Looking at the Atlanta Falcons statistical rankings in advance (way! in advance) of the 2011 NFL Draft, there really aren’t very many glaring weaknesses. The team plays smart, focused, and exceedingly patient football, turning the ball over rarely, giving up very few big plays on defense, committing fewer penalties than anybody, and nearly leading the NFL in time of possession.
The only major offensive stat the team doesn’t do very well at: yards per play. Surprising, because putting up an 11-2 record would usually require a better showing than 21st in the league in just about the most important stat. It’s a testament to Mike Mularkey’s offense that the whole thing works, as they arrive at that average the honest way — banging out yardage on every play instead of swingin’ for the fences.
But wouldn’t it be nice to see a few more highlights per game? After losing Jerious Norwood early in the year, the team really hasn’t had a speedy, multi-purpose threat. While they’re highly unlikely to draft a wide receiver in the first round, here are a few versatile weapons the team could try to land late on day two or three or six or however long they stretch this thing out:
Derrick Locke, Kentucky RB: 2009 second-team All-SEC all-purpose player Locke is often overshadowed by the even more all-purpose Randall Cobb, Locke is still capable of breaking a game open. He’s missed time due to injury, which should slide him into the sixth round or so, but he posted more than 100 total yards in seven of his eight 2010 games. And he’s earned various SEC special teams awards for his return skills.
Da’Rel Scott, Maryland RB: Playing in a crowded Terps backfield, Scott scored multiple touchdowns both rushing and passing, and even threw for a score, in 2010. A track star like Locke, he’s been clocked in the 4.4 and even 4.3 range.
Aldrick Robinson, SMU WR: Mustangs coach June Jones has called him his fastest player ever, saying he should be a first-round pick. Robinson’s projected to go in the sixth, but he was offered a track and field scholarship by Kansas coming out of high school. Seeing a trend here?
Jock Sanders, West Virginia WR: The ’Eers all-time leading receiver, Sanders also runs the ball and returns kicks. Major ding against possible Falcons draft selection: was suspended by Bill Stewart last year after securing a DUI. As far as I can recall, Thomas Dimitroff has yet to draft a player with a history of either arrests or suspensions.