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There's little in the way of excitement for Falcons fans during Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft - Atlanta is without a first round pick following their 2011 blockbuster trade for wide receiver Julio Jones, and won't have a player announced on the podium until late in Friday's second round.
However, local products Cordy Glenn (Georgia) and Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech) are both thought to be first round prospects (Mike Mayock's final mock draft at NFL.com projects Glenn to the Steelers at No. 24 and Hill to the Titans at No. 20).
Falcons fans will have to take solace in Wednesday's trade for cornerback Asante Samuel, as well as a reminder of why they're sitting absent a pick on Thursday night (audio is delightfully ATLien, but decidedly NSFW):
Date / Time: Thursday, April 26, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York
TV: ESPN, NFL Network
Radio: Sirius / XM NFL Network
Just twelve more hours... that's what I keep telling myself. The near five-month lead up to the NFL draft ends tonight as the first round commences at 8PM, and unless the Falcons are planning some sort of crazy move- it's unlikely we'll hear from them until Friday night.
Atlanta's big move came yesterday in trading for CB Asante Samuel, an almost certain move that allows fans to cross ‘cornerback' off of the team's need list in the first two rounds. This now means that the offensive and defensive lines are in complete focus moving towards the 55th pick.
Less than 48hrs until the NFL draft there has been a flurry activity surrounding the Falcons. Whether it's last minute meetings with prospects, or putting out feelers to Philadelphia about Asante Samuel- it's clear Atlanta are looking to make a big impact with the picks they have left from the Julio Jones trade.
In 2010 the Dallas Cowboys found a way to convert the 55th overall pick into a big impact, and it's that player we're looking at today.
"With the fifty-fifth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys select- Sean Lee, LB, Penn State"
As we look back on the 2010 draft I have the feeling Sean Lee will join the annals of Marqus Colston in the 'how the heck did he last' ranks. While he obviously didn't fall too far as he was a second round pick, the impact Lee has had in a short period is impressive. Last season, his first as a starter, Lee finished with 105 tackles, 7 passes defended and 4 interceptions.
His stock fell on draft day because teams were concerned he didn't have the size or athleticism to play at the next level, but it's Lee's instincts that have separated him from the chaff in the 2010 class- thus far looking like the best linebacker selected.
In this same manor I can't help but feel like Lavonte David out of Nebraska fits the mold in the 2012 class. While outside linebacker may not be an immediate need after taking Sean Weatherspoon last year, but the case of Sean Lee shows that overvaluing athleticism, and underestimating skill can come back to bite you.
The Atlanta Falcons traded away some major assets from the 2012 NFL Draft last year in the big first round trade that netted wideout Julio Jones from the Cleveland Browns. While the team lacks a first round choice in this year's draft, the Falcons still come away with some solid talent, especially on the offensive side, in Chad Reuter's latest seven-round mock over at NFL.com.
Specifically, Reuter has the team grabbing Tony Gonzalez's replacement with Dwayne Allen as well as a nice quarterback prospect in the fifth in Nick Foles. You can can view the full list below.
Here's Reuter's complete projections for the Cowboys including round chosen and overall selection in parentheses:
2 (55) Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
3 (84) James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada
5 (157) Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
6 (192) Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
7 (229) Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton
7 (249) Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State
Former Atlanta Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler will announce the team's top pick in the draft this weekend at Radio Music City Hall. Since the Falcons traded away their first-round picks, they won't pick until the second round Saturday, where Crumpler, who was the team's second round pick in 2001, will announce the selection.
Crumpler is going to be one of 33 players to announce a draft pick this weekend for a team that he once played for. This is going to be the second consecutive year that the league will have retired players announce the choices by their former teams in the second round.
Last year, former Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle announced the Falcons' third-round pick, linebacker Akeem Dent.
The Falcons gave up their first and fourth-round picks for Julio Jones last year. They stayed quiet in free agency, re-signing an aging John Abraham and losing Curtis Lofton to the Saints. Both offensive and defensive lines still have question marks. Does Thomas Dimitroff have any more tricks up his sleeve?
As we continue our look at the 55th pick in the NFL draft, moving towards Friday night we arrive at a player who should be familiar to Falcons' fans. Unlike 2008's Ray Rice this player hasn't broken out yet, but in each of the least two years he's seemed poise to make an impact.
What kind of player was William Moore going to be at the next level? Standing 6'0", and weighing over 220lbs he could easily be characterized with that deadly 'tweener' moniker; not quite spy enough to play safety, and not quite heavy enough to become a rush linebacker. To do this, however, would be a discredit to William Moore. While he's still growing into the NFL you can definitely see he has the potential to be a difference maker, and now in a division with large QBs like Josh Freeman and Cam Newton it's a huge benefit to have a large, hard-hitting safety.
In many ways 2011 was Moore's coming out party. Starting eleven games he finished with 54 tackles and 9 passes defended to couple with two interceptions and forced fumbles. Dave Choate over at 'The Falcoholic' believes 2012 will be the year William Moore will break out.
The real question is: "Would the Falcons be happy with another William Moore?" and to this end I have to say no. That's not a knock on him as a player, but Atlanta need a more immediate impact out of the 55th pick. They can't stand to have another three year project to develop. As injuries dictated in 2011 there were players getting thrust into starting roles with a 'next man up' mentality. If the selection is a CB or OL the player taken will need to be ready to step in immediately if needed.
On Wednesday we'll look at the 2010 draft as we get closer to Friday night.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff learned from one of the best organization's in the NFL when he worked with the New England Patriots. In the draft the Patriots are notorious for trading back and stockpiling draft picks, well Dimitroff has not followed that philosophy as his tenure with the Falcons.
The biggest move was in the 2011 draft where the Falcons traded five picks to move up 21 spots to select wide receiver Julio Jones. It has become commonplace for the Falcons to make multiple trades during the draft.
This year the Falcons do not have the luxury with many draft picks as they only have six picks with their first not coming until No. 55 overall.
Even with limited picks this year, Dimitroff defends his liberal trading policy by saying that if he sees a player he likes he makes a deal happen to get that player:
"If you feel that you want to package picks to go up and get the player that you feel can help the team, well, then you use your draft picks as fodder to go after that player," Dimitroff said.
"The draft is set for a team to be able to bargain and to be able to use what you have to pull in the players that you need, the players that you think you need to help your team be successful," Dimitroff said. "We feel in the past that we've been able to utilize those picks more effectively by using part of them as trade bait."
The strategy has worked well as 26 of the 32 players Dimitroff has drafted are either starters or key reserves on the team, however two of the biggest misses came from trading to get offensive tackle Sam Baker and defensive tackle Peria Jerry both were selected in 2009.
With only six picks this year it will be difficult for the Falcons to make too many moves, but do not be surprised if the Falcons do end up making some trades.
If you have been concerned the Falcons could find an elite player when they have to wait until pick 55, rest assured. As we move through the years you'll find plenty of excellent, and mediocre players available. At the end of the day it's all about scouting, and lately Atlanta haven't been bad at finding solid players.
There were three probowlers taken in the second round in 2008- running backs Matt Forte and Ray Rice, as well as wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Baltimore did a fantastic job scouting and identifying Rice's talents at a time they were looking to find their next #1 RB.
A two-time probowler, and two-time all-pro Rice has found his niche as one of the most dynamic tailbacks in the NFL. He's rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of the last three seasons, which were his only three years as a full time starter. There's no denying the Ravens hit this one out of the park.
