) Tony Gonzalez is basically a possession wide receiver at this point, and c) there are positions that Atlanta arguably needs to upgrade at to make a Super Bowl run. Would it be nice to have a “tight end of the future”? Absolutely, but in my opinion, the Falcons offense doesn’t need a “pure” tight end at all, and the majority of sets that feature Gonzalez do so as a pure pass catcher. Zach Ertz (Stanford) seems to be the only guy projected in the #30 range, but I would go another direction.
There you have it! You never know where the draft may fall, but in terms of pure “need”, I firmly believe that Atlanta should take the best available player at either defensive end or cornerback in the first round. It wouldn’t shock me to see Dimitroff package picks and move up or slide down to garner more options. Thursday is where the focus is, but Friday and Saturday truly build NFL rosters. Stay tuned.