2011 Falcons Draft Picks: Julio Jones, Akeem Dent Lead Instant Impact Players

The Atlanta Falcons picked up six new players in the 2011 NFL Draft -- we'll have scouting reports on all six coming shortly.

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2011 Falcons Draft Picks: Andrew Jackson Continues Trench Depth Project

One of Thomas Dimitroff's defining traits has been his commitment to keeping the Atlanta Falcons well-stocked on both lines of scrimmage. In each of his four drafts, he's picked at least one OL and DL -- that didn't happen here in 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002 or 2000, so it's definitely a break from recent tradition. He's made a habit of picking versatile, smart linemen as well -- enter Fresno St. Bulldogs OG Andrew Jackson.

What they're saying: Best value pick in the 7th round.

Best case: Competes with Mike Johnson to one day take over for either Justin Blalock or Harvey Dahl.

Worst case: Never develops NFL footwork. Can't stay healthy.

Highlights, stats, videos, background and stuff: Jackson was a three-time WAC All-Academic and first-team Academic All-American, so he might be just about the smartest players on the roster already. At six-foot-six he's got the frame to grow, but he's already gotten strong without sacrificing quickness. He's supposed to be an effective run blocker, but the main concern about him seems to be his pass-blocking footwork.

Why'd he slip? Injury concerns -- at various points in his final two seasons, he missed time due to ankle, knee and back injuries.

As he's an offensive lineman, he doesn't have many stats for us to stare at, but here's an odd one: he blocked three kicks in his special teams career. You have to be a pretty good athlete to block multiple kicks; befitting his agility, his best drill at the NFL Combine was the 3 cone, at which he finished 10th among all OL:

 

40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vert Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone Drill 20 Yard Shutte 60 Yard Shuttle

 

5.38 25 28 98 7.55 4.65

For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.

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2011 Falcons Draft Picks: Technically, Matt Bosher Is An Instant Impact Player

Nobody expected the Atlanta Falcons to pick Miami Hurricanes special teams unit Matt Bosher. In The Falcoholic's war room, most of our crew was lobbying for Nevada Wolf Pack workout warrior Virgil Green while I was pulling for Lee Ziemba, poor (and furious!) man's Harvey Dahl. We were riding high off the Jacquizz Rodgers pick, expecting another playmaker and then ... well, guys, Bosher should start from day one at one position or another, having somehow led Miami in special teams tackles.

What they're saying: ... The Falcons picked Matt Bosher ...

Best case: Fulfills Jimmy Mora's dream of having one footsman play all special teams positions. Beats Ray Guy into Hall of Fame. Sacks Drew Brees twice in one game.

Worst case: Fails at punting. Converts to kicker. Fails at kicking. Converts to linebacker. Succeeds. Matt Bosher has no downside.

Highlights, stats, videos, background and stuff: Let's be serious. Michael Koenen is not quite as good as he used to be, and is up for a new deal, which will likely price him out of Atlanta's mediocre punter budget. The confusing part, though, is nobody yet knows whether Bosher will punt or kick, having done both at The U. He was announced by the team as a kicker, but Matt Bryant kicked goodness-knows-how-many game-winners in 2010 and isn't exactly ancient.

So let's say punter. To the numbers, via Sports Reference:

Punting Kicking
Year School Conf Class Pos Punts Yds Avg XPM XPA XP% FGM FGA FG% Pts
2007 Miami (FL) ACC SO K 58 2329 40.2 0 0 0 0 0
2008 Miami (FL) ACC JR K 67 2683 40.0 40 40 100.0 18 20 90.0 94
2009 Miami (FL) ACC JR K 51 2169 42.5 50 50 100.0 14 16 87.5 92
2010 Miami (FL) ACC SR K 59 2597 44.0 37 40 92.5 13 17 76.5 76
Career Miami (FL) 235 9778 41.6 127 130 97.7 45 53 84.9 262


Bosher didn't compete at the NFL Combine, despite playing 17 positions and being Miami's best tackler. 