It should have been: No-one... Baltimore made the right pick
Still only 25 years old Rice is the heartbeat in the Ravens offense. If they can find a way to get their passing game working with some solid receivers this team will be near unbeatable. Some may say that lack of a dynamic WR hurts the Ravens, and as such DeSean Jackson should have been the pick- but personally, I'm taking a 1,200 yard rusher and 700 yard receiver in the backfield over an elite WR.
Could the Falcons go in the same direction?
Conventional wisdom would say the Falcons wouldn't dare take a running back with the 55th pick, however there's a player who could be available who reminds me a lot of Rice; that's Virginia Tech RB David Wilson, slated to be a selection on Friday night. Michael Turner is 30 years old now, and while there are more pressing needs Wilson could be the BPA.
On Monday we'll look at the 2009 draft, as we hurtle towards Thursday and Friday night
Unfortunately for Falcons fans the wait will be long as the NFL draft kicks off a little over a week from now. The excitement of the 2011 draft that brought WR Julio Jones to Atlanta has now been replaced with stark realization that the 55th pick is painfully far away.
Fear not Falcon faithful- just because you need to wait until the wee hours of Friday night to hear Atlanta's first pick doesn't mean there aren't some gems to be had. Over the next few days we'll be looking at the 2007-2011 draft to see who was taken at no.55, and who was missed out on. Today we head back to 2007 where the Seattle Seahawks were on the clock.
"With the fifty-fifth pick in the two-thousand and seven NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks select- Josh Wilson, cornerback, Maryland."
Okay, so maybe this isn't be best pick to kick this off with. Wilson, now with the Redskins was thought to be one of the better CBs in the draft. However a combination of back coaching, an ineffective system and poor play led him to leave the Pacific Northwest just two years after arriving in the NFL. For what it's worth- Wilson started all sixteen games for Washington last year, but nevertheless he never really worked out for Seattle.
It should have been: C Ryan Kalil (Panthers- picked 59th)
Had the Seahawks listened to the best-player-available philosophy they would have wound up with the Carolina Panthers' All-Pro center Ryan Kalil. Regarded as one of the finest interior linemen in the NFL Kalil has ensured rookie QB Cam Newton had a clean pocket, and would have worked wonders for Matt Flynn in Seattle this season. This was a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
Tomorrow we'll look at the 2008 draft, and how that class' #55 pick faired when they reached the next level.
With the future of Brent Grimes up in the air the need for another cornerback is of the utmost importance to the Falcons. Leading up to the draft they have spent more time with Virginia Tech CB Jayron Hosley than perhaps any corner in the draft. In some ways Hosley reminds me of former Hokie and Falcon- DeAngelo Hall, but without the immense ego.
Hosley isn't as talented as Hall, especially in man coverage but he has a similar 'boom or bust' play-style that will both delight and frustrate. Not every CB who plays like this is a wasted pick, Asante Samuel of the Eagles has made a career out of it. However, Hosley would be a player needing considerable time to be eased into the NFL, especially in a starting role.
Sources indicate that Hosley is one of a few players who have conducted both a private workout with the Falcons, and has plans to visit the organization. This is normally a clear sign the organization have you on their board, as the position coach in the private workout will vouch for the player to bring them in for the team visit.
There aren't many CBs slated to be available where the Falcons pick in the second round who have the upside Hosley does. He's not polished, but with some time to sit him behind established corners he could easily fall into a starting role year two. Out of the gate he could be a premier special teams player, and be a difference maker at the nickel position.
In NFL.com's latest two-round mock draft, put together by Charley Casserly, the Atlanta Falcons use their second-round pick on an offensive tackle. The team gave up their first-round pick in 2012 when they traded up in the 2011 draft to select wide receiver Julio Jones out of Atlanta. With the team's second-round pick, in this mock draft, they select Florida State offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders.
55) Falcons: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State. Help is needed on the offensive line.
Sanders is one of the better offensive tackles in this year's draft class and could help the offensive line open up holes in the running game and could help protect quarterback Matt Ryan while he tries to find one of his many talented weapons downfield.
It's not often you get to share the name with a video game character, but such is the life for West Virginia OLB Bruce Irvin, and it's pretty freakin' awesome. Sure, he has a rather 'every man' name, but heck... he's a character from Tekken- so that shouldn't matter
We were talking about football, weren't we? Thankfully Irvin is pretty good at that too. So good, in fact, that both the Panthers and Buccaneers have visited with the Mountaineer and now he's getting some buzz around the NFL. While he hasn't yet met with the Falcons it wouldn't surprise me if he does. Slated to be selected in the 3rd round he would fill Atlanta's need to upgrade the pass rush, and give them a much needed spark.
He's a player who has the ability to play with a hand in the dirt at DE, and as an outside linebacker. While he struggles against the run, he's a fantastic pass rusher who has a nose for getting to opposing QBs. Furthermore, with sub-4.5 speed he's a guy the Falcons could use as an 'anti-Cam Newton' to spy the young QB, and harass him. This was a technique the Panthers employed when they selected Thomas Davis in 2004, solely to get to Michael Vick.
A picture speaks a thousand works, and a video gives you a lot more than that. Watch for yourself and see if you like Irvin as much as I do.
He's really a player who has a multi-faceted set of skills that would give the Falcons some defensive options; and with some time to learn and hone his skills from someone the caliber of John Abraham he could wind up being a force in the division. When you see a player like that, and they're available in the 3rd they become too good to pass up.
Since the Atlanta Falcons are without a first round pick this year, their first pick won't come until the second round. All of the draft's premium talent will have been selected by the time the Falcons make their first pick at No. 55 overall, but there's still plenty of talent to bad had. ESPN's draft guru Mel Kiper has the Falcons selecting Illinois offensive lineman Jeff Allen with the No. 55 pick.
The Falcons have a need here, and Allen could help early on the right side with upside at left.
Offensive linemen are never the sexiest picks from a fans perspective, but Allen seems like he's a good fit for the Falcons. Allen is a 6'4", 307 lb tackle from Illinois. ESPN has Allen ranked as the fourth best player at his position in the 2012 draft, so he represents solid value for the Falcons.
For more on the Atlanta Falcons, be sure to check out The Falcoholic.
The Atlanta Falcons would love to be in the position their division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in, with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and an opportunity to select Heisman-trophy candidate and two-time NCAA national champion Trent Richardson with that pick, as the latest SB Nation Mock Draft would suggest.
Take a look at what Ryan Van Bibber had to say about the Richardson selection:
"If Kalil were still available here, the Buccaneers would have a tough decision to make. They have a left tackle in Donald Penn, who signed a six-year deal in 2010. On the other side, they have Jeremy Trueblood who is terrible and entering the last year of a two-year contract extension. Ultimately, I doubt Kalil gets this far down the board. His talent might lure a team up, like the Rams, to the fourth spot if he falls past Minnesota. But Richardson is not a bad pick at all here, and gives Tampa's offense an excellent running game to complement the addition of Vincent Jackson as their top receiver."
"The Bengals lost Nate Livings who was never really a consistent blocker. Glenn will not have that problem. The Georgia Bulldog has all the makings of an elite interior lineman in the NFL. His ability to play tackle is an added bonus and something that might get him plucked off the board higher than this."
