It's NFL mock draft time, family. We don't yet know how late the Atlanta Falcons will be picking, but we can safely assume they'll be in the twenties, maybe even thirties. SB Nation's NFL Draft community, Mocking The Draft, has put out its first 2011 mock draft, with the Falcons picking 31st based on current records. That would mean a NFC Championship win, so we'd be giddy to pick 31st.
MTD thinks the Birds go outside linebacker, taking Bruce Carter of the North Carolina Tar Heels: "OT is a possibility here. The allure of teaming Carter with Sean Weatherspoon at OLB was too great to pass up."
Spoon has spent most of his rookie season injured, and the team has shown that they'll draft a position high in consecutive years to hedge against an injury, as they sort of did by picking DT Corey Peters while Peria Jerry returned. Though the idea of assembling one of the league's most talented young linebacking units, led by MLB Curtis Lofton, sounds tempting, I doubt Carter will become a Falcon. He was one of the few UNC studs found to be clean during the NCAA's investigation of the Heels football program, so his character shouldn't be a concern. But with Stephen Nicholas hopefully holding down the OLB spot opposite Spoon, linebacker depth can be found later on.
Besides, both Atlanta's run defense and pass rush are solid and looking up, so it's hard to say what impact a new linebacker would have. This team's primary issues are pass defense, offensive weaponry, and pass blocking.
Cornerback: The very young secondary should continue to improve annually, and throwing a cornerback or two at the problem every year has to take hold at some point, right? Unless a stud like Miami Hurricanes CB Brandon Harris or Florida Gators CB Janoris Jenkins slips, I don't see Atlanta going cornerback early.
Wide receiver/tight end: While Roddy White has been the NFC's best receiver so far, he needs help. Tony Gonzalez will only play two more years max, Harry Douglas is still a mystery, Michael Jenkins is an aging third receiver forced to start, Brian Finneran is ancient, and Kerry Meier has yet to take an NFL snap. The team needs a slot threat more than anything, but it's all but certain they'll pick a receiver at some point next year.
Left tackle: Sam Baker has yet to own the position after being drafted in a first-round two-pack with Matt Ryan. Whether Baker can become a franchise tackle in the prime of his career or not, the team's only game-experienced backup blindside blocker is the competent Will Svitek. Last year they picked up a guard and center -- don't be surprised if the team goes tackle.
Which position do the Falcons need to address first in next year's draft?
Outside linebacker (20 votes)
Offensive tackle (92 votes)
Cornerback (28 votes)
Safety (8 votes)
Wide receiver (86 votes)
Defensive end (42 votes)
276 total votes