Here's a video of Bosher booting some field goals and pinning a punt on the one-inch line, a line that does not exist but is still mentioned in every football telecast:

<a href="http://video.msn.com?mkt=en-us&brand=foxsports&playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:8ac5325f-f4a0-4080-b355-4ff845c157c5&showPlaylist=true&from=IV2_en-us_foxsports_videosearch&fg=RAMP" mce_href="http://video.msn.com?mkt=en-us&brand=foxsports&playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:8ac5325f-f4a0-4080-b355-4ff845c157c5&showPlaylist=true&from=IV2_en-us_foxsports_videosearch&fg=RAMP" target="_new" title="Draft Preview: Matt Bosher">Video: Draft Preview: Matt Bosher</a>

In 2009, Bosher was named the ACC's top kicker and second-best punter, and was named to the All-ACC Second Team at one position or another for three straight years. He was Florida's top kicker as a high schooler, and Scout.com even called him the best in the country.

For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.

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2011 Falcons Draft Picks: Jacquizz Rodgers Creates Thunder-And-Little Thunder Combo

Atlanta Falcons fans have been lamenting the team's use of Jerious Norwood for years, even preceding Bobby Petrino's insistence on using a nearly spent Warrick Dunn as his feature back. With Norwood's last good wheel finally rolling along its way, the team is forced to seek Michael Turner's change of pace elsewhere. Is Oregon St. Beavers RB Jacquizz Rodgers the answer?

What they're saying: Should contribute quite a bit as a rookie ... I love fifth-round pick Jacquizz Rodgers ... A steal as 145th pick ... He offers a pass-catching threat the Falcons can use ... Awesome complementary piece and someone who adds a scary new dimension.

Best case: He becomes the new Maurice Jones-Drew or a stronger Warrick Dunn, stepping up his pass-blocking to match the example set by both of those compact, diverse backs. He challenges Turner for carries every season, taking over the starting role down the road while becoming a fantasy football treasure.

Worst case: He never gains the trust of Falcons offensive coaches enough to stay on the field for more than a stray play every now and then, a la several other small backs who've been through Atlanta. NFL defenses catch up to his deceptive lack of speed far quicker than NCAA defenders could.

Highlights, stats, videos, background and stuff: Rodgers leaves Oregon State as the decade's top Pac-10 career yards from scrimmage leader. Atlanta may have a productive, durable new weapon to deploy. By my quick count, he had 27 games with 100 or more yards worth of offense.

Oh, and his only career fumble should've actually been charged to his QB, according to Oregon State fans. They're actually really insistent about that. Sounds good?

Complete career stats, via Sports Reference:

Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2008 Oregon State Pac-10 FR RB 259 1253 4.8 11 29 247 8.5 1 288 1500 5.2 12
2009 Oregon State Pac-10 SO RB 273 1440 5.3 21 78 522 6.7 1 351 1962 5.6 22
2010 Oregon State Pac-10 JR RB 256 1184 4.6 14 44 287 6.5 3 300 1471 4.9 17
Career Oregon State 788 3877 4.9 46 151 1056 7.0 5 939 4933 5.3 51


24 37.5 123 No
So how'd he do all that? While he's an impressive athlete and , he didn't exactly have an incredible NFL Combine, failing to rank in the top 20 RBs in any drill in which he competed:

 

40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vert Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone Drill 20 Yard Shutte 60 Yard Shuttle

 

4.64 33 113 7.31 4.26

Thus, let's go to the tape. Keep in mind this is against Cal, so.

As you can see in bits here and in much more detail in a thorough video breakdown at Mocking The Draft, Rodgers is a small back who plays like a big back more often than not, the opposite of the Darren Sproles clone we were first told the team had picked -- though he does have creative feet when needed. He's little, so he's hard to get a bead on, but he wears many beads in his necklace he's strong enough to deal damage of his own. Well, most of the time.

After watching him, I don't really think of him as a change-of-pace back, but more of a change-of-scale back. He's definitely nimbler than Turner, but is a uniquely Mike Smith version of an explosive running back. Like Turner and Jason Snelling, he may not always gain yardage, but I don't see him losing it all that often either.

Rodgers has been a force his entire career, setting the Texas high school touchdowns record in just three years, which is kind of hard to believe. Swear Tim Riggins scored several hundred in his nine seasons. He journeyed all the way to Oregon State to play alongside his brother James (he's a family man, Mr. Blank!).

For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.

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For Falcons, Julio Jones Could Be Both A Good Player And Bad Draft Pick

Let's not forget just how much the Atlanta Falcons gave up to draft Julio Jones. The complete list of 2011 Falcons draft picks.

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2011 Falcons Draft Picks: Akeem Dent Stays Red And Black

This post was written by SB Nation Atlanta's Georgia Bulldogs editor, Doug Gillett.