The Falcons come into this year's draft without a first-round pick, but also lack any glaring weaknesses. Keeping that in mind, this should be the year the team starts preparing for when starters like Tony Gonzalez retire or leave in free agency.
The Atlanta Falcons don't start their selections in the 2012 NFL Draft until the second round, but two of the NFC South opponents are looking to get better early with both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers having a top 10 pick
Tampa has the fifth overall pick and is projected to take North Carolina Tar Heels defensive end Quinton Coples. With the ninth overall pick, the mock draft has Panthers taking Memphis Tigers defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
This is what Mocking the Draft had to say about the Coples and Poe selections:
"The Bucs simply could not pressure the quarterback last year, and, in a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan, that's a formula for failure. Coples can play linebacker or DE in the hybrid 4-3 scheme Bill Sheridan wants to run. He also impressed many at is Pro Day."
"I'll take a page out of Jaxon's recent mock draft selection for the Panthers and say they go DT here. However, Ron Rivera sprinkled some 3-4 looks into his base 4-3 defense last year. Poe is a stud 3-4 NT."
University of Washington offensive lineman Senio Kelemete is a very solid offensive tackle considering he's only been playing on the OL since 2009; prior to that he played defensive tackle before making the switch. At 6'4", 301 lbs and lacking the elite footspeed you like to see from offensive tackle prospects, Kelemete will be asked to move inside at the next level, likely as a left guard. LG seems to be the spot teams stick players at on the OL when they don't really know what to do with them. Obviously you want your tackles to be elite pass blockers, and your RG to become one of the cornerstones of your running game, but the LG is often used to mask the deficiencies of your center, or to assist the LT when facing elite pass rushers.
As often as Todd McClure was injured in 2011 it's easy to see why a strong LG would appeal to the Falcons. The interior line struggled greatly in McClure's absence, and Matt Ryan isn't a QB who plays to his full potential in a dirty pocket. Given that Kelemete would likely be available in the 3rd round (or even the 5th if the draft falls right) he could fulfill the dire need on the interior of the OL.
The main issue with Kelemete continues to be his lack of experience at the position, something Matthew Fairbrun of 'Mocking the Draft' brings up in his scouting report:
Senio Kelemete is best fit for guard in the NFL, but he has the skill set to be a starter within a few years. His mean streak jumps out right away when watching tape, and he really is a natural athlete. He is just incredibly raw at this stage in his career.
Admittedly it's a hard sell for a team to spend a possible 3rd round pick who may not be ready to start for a few years, but if the Falcons believe he's the kind of player who could solidify their interior OL for the next 5-8 years he could definitely be worth the wait.
Since the Falcons gave up their 2012 first round pick in the NFL Draft, they've been largely ignored in most mock drafts circulating these here internets, but ESPN's Todd McShay has projected the second round, where the Birds will pick 55th overall.
McShay forecasts the Falcons drafting a potential replacement to graybeard John Abraham in Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry. Curry is 6-foot-3, 266lb. defensive end (the AJC has a nice bio on him here) who had two sacks in the Senior Bowl. The New Jersey native finished his career with the Thundering Herd with 77 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
Seven? The AJC asked him just how he managed such a feat:
Q: How did you get so many forced fumbles?
A: This year, coming into the season, everybody knew I was coming off a really hot junior year. Basically I knew what I was getting myself into this year as a senior with game planning and double teams and triple teams and chips and sometimes quadruple teams … So my defensive line coach, Fred Tate, he sat me down one day. He said, ‘What you going to do, man?’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You got to do something else to separate yourself from the rest of the defensive linemen in the country.’ So I worked on stripping every day. If you look at my strips or forced fumbles, they’re not really from the quarterbacks. I only had one quarterback forced fumble. The rest came from running backs and chasing down screen plays. I worked hard at that.
It can be hard for small school guys to shake the 'no competition' moniker that so often forces them low in the draft, but it's hard to ignore a CB the size of Montana's Trumaine Johnson, who at 6'2" and over 200lbs is one of the largest cornerbacks in the NFL draft. Size is nothing without skill, however, and that's what NFL teams are testing right now- whether he can be a solid NFL corner. As it stands there are few mid-round prospects who are meeting with more teams than Johnson who has no less than seven visits either scheduled, or completed. He's the kind of player that make GMs drool thinking about his ability, but also wary of his pitfalls.
Those pitfalls are very definite as the bad side to the lack of top flight competition he faced means that we don't really have a good read on his ability. That's not to say Trumaine was lazy, not by any stretch- he just wasn't tested as much as you like to see out of a prospect. With that frame you would hope he could be one of the elite press CBs in the draft, however schematically he was asked to sit in a zone for the majority of his snaps. The National Football Post sees this same problem with Johnson.
Typically when near the line he's in press bail and playing in more of a cover two look with his back to the sideline. Will pop a bit upright, but showcases quick feet and natural fluidity to his game. At times he gets a bit soft and will allow too much cushion underneath giving up some easy receptions. However when trying to get out of his breaks does a nice job sinking his hips and closing quickly on the football.
It's those underneath routes that will really hurt him in the NFL, as they tend to be the 'chain movers'; those vital 2nd and 3rd down receptions when an offense needs 5-7 yards. It appears Trumaine Johnson isn't one to give up the big play, but he'll have to improve and play tighter on his man. Even in a situation where he would become a nickel back the concern is matching him on a slot receiver or TE whose bread and butter are those shorter routes.
The good thing about these issues is that they are easily correctable. With a little time and effort you can teach a guy with those physical traits to shut down the short routes, and if he has a propensity to deny the big play he's already well on his way to success. For the Falcons Trumaine Johnson wouldn't be a week one starter, or ever a week five starter- however, if eased into the NFL it's possible you could see him getting 1st team snaps by the end of the year, and possibly even supplant Brent Grimes should the Falcons move on after the 2012 season.
It can be hard for some football fans to understand why prospects who look so dominant in college can fall so low in the NFL draft. Such is the case with Matt Reynolds, the former freshman All-American left tackle who helped forge one of the best passing offenses in the NCAA over the last few years. This is a classic case of the player who does everything well, but nothing great. At the next level teams like to see players who can do one or two things outstandingly, and work on their skill-set from there. When watching Reynolds on film there's definitely a sense that you're watching a player who is as good as he'll ever get.
While I don't always believe in knocking players because of age (I tend to think if a player can play it transcends age) when it comes to Matt Reynolds it's a very definite issue. Like all prospects out of BYU he's entering the NFL far later than most prospects at 25 years old, and ultimately this will also impact how he is perceived; there is no chance he'll become more athletic, or be able to grow- he is what he is.
Thus far I know it sounds like he's a terrible prospect, and that's not really accurate. Reynolds has the skillset to play OT in the NFL, but none of the nuances you like to see from the position. He is a good athlete, has decent footspeed and is a smart football player. If the Falcons are looking for the kind of guy who is a career reserve who will be reliable when needed I think Matt Reynolds would fit the bill very well.
He's at his best in the run game when asked to step and seal on the edge, doing a great job quickly getting into defenders, locking on with his strong hands and finishing blocks on the perimeter. He also possesses the coordination to stick to defenders through the play and likes to finish blocks, showcasing a bit of a mean streak through the play. Reynolds has some initial pop in the run game as well, displaying the flexibility to sit into his stance, keep his pad level down and create a jolt on contact when asked to play in a phone booth.
This is the kind of player the Falcons could look for in the late rounds. I don't believe he'll ever be a starting tackle, or be the kind of guy who will transcend his draft spot and take the league by storm, but as we've seen recently Atlanta need some reliability from their rotational guys. Given he will likely be available in the 5th or 6th round I think he could be worth a pick, even if it's a case of 'what you see is what you get'.
The Atlanta Falcons don't have any first-round selections in the 2012 NFL Draft order, since they traded away the 22nd overall pick to the Cleveland Browns. But Atlanta will get its part in the draft rolling in the second round, with the 55th overall selection.
From there, the Falcons pick again in the third round with the 84th overall selection, and again in the fifth round with the 152nd overall choice. Atlanta's fourth round pick was also traded to the Browns.
Here is a look at all of the Atlanta Falcons draft selections for 2012:
2nd Round: No. 23 in the round and 55th overall
3rd Round: No. 22 in the round and 84th overall
5th Round: No. 22 in the round and 157th overall
6th Round: No. 23 in the round and 192nd overall pick
7th Round: No. 22 in the round and 229th overall pick
Read more about the Falcons at The Falcoholic.
Aside from being the cousin of pass catchers Mohamad Massaquoi and Visanthe Shiancoe this prospect out of Troy University doesn't have any ties to the offensive side of the football. Jonathan Massaquoi is poised to be one of the better pass rushers in this draft, however he will likely get knocked by teams due to his status as a true 'tweener'.
Standing 6'2" and weighing 250 lbs Massaquoi looks like an outside linebacker, rather than a defensive end. However, he lacks the speed to play OLB at the next level and will hope to bulk up once he hits the NFL to become a true 4-3 DE. In many ways he reminds me of Eric Norwood- the South Carolina pass rusher who the Carolina Panthers took in the 4th round of the 2009 draft. Like Norwood, Massaquoi will similarly have to fight off the 'tweener' label, and this isn't something easily done. Thus far the aforementioned Norwood hasn't found his footing due to being a jack of all trades, master of none.
Despite finishing with 5.5 sacks on the year it's really hard to imagine he will be seriously looked at as a defensive end in the NFL. Time and time again we see smaller defensive ends get swallowed in the NFL, and for every Dwight Freeney there are another 15 players who never get to make a mark.
An effective small-school pass rusher because of his length. However, isn't a real flexible kid, lacks a sudden/explosive element to his game and looks more like a reserve only to me.
It's likely Massaquoi will be available in the 5th round for the Falcons, but I don't see how he would be a good fit. At best he's a 3rd down pass rushing specialist, and even at that I believe there will be better options on the board.
The Atlanta Falcons have been informed of their 2012 NFL Draft compensatory picks haul, and it's not going to make much of a difference. The Birds have picked up a seventh-rounder, the No. 249 overall selection, presumably for losing punter Michael Koenen to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Though Koenen is paid well (for a punter) and played all year, he's still just a punter. Still, considering the Falcons may have a better punter now who's much cheaper, and they'll at least get something out of losing Koenen, that switch looks to have been a good move.
The downside, of course, is that the Falcons still have very little to work with in the NFL Draft, thanks to the Julio Jones trade. They now have the No. 21 pick in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh round, along with that late pick in the seventh.
Based on the players they're working out and meeting, it looks like they're highly interested in cornerbacks and tight ends, with a possible late pick going toward a backup quarterback.
For national NFL Draft coverage, visit SB Nation's NFL news hub.
Compensatory picks for the 2012 NFL Draft are being announced Monday, pretty much on a team-by-team basis. These are picks the NFL awards for roster losses sustained from the previous year's crop of free agents. Teams that lose more talent than they bring on are entitled to extra draft picks, with a formula based on the departing player's playing time and salary being used to determine which round the aggrieved team will gain a pick in.
The Atlanta Falcons lost Harvey Dahl to the St. Louis Rams, which could've brought a decent mid-round pick, but also picked up Ray Edwards. The two should pretty much cancel each other out, as they both started all year long when healthy. However, the Birds also lost punter Michael Koenen to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only did Koenen play the whole year, he also drew a pretty high salary for a punter.
That's good for Atlanta, which could gain as high as a sixth-round pick, but perhaps at least a seventh. When you enter with only a few picks, every little bit helps. We'll wait and see.
For national NFL Draft coverage, visit SB Nation's NFL news hub.
George Bryan isn't a prospect who you'll hear much about leading up to April's draft. As is the case with most late-round prospects the tight end out of North Carolina State doesn't have an impressive resume, or all the tangibles you look to see at the next level. However, the Atlanta Falcons could be looking to add a late round TE to their roster, and while Bryan is far from the perfect prospect he would have some upside in the 5th or 6th rounds.
Standing 6'5" and weighing 265 lbs he has the height and weight you want to see from an NFL tight end. That being said, he never really put it all together at NC State where he looked better as a blocker, rather than an elite receiver. The National Football Post think he could be one of the better backups at the position.
An NFL caliber "on the line Y", he isn't a dynamic pass catching option but has the ability to make plays underneath and at least threaten the seam and can develop into a plus caliber run blocker. Isn't quite dynamic enough to start in the NFL, but could end up being one of the better reserves at the position on the next level.
Bryan wasn't invited to the scouting combine in Indianapolis, and unfortunately for him he didn't put on a great showing at North Carolina State's Pro-Day where he ran a 5.21 in the 40-yard dash. For all his shortcomings though he does have a spark to him that appears on film. I see a player who is good at fighting for the ball in traffic, and has solid ability as a run blocker as he often will pave the way on the edges.
George Bryan may not be an elite prospect, or even a very good one. However, as a late round TE option who can help Michael Turner in the run game, and give Matt Ryan a solid target in traffic I think he would warrant the Falcons taking a look.
All-American cornerback Trumaine Johnson is scheduled to workout privately with the Atlanta Falcons in advance of the 2012 NFL Draft. Johnson is a two-time All-American out of the University of Montana and is a three-time All-Big Sky selection.
Johnson is a versatile corner at 6-foot-1 that could potentially line up all over the field defensively and could even spend a little time at safety if the situation called for it. He was clocked at 4.5 and 4.61 in the 40 at the NFL Combine.
In 2011 Johnson finished with 54 tackles, two interceptions, one sack and had 12 pass deflections. He is projected to be a second or third round selection by most draft pundits.
Atlanta is interested in added a player to its secondary and has already worked out Georgia's Brandon Boykin and Louisiana Lafayette's Bill Bradley.
In this day and age of extensive scouting protocols, huge departments to evaluate talent and dozens of outlets to view scouting reports it's hard to imagine there's such a thing as a 'sleeper' anymore, especially one at 324lbs in a size obsessed NFL. That being said, Amimi Solatolu out of Midwestern State fits the bill perfectly. You probably didn't get a chance to see him play last year, but if you did you would have seen a big, bruising, nasty offensive lineman who was raw in a lot of areas, but his run blocking was stellar.
Taking a small school guy is always a risk, as it can often be hard to evaluate a player's ability when he's facing off against inferior talent, but that's the risk a lot of teams will be willing to take. The key for me is looking intently at his intangibles, and seeing if you have a player willing to rest on his laurels, or someone who will put forth the effort at the next level.