The Falcons are right in UGA's backyard (or vice versa), they even wear the same colors . . . and yet drafting Dawgs has never been all that high on the Falcons' list of priorities. Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent makes only the eighth Bulldog drafted all-time by the Dirty Birds, and just the third in the Richt era after D.J. Shockley and Thomas Brown. But after allowing 5.6 yards per play in 2010, third-worst in the NFC, Atlanta needed some impact guys who could cut down on big plays by opposing offenses, and Dent fits the bill.

What they're saying: He plays much bigger than his measurables on film . . . He has good instincts and skills but is very raw and will need work on his technique . . . Inconsistent dealing with blockers, which could keep him from becoming more than a backup LB if he does not improve in this area . . . Doesn't project to be an NFL starter . . . Helps the front seven, even if he’s not a dynamic player.

Best case: Dent spends a season or two working and learning behind MLB Curtis Lofton and then takes over a full-time MLB or SLB role. Athletically Dent may not be as gifted as some of the players Atlanta could've taken in this spot, but he's got a reputation as a someone who'll do what's necessary to earn more playing time.

Worst case: Never catches on in a starting role and instead gets shunted off to special teams for a couple years before going to the CFL.

Highlights, stats, videos, background and stuff: One thing I've appreciated about Dent for a couple seasons now is that he lets his work on the playing field, not his mouth, do the talking for him. And he's got a knack for flying to the ball, as you can see here:

Dent was far and away the team's leading tackler last year, both solo and assisted, and he was tied for second in tackles for loss behind Justin Houston. Even in an injury-shortened 2009 season, in which he started only four games, he was Georgia's No. 4 linebacker in tackles.

This may be sacrilege in some quarters, but there's a lot about Dent that reminds me of Rennie Curran, who went to the Titans in the third round (91st pick) of last year's draft. Rennie was an amazing athlete who got dinged a little by draftniks for being undersized; Dent trades some athleticism for a few inches in stature compared to Curran. While he may not have Rennie's outright speed, though, he does share Rennie's aggressiveness, work ethic and ball instincts, and that's gotta count for something. And like Curran, Dent is a high-character guy who stayed out of trouble while he was in Athens.

Akeem Dent's career stats: 

 

Year GP Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks QB Hurries Fumbles Forced Pass Deflections

 

2007 13 36 0.5 0 0 0 1

 

2008 13 46 3 1.5 1 0 2

 

2009 9 32 2.5 0.5 0 0 0

 

2010 13 125 6.5 2.5 1 2 2

 

Totals 48 239 12.5 4.5 2 2

5

Though he only competed in three events at the NFL Combine, he still placed in the top 10 among LBs in each drill, including a No. 2 showing in the vert. We got us a jumpy linebacker:

 

40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vert Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone Drill 20 Yard Shutte 60 Yard Shuttle

 

24 37.5 123

 

For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.

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Julio Jones Isn't Entire Falcons 2011 NFL Draft Class, But Sure Seems That Way

No pressure, but Alabama Crimson Tide WR Julio Jones had better be at least the second- or third-best receiver in the NFC South within two years and ready to take over for Roddy White as Matt Ryan's No. 1 target shortly after that. After the team gave up two picks this year and two in 2012, Jones has to work. He's not a senior, wasn't a permanent team captain, and cost a whole lot -- Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff drafted contrary to his entire body of work with this one. The question isn't whether he can be a good player -- Cam Newton is perhaps the only player in the league with as much pressure to quickly become an elite player.

What they're saying: The Falcons do have to win the NFC South in 2011 if they want to justify this move ... Giving up five draft picks, including two first-round picks, for a No. 2 receiver is too much ... It was a risk worth taking ... If it pays off, as in a Super Bowl, he wins. If not, the criticism will come ... Falcons were super aggressive and were able to fill a huge void ... You could argue his playmaking skill as a receiver was worth it. We'll see ... I love it for both teams ... Consider Jones the "swiss army knife" of marquee receivers ... Is Jones worth that kind of bounty? The track record of first-round receivers emphatically says no.

Best case: Enjoying single coverage for the first time in his life, Jones challenges Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson for the title of NFL's best big wide receiver, nearly as overpowering as Michael Irvin, nearly as fearless as Hines Ward and nearly as springy as Larry Fitzgerald. In this circumstance, best case is the only acceptable case. If his first game in Atlanta doesn't look like his first game at Alabama, prepare for pitchforks.