Plays with a nasty streak, loves to finish and his combination of range/athleticism and balance makes him dominant when trying to kick out defenders. Loves to block down field as well, routinely plays till the whistle and his range in space is very impressive, especially the way he covers ground and breaks down so quickly, dropping his pad level and/or cutting defenders in the process.
The NFP see this quality out of Solatolu too. I've seen reports that some scouts believe he's 1st round talent, but wouldn't dare taking him that high (presumably because they think he's a sleeper). If getting a big, bruising run blocker is in the cards for the Falcons I think they could do a lot worse than Solatolu- especially if he finds his way to the 3rd round. At that stage he's an absolute steal, and looks like a player who could be a 10 year starter with a little TLC.
According to College2Pro.com, representatives from the Atlanta Falcons met with East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis, who backed up Matt Ryan at Boston College for two years before he transferred, after the Pirate's pro day on Thursday.
College2Pro.com#AtlantaFalcons met with #EastCarolina QB Dominique Davis after his Pro Day today according to sources 14 minutes ago via web · Reply · Retweet · Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Davis threw for 3,225 yards in 2011 and had a 67.6 completion percentage. He threw 25 touchdown passes, only 19 interceptions and had a passer rating of 131.5. He would likely be a late-round pick and the Falcons are likely interested in him as a backup to Ryan once again.
In applying the franchise tag to CB Brent Grimes the Falcons bought themselves another season to try and hammer out a long-term deal, or to prepare themselves to take a corner-back early in the draft. While this move likely precludes them from taking a corner with the 2nd or 3rd round pick that doesn't mean it wouldn't behoove them to take a long look at some of the prospects who will be available deep in the draft.
This morning we're looking at one such subject- Leonard Johnson out of Iowa State who is currently trending as a 5th or 6th round selection. He was a player who could have really shot up draft boards if he showed some solid measurables in Indianapolis, but alas he was fairly middle of the road. A 4.71 time in the forty for a CB is pretty atrocious, but it's important to keep in mind there's a reason he'll be selected no earlier than the forth round.
The National Football Post believe that Johnson has upside, but don't confuse that with him having a high ceiling.
A well-built kid lacking ideal height, but plays fast and I like his footwork and balance. Isn't a dynamic athlete, but can play some press and off coverage, and looks capable of getting playing time both on the outside and in the slot at the next level.
Personally, I think his role at the next level will be as a nickel back, who could be brought outside on occasion, but he's really not a reliable CB to be used with regularity. The proof is in the pudding though, and thankfully we have a really good video to see how he dealt with the best receiver in college football- Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon
It's curious to note that Blackmon himself said that Leonard Johnson was one of the best CBs he faced all year.
He's just one of the more physical guys that I've faced, I just think he's better than the rest of the corners I've faced. He's one of the best in the Big 12."
Lofty praise from Blackmon, but as the video shows above, even when Brandon Weeden couldn't get the ball to Blackmon you can see that the WR got the better of Johnson on a lot of downs. At the end of the day, I think he'd be a good physical CB who the Falcons could pick up for cheap. I'll be stunned if he turns into anything more than a slot-CB, but he has enough ability that he'd be worth a pick.
Atlanta has resigned Brent Grimes and did their best to restructure the contract of Dunta Robinson and act like he was still wanted, but there's no such as thing as too much depth in the secondary in the modern NFL's throw-mageddon game. NFL Draft Bible reports that University of Louisiana*** (clarification coming) corner Dwight "Bill" Bentley has some interest from the Birds:
Bentley is a 5-10, 182 lb. prospect considered to be anywhere from a second to fourth round pick. As for his collegiate affiliation, Bentley played for Louisiana-Lafayette, not Louisiana-Monroe. The biggest difference, other than the terrain, the local accents, the predominant local religious affiliation and a brutal five-hour drive? The Ragin' Cajuns are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in school history (even though they finished 100th in the nation in pass defense) while ULM remains a Sun Belt doormat (the doormat of doormats, essentially...doormatic, if you will).
Allen could be one of the most underrated players in the 2012 draft if you're looking for a offensive lineman with potential. While the rest of the NFL world goes gaga over stunning combine numbers from Cordy Glenn, or the size of Kelechi Osemele, it's Illinois' Jeff Allen who has the ability to be the best of the bunch, and he's not getting much fanfare. For his college career Allen played right tackle for the Illini, but there's no doubt he's better suited in the middle. This seems to be a common theme for many of the offensive lineman in this draft class. As it pertains to Allen he has decent foot-speed, and a great pass blocker- but don't expect him to be a road grader for Michael Turner.
Looks more comfortable from a two-point stance getting downhill and coming off the football. Works hard to stick through contact, extends his arms well, generates a slight pop and can turn defenders away from the play. However, allows himself to get upright into contact and doesn't create the leverage needed to consistently overwhelm. More of a sticky player than explosive power/in-line guy. Can be overwhelmed at times on contact when a smaller defender can get under him and will set the edge. Is quick off the snap, can get around on reach blocks and does a nice job sealing on the perimeter. Plays more like a finesse guy than his frame would lead you to believe.
As I watched more tape on Allen I saw the same thing- he's not a power blocker, despite being over 310 lbs. He's far more accustomed to working his stance and keeping guys in place, rather than bowling them over. In a West Coast Offense I could see Allen being a very good guard in an offense that leans heavily on quick passes, but I'm not sure he's the right fit in Atlanta. I say this mainly because he's a big time project who will take some time and patience, and I get the sense the Falcons need help immediately.
As a prototypical rush outside linebacker Nick Perry has been all over over draft boards while scouts try and discern what kind of player he is. Some believe the USC pass rusher compares favorably to Green Bay Packers' OLB Clay Matthews, while others postulate he isn't nearly as skilled as Matthews, lacking the skills needed to make an impact at the next level. Personally, I see Perry as the latter; I don't see am elite NFL pass rusher, but I do see a player with some skills who could be used in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme with some work. Ultimately I don't think he's the right fit for the Atlanta Falcons, but nevertheless lets take a look.
At 6'3", 271 lbs Perry has the look of an ideal 4-3 defensive end. However, watching him play you see that he doesn't get enough leverage to really anchor the point of attack, especially at runs directed at his side. When he will be asked to take on NFL offensive tackles I don't see him having the ability to overpower them, as he did at USC.
Nick Perry is a scary prospect (in a bad way). No coverage skills, only played majority of run downs one year at USC.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) March 7, 2012
Mocking the Draft's Kadar has a very negative view of Perry, and I can't say I disagree.
Exhibits the first step to be a threat off the edge, however struggles to drop his pad level when flattening out. Plus, he doesn't have much of a counter to his game at this point. Nevertheless, has some obvious talent and is a guy you would expect to start as a rush backer in a 34 scheme and be a productive threat off the edge.
With the re-signing of John Abraham I feel there is little need for a developmental, unsound DE to bring into the fold. Atlanta don't figure to use enough 3-4 looks to justify taking a rush linebacker, and even then I think it would be better to get someone like Vinny Curry.
The fullback position is a dying art. More often than not we see shotgun passing schemes, or one-back sets in the NFL that lead to the position being viewed as antiquated. While lead blockers are still valuable, it's nothing like we saw in the NFL as recently as even 10 years ago. With the exception of Mike Alstott there haven't been many FBs who were seen as solid offensive weapons, but Temple FB Evan Rodriguez looks like he could be the kind of weapon that could pull the FB position into the 21st century.
We're accustomed to seeing FBs used as short-yardage carriers on 3rd, and short- but for the Owls this season Rodriguez proved he could be a viable threat out of the backfield. You wouldn't expect to see a 6'1", 239 lb fullback put up the kind of numbers he did in Indianapolis, but it was impressive; A 4.58 in the forty, as well as shuttle and cone drills that rivaled most RBs. In short: he had a great week.
I mentioned before that he's a 21st century FB, and I say this because it's Rodriguez's skill as a receiver that really sets him apart from others at the position. His ability goes beyond the standard swing and screen passes as he transcends the position. In 2011 he finished the season with 479 receiving yards all while putting up a solid 13.7 yards per catch.
Rodriguez isn't a guy who's going to get drafted high. However, he's got the potential to fill a number of roles on an NFL offense in both the run and pass game, can create some mismatches as a pass catcher and develop into a core special teams guy early on.
It's that ability to cause mismatches that will pay dividends to the team who drafts him. In the open field with just a CB or S to beat it's hard to imagine he wont just lower the shoulder and beat them. For the Atlanta Falcons he may be a luxury, but Rodriguez would be a much needed wrinkle to add to the offense. He would be an x-factor who would need to be accounted for, and with a strong receiver like Julio Jones also on the field, a defense would need to pick their poison on who to blanket with a safety.
With the exception of Ben Roethlisberger the university of Miami, OH aren't known for having a long standing history of NFL players, but when they put forth a good prospect they tend to be a fantastic NFL player. This is how I feel about Brandon Brooks, a 6'5", 343 lb monster who would be a fantastic RG for any team needing a powerful player at the position.
I've been looking at a lot of this offensive linemen who are slated to be taken between the second and fifth round, and I can't help but see Brooks as a player who separates himself from the chaff. While it would likely take a 2nd round pick to ensure his services in Atlanta, he could be worth the price. He plays like a can opener, and though he didn't face the most stout of competition you could see the makings of a player who has the edge you want to see out of an NFL guard. Brooks is good at opening holes at the point of attack, but he has some issues too. If you're looking for a player to hit the second level and block in the open field he probably isn't the best option, as he lacks the speed and athleticism needed to fill such a role. However, in terms of a player who can make a gap in a hurry for Michael Turner to run through- he could be the best of the next level OL.
Mocking the Draft rank Brandon Brooks as the 4th best guard in the upcoming draft, just below Kelechi Osemele who I looked at a few weeks ago. I think this is a fair assessment, and if the Falcons were able to wait until the late second to get such a player I think it would be a major coup.
Is a big, strong kid who has some lateral quickness for his size but needs some technique work. Nevertheless, has some upside and can win consistently in the run game and pass game and looks like an NFL starter in an angle scheme to me.
At the end of the day he needs some work, like most second round prospects. However, he has a great potential and I see him with the ability to start immediately in the right situation.
Prior to the East-West Shrine game you needed to be a serious draft-o-holic to have heard of Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman. However, in the week leading up to the game he blew scouts out of the water as he displayed excellent ball skills, fantastic awareness, and physicality which resulted in numerous interceptions during scrimmages.
Now Norman has become somewhat of an unknown quantity. He has quality film, but there are major questions about the quality of talent he faced, this is a player whose toughest tests in 2011 were Western Carolina and Furman; in fact, the only team of note Coastal Carolina faced was Georgia, and wouldn't you know- Norman missed the game.
There have also been some ethereal sources claiming he has character issues, but at the time of this writing the only concerns I can find are some problems stemming from unpaid parking tickets, hardly what most would consider an issue. As such, I wouldn't be dissuaded by such rumors.
At 6'0", 197lbs he has good size at CB, and displayed some great skills at the combine where he ran the shuttle in 4.23 seconds, and posted an astounding broad jump of 124 inches. Now Norman is viewed as being solidly cemented in the 2nd tier of CBs in the draft along with players like Chase Minnifield and Jayron Hosley. Here's what the National Football Post had to say on him.
Demonstrates impressive body control when asked to adjust to the football in coverage and routinely is able to come down with the grab. Exhibits "plus" ball skills and has a knack for coming down with the pick. He's also very physical in pressman as well. Now, he does have a tendency to step into the press and will get caught with all his weight on his front foot, causing him to struggle to regain balance quickly.
For a player who will likely be a 3rd round selection, I think he'd definitely be one to watch for Atlanta. They don't have an immediate need at CB with Brent Grimes returning for at least one more season, but Norman is a player who could contribute immediately as a Nickel Back, and in time could develop into an effective starter.
In this series of posts we've already covered Datko's teammate Zebrie Sanders, and now we're looking at the Seminoles' RT from 2011, and the player who I think could be the better offensive lineman. Standing 6'6", 315lbs he certainly has the size you want from a right tackle. However, he lacks the power and nastiness you like to see from a player his size; but this is something that can ultimately be worked on in an NFL caliber strength and conditioning program.
While Datko has a good bend, he struggles to anchor and hold his ground after contact. He is often pushed back into the backfield leading me to question his lower body strength. Datko also struggles to create a push off the line of scrimmage limiting which limits his scheme versatility.
Overall, Datko looks like a mid level prospect with limited upside. He has the ability to start in the NFL but will be nothing more than a temporary player. Don't expect him to be a long term starter for any one team but to bounce around from team to team as a starter.
I feel this scouting report from Mocking the Draft is really harsh on Datko, and while there are some elements I definitely see, overall I feel he'll be far better than a 'temporary player'. He wont blow you away with strength, or finesse, but he does a lot of the little things well and has a great motor. Given he would likely be a 3rd or even 4th round pick the value is most definitely there to take him and work on his weak areas.
He's a solid athlete who can bend, re-direct and block in space. However, he's had some struggles with power when trying to stay engaged and hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Nevertheless, in a weak offensive tackle class, he's one of the few prospects that possess the skill set to start in the NFL.
Like many of these mid-round types Andrew Datko is far from the perfect offensive lineman. However, he does display a skillset that translates well to the NFL, and could develop into a valuable tackle with a little work and patience. He wont start for the Falcons right away, but given some time he could be a valuable run blocker.
Twelve months ago draft pundits and scouts were penciling in their extremely premature 2012 mock drafts, and in every list you saw the same player hovering anywhere from 8th to 15th- Nebraska DT Jared Crick; and why not? After all, Crick has just come off a stunning 2010 season where he finished with 14 tackles for loss, and his second straight 10 sack season. Sure there were some concerns about whether his size could last on the inside in the NFL (he's 285 lbs) but the overwhelming report on Crick was the same- he can flat out play football.
As it stands now Crick is trending as a late-second/early-third round selection as teams try and work out what condition he is in injury wise, and still thinking about that size issue in the back of their minds. He's coming off both a pectoral, and knee injury that cut his season short, but even before that he was having a mediocre 2011 campaign. The real problem for Crick is working out where to play him, he's too light to play DT (where he played in college), too slow to play 4-3 DE, and his final position could very well end up being as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. However, there's a problem with that too, at 6'6" he doesn't have a solid base and his pad level tends to get a little too high.
Crick may not have top athleticism or an array of moves, but he's good at getting after the passer. Had 10.5 sacks in 2009 alongside Ndamukong Suh. his 9.5 sacks last season was more impressive, though. Crick rarely saw double blockers in 2009 and Five of his sacks came against Baylor. Last season he was given much more attention and remained productive.
Conversely, the National Football Post have a much more bleak outlook.
Isn't a guy who can hold up vs. the run inside in the NFL and isn't a dynamic pass rusher either. However, as a five-technique DE I can see him finding a home with some versatility on 3rd down.
At the end of the day I think Crick will suit a 3-4 scheme, but it's unlikely he possesses much value to the Atlanta Falcons. I don't believe he can improve his speed or athleticism to the point where he can be a reliable pass rusher as a 4-3 defensive end. There will likely be players with a similar pedigree as Crick, but who fit the Falcons' scheme better when they're on the clock.
Note to self: Watch 'Fight Club' again...
If the Atlanta Falcons decide that taking a TE in the second round is too rich for their blood they could opt to ignore the position out of the gate, and rather than looking for a true future replacement for Tony Gonzalez, perhaps they would opt to get a value pick in the late 3rd, or possibly even 5th round. I can't find a scout who believes the speedy TE from Oregon would be a true #1 TE, but many outlets see him as a great second option, and with the Patriots and Panthers opting for aggressive two-TE systems it's an offensive move that's gaining traction.
Paulson will never be an NFL team's No. 1 tight end, but he's a versatile No. 2 who can can and block. He's even lined up some as an H-back.
At 6'3", 246 lbs Paulson has the size you want from a tight end, and in Indy he ran a respectable (albeit not impressive) 4.93 in the 40. That being said, there's good reason he'll be a mid-rounder, and not a player the Falcons will need to invest a 2nd round selection on. The folks over at theNational Football Post aren't quite as 'glass half full' regarding Paulson as I am.
A natural pass catcher who can make plays down the field, but isn't a real gifted straight-line athlete. Is tight hipped as a route runner, can't win consistently as a blocker and looks nothing more than a late round/FA option who will be limited in what he can offer an offense.
That's a pretty damning outlook, but I see their point of view. He will be limited as a prospect due to his lack of fluidity, but he's a player who just seems to have a knack for making big plays, even if he doesn't look pretty doing it. I disagree with the late round/UDFA assessment here, as I think he's talented enough and can bring enough to the table that he would warrant a look from the Falcons in the mid-rounds.
The University of Wisconsin has been producing excellent offensive linemen over the last few years. Being a run first team allows these players in the trenches to be featured in a way linemen haven't been able to in other programs. Zeitler is a player who was already highly regarded, but he showed a mobility in 2011 with Russell Wilson under center that we hasn't seen from him earlier in his college career. That being said- he shouldn't be mistaken as an elite pass blocker, however for a team needing a stout run blocker he is yet again another solid offensive lineman who could be had in the 2nd or 3rd round.
At the combine he measured an impressive 6'4", 314lbs and coupled this with a solid 32 reps on the bench. I really like his knack in the run game to hit the second level quickly and take out a player. He's great at making big holes, and as such would be a huge benefit to Michael Turner. One area of concern though is how he'll manage to protect Matt Ryan.
Needs to do a better job getting off the ball consistently in the pass game. Too often is one of the last lineman moving and will allow defenders to threaten gaps off his frame or get into his body. Possesses natural anchor strength when he can get his hands on you, but when he's late off the ball will get rocked on contact and doesn't display the type of athleticism to quickly recover. Possesses average lateral quickness when asked to mirror. At his best when engaged and showcases some shuffle and slide ability through contact with good hand placement.
When it's all said and done teams will have their choice of solid offensive linemen in the mid rounds of the 2012 draft. Zeitler is another player who has some deficiencies, but he is an elite run blocker who could be a first round starter in the right situation.
Last year the race for #1 corner was a two horse affair between LSU's Patrick Peterson, and Nebraska's Prince Amukumara. Ultimately Peterson won, and Amukumara fell in the draft- ultimately winding up in New York. The man who started across from Prince, Alfonzo Dennard wont have the same luck in April's draft. He will not be the second, or even third CB taken, but he provides some upside for a team looking for a #2 corner, or elite nickel CB.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade you know that the NFL has become size obsessed. Every time a player like Cam Newton comes along and plays well the measuring tape is raised a couple of inches on what is an 'acceptable height' for a quarterback. We often forget that Darrelle Revis is just 5'11", but one of the common knocks on Dennard is his small(er) 5'10" frame; but at 205 lbs he's stocky and carries that weight fairly well running a 4.55 in Indianapolis, and jumping a fantastic 37". He looks like a traditional bump CB who can hold his receiver in man coverage and interrupt his routes- the problem is: With the NFL's rules benefiting WRs there are questions whether he has the finesse to play the position at the NFL level.
Mocking the Draft gives us a great breakdown of Dennard vs. Alshon Jeffrey from this season. Ostensibly it's clear he has the skill to cover top level WRs, but not always the ideal technique you're looking for. This is a sentiment echoed by the National Football Post.
He's strong/feisty, can press off the line and turn and run. Needs to clean up some technical flaws both in press and off the line, which hinders his balance. But can be a guy who could start both on the outside and in the slot at the next level.
If Dennard were to wind up in Atlanta he could sit behind Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes and learn his craft. He will not succeed if thrust into a starting job immediately, but in time with a little grooming he has the talent to become a starting CB. Currently trending with a late 2nd round grade he would be a good option for the Falcons.
It's easy to lose a good player on a bad team, especially an offensive lineman. Such is the case of Matt McCants- a standout offensive lineman who has been lost on a 3-9 University of Alabama- Birmingham team. Unlike some of the offensive linemen who we've looked at as mid-round picks, McCants has a legitimate chance to become a starting left tackle with a little seasoning and work. The characteristics that he displays are quick feet, good athleticism and an ability to pull to block on the second level.
McCants is currently rated as the 96th best player in the Mocking the Draft overall rankings for the 2012 class. If this holds true it would put him right in the cusp of the 3rd and 4th rounds- which would be the perfect time for a player like him to the be taken. He was 1st team All-Conference USA, and was near the top in the entire NCAA in fewest sacks allowed.
At 6'6", 308lbs he has the ideal height and weight you'd like to see out of an NFL prospect at his position. If you like hard numbers he probably isn't going to blow you away. He had a terrible combine where he ran slow (5.52 seconds), didn't lift much (17 reps) and overall looked out of place. That being said, he looks a lot better on film than he did in Indianapolis, which is what scouts will be really looking at.
McCants possesses a great looking frame that has the ability to get bigger and mature physically. Athletically, all the tools are there for this kid to play left tackle in the NFL, he just needs some time to make the jump in competition and mature physically.
At the end of the day the 2012 draft is really deep on the offensive line. There are a great deal of solid prospects, but McCants has natural ability as a LT that others don't. He should definitely be on the Falcons radar come draft time.
Standing 6'5", 266 lbs, defensive end Chandler Jones out of Syracuse has the measurables NFL scouts like to see out of pass rushers at the next level. During the combine he coupled this already impressive frame with a solid 40 time (4.87 seconds) and an astounding 35" vertical. While Jones was very successful at Syracuse, I'm not so sure he'll be able to do much at the next level based purely on his style of play.
There are two schools of thought about Chandler Jones; one prescribes to the notion that he is a fundamentally flawed player who plays far too upright to succeed at the next level, and the other believes that he succeeded at Syracuse in spite of poor form and that with a little nurturing he could become a pass rushing force. When viewed through this lens I lean towards the former, rather than the later. It would likely take a 3rd round at the latest for Atlanta to draft Jones, but I feel that is far too early for him to be taken. Personally, I see him as a 5th round prospect who has some value as a 3rd down pass rusher, but will need a lot of time to develop.
I love his size and length. But I worry about defensive lineman who play upright, lack a great get off burst and struggle to change directions. I don't see him as a big time pass rusher. But if he improves his pad level he could mature into a potential starting option.
Granted, I know 'upright play' sounds like one of those ethereal draft terms that doesn't really seem to matter at the next level, but in this case the critique is completely apt. Watch the below video from Jones v. West Virginia and note how he gets out of his stance and basically stands upright before starting his pass rush.
This isn't something Jones will be able to get away with at the next level. If he is that slow starting his first step opposing offensive tackles will get their feet set and he'll lose almost every battle in the trenches. His issues on field are compounded by a knee injury he sustained mid-season, forcing Jones to miss five games. That injury will be another reason for the Falcons to be wary of Jones; I just can't help but feel there will be better options for the Falcons in terms of mid-round pass rushers.
Twelve months ago with Blaine Gabbert at the helm of the Missouri offense it was believed that Michael Egnew would be the first tight end off the board in the 2012 draft. The 6'6" pass catching threat was drawing lofty comparisons to Vernon Davis, the standout pass catcher from Maryland who was selected 6th overall in 2006.
Then something happened- Egnew's senior season. Without Gabbert under center to lean heavily on Egnew his deficiencies as a player were magnified. As such he's now seen as a decent athlete, but not very fluid and a tight end without much skill as a blocker. This severely limits the perception of his ability to grow in the NFL and improve these aspects of his game- in short, there are questions whether he has the tools to really improve, rather than seeing immense upside.
That being said, he's currently trending as a 4th or even 5th round selection, which at that point it might be worth it for the Falcons to take a flier on him to stretch the field, if nothing else. This is one area where Egnew can cause some damage, an athletic mismatch with an OLB trying to cover him in man coverage. This is where he and Gabbert managed to carve up teams in 2010. With an accurate QB like Matt Ryan he could be a valuable addition to the offense as a change of pace guy in some specific two-TE sets. However, it's highly unlikely Egnew could ever be an eventual replacement for Tony Gonzalez.
Prior to the 2011 season Mocking the Draft did a profile on Egnew which projected him as a 2nd round pick in the upcoming draft. Clearly this has since been superseded, and he is now seen as a far more flawed prospect. The National Football Post are listing him as the 8th best TE in the 2012 class, as they go on to say:
Has a long frame and the skill set to learn to play with his hand on the ground, but is going to need time. Isn't the type of dynamic athlete either to simply out run NFL defenders and looks limited in the type of routes he's going to be able to separate in. More of a vertical threat guy who needs to adjust to the ball in order to make plays.
Michael Egnew will be a boom or bust prospect who could add something as a 2nd or 3rd TE, but I wouldn't rely on him to be the answer as a full time starter. If the Falcons chose to carpet bomb the position like New England did a couple of years ago then he could warrant being the second TE taken by the team.
As we draw closer to the NFL draft one thing is clear: If you're looking for a lineman on either side of the ball this is a good draft to find one. Some scouts are already saying this is the deepest crop of DTs in a decade, but I feel it's the offensive linemen who are really getting underrated. I'm not solely speaking of the Matt Kalil's and David DeCastro's of the draft, but deep into the second and third rounds there are players brimming with potential who could fill a team's need quickly.
Brandon Washington out of Miami is one such player, and at 6'4", 320lbs he is the ideal size you want to see out of an NFL offensive lineman. More than that is his athleticism, which is well above average for a man his size. There are numerous players who enter the draft at, or above Washington's size- but few who are really able to use these tools. He is a player who can use his quick feet and long arms to redirect and contain pass rushers. It's not all wine and roses for him though as he lacks the technical abilities needed to play offensive tackle at the next level; this seems to be a common theme with many of the OG prospects in the 2012 crop.
The talent is there for this guy to mature into a guard you can win with consistently inside at the next level. He needs to improve his pad level in the in-line game and tighten up his footwork in all areas. However, with a year of seasoning he certainly should mature into an above-average guard in the NFL with the talent to start at right.
In Indianapolis we saw Washington hit all the marks you'd like to see out of an NFL guard. In the broad jump, and 10 yard split he showed good speed off the line, he benched 28 reps and displayed an unusually fast shuttle time for a man his size. This shows that he has the chops to use his athleticism at the next level, but he absolutely has to improve that technique if he hopes to be an elite NFL player.
I have no doubt some team will fall in love with his measurables and make him a 2nd round selection, and I can't help but feel this would be a huge mistake. However, for a 3rd round pick he would be a good developmental prospect for the Falcons to work on.
Rest assured, Atlanta Falcons fan. If there's a tight end to be scouted in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Falcons will find a way to get an eye ball on him. Next on the list: Michael Egnew of the Missouri Tigers, who'll be working out Thursday at Mizzou with the Rams, 49ers, Giants, and Patriots among those also in attendance.
Of course, it's technically Missouri's pro day, and not just Egnew's, so the Falcons will also catch a look at defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton, wide receiver Jerrell Jackson and defensive end/linebacker Jacquies Smith. The first two don't play positions of need, but a tweener player like Smith could be a fine consideration for Mike Nolan's new system.
Egnew is expected to be picked in the middle rounds after a strong Combine workout. The Falcons have middle round picks! He had 523 yards on 50 catches last year.
Whether it's the environment, the coaching, or the eye for talent, some schools are just good at producing NFL talent at certain positions. We already know the Penn State linebacker pedigree, or offensive linemen from Iowa, but it's the University of Virginia who has been flying under the radar the last few years while producing several standout defensive backs.
Chase Minnifield seems to be poised to join Chris Cook (2010) and Ras-I Dowling (2011) as the next UVA CB to be drafted in the second round. At 6'0", 185 lbs with long arms to boot he has many of the tools teams are looking for out of a future #1 corner. However, he is still raw in a few areas and at times solid technique gives way to youthful exhuberance. This is something that will need to be worked on in time if Minnifield is to reach his full potential, but make no mistake the ability is there.
Currently rated 6th on Mocking The Draft's CB rankings, Minnifield is a versatile corner who can be used in several different ways. This mobility was exhibited against Idaho this season where he registered 4 tackles, 1 INT and 0.5 sacks. On field he proves himself to be an able, but not outstanding tackler who isn't afraid of contact. Really though, you select a CB for their ability to play the ball in the air, and it's here where he displays great skill; fluid footwork, good instincts and above-average speed all allow him to keep up with receivers.
A talented corner who can bend, re-direct, maintain balance out of his breaks and make plays on the football. However, had a tough go as a senior giving up a lot of plays and having a tough time maintaining balance when trying to locate the ball vs. bigger receivers. A potential starter only.
Minnifield is no perfect prospect; if he was we'd see him as a top 20 pick. However, he is a player with all the physical tools, but lacking some of the mental ones. If he can hone those abilities he'll be an excellent cornerback, and one the Falcons should keep an eye on.
I have my biases... there, I said it. These are definitely biases, not prejudices. If I see a linebacker come out of college with 100+ tackles and a last name with 6 consonants in a row- chances