Worst case: He's a Matt Millen Round 1 wide receiver. Or he can't fight through injuries in the NFL the way he could at Alabama and the NFL Combine. Either way, Kerry Meier joins the starting lineup in mid-2013.

Highlights, stats, background and stuff: Jones never had the gaudiest college stats, but he fit the pro-style, power running system in which he played. He says he loves blocking, and he certainly got to do a lot of it at Bama. He still tallied 2,792 career yards from scrimmage in 40 games, or about 70 yards per game. That doesn't sound like much, but here's what I like about his numbers: seven of his eight career 100-yard games came against SEC competition. Jones is not going to have any problem getting up for big games. Totals and workout numbers, via Buffalo Rumblings:

Julio Jones: College Statistics

Year College Class GP Rec. Yds. Avg. TD
2008 Alabama FR 14 58 924 15.9 4
2009 Alabama SO 13 43 596 13.9 4
2010 Alabama JR 13 78 1,133 14.5 7
Julio Jones Totals 40 179 2,653 14.8 15

Julio Jones - 2011 Combine Results

Name Pos. College CL Ht. Wt. Arm Hand 40 Time Reps Vert 3-Cone Broad
Julio Jones WR Alabama JR 6026 220 33.8 9.8 4.39 17 38.5 6.66 11'3"

OK, so he's huge, stays out of trouble (Nick Saban has raved about his good character, FWIW), nearly broke the NFL Combine despite working out with a broken foot and plays his best against top competition. He can't catch the ball, right? Well, that's the story. He does have a problem with turning and running before he's secured the ball. But if you really dig in to the numbers -- and sip a little Falcohol -- his catch-to-drop ratio isn't all that troublesome. It will remain under scrutiny, but remember, White couldn't catch when he got here either.

Jones also needs to tune up his route running. Another thing I like: though Jones doesn't really ever get all that wide open, he still comes down with the ball. He should have no problem gaining Ryan's confidence, provided he can reliably hang on to the ball.

If he were a pro wrestler, his finishing move would be taking a short pass, making the first receiver miss and then getting upfield. I don't know if Mike Mularkey will take advantage of this talent, but I'd love to see how good Jones will be at this if he closely observes Tony Gonzalez' masterful field vision. He's done it since high school -- here he is making a LSU defender look helpless:

If yain't from around here, you might not know that the Julio hype has been building for almost a decade now. When he was still a high school player, Sports Illustrated compared him to Terrell OwensESPN to Michael Irvin. After you get a look at video of him man-among-boying at Foley High, you immediately understand why Alabama fans -- grown men, I mean -- were captured by news cameras hugging each other while crying on the day the consensus five-star recruit announced his college commitment over Florida, FSU, Oklahoma and others:

For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.

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2011 Falcons Draft Picks: Julio Jones, Akeem Dent Lead Instant Impact Players

The Atlanta Falcons went all in this weekend's 2011 NFL Draft, pulling off a huge trade with long-term consequences to add WR Julio Jones in the name of explosiveness. A smaller trade netted them the appropriately small Jacquizz Rodgers, who'll also add versatility to the offense.

Akeem Dent and Matt Bosher should also be game-one contributors, though we still haven't figured out whether Bosher is a punter or a kicker. As is Thomas Dimitroff's custom, the Birds also added depth on both sides of the line, picking up Andrew Jackson and Cliff Matthews to provide spackle and eventually bolster rotations, if all goes well.

While the team will certainly grab a few players off of the undrafted free agents list, and is expected to try and import a new pass rusher such as Minnesota Vikings DE Ray Edwards, this right here is the bulk of Flowery Branch reinforcements that will try to help the team become the first to repeat as NFC South champs:

 

Player College SB Nation College Blog Pick Height, Weight

 

Julio Jones, WR Alabama Crimson Tide Roll Bama Roll Round 1, Pick 6 via Cleveland Browns 6'3", 220

 

Akeem Dent, LB Georgia Bulldogs Dawg Sports Round 3, Pick 27 6'1", 242

 

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Oregon St. Beavers Building The Dam Round 5, Pick 145 via St. Louis Rams 5'6", 196

 

Matt Bosher, K/P Miami Hurricanes The 7th Floor Round 6, Pick 192 6'1", 208

 

Andrew Jackson, OG Fresno St. Bulldogs Mountain West Connection Round 7, Pick 210 6'5", 299

 

Cliff Matthews, DE South Carolina Gamecocks Garnet & Black Attack Round 7, Pick 230 6'4", 257

For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.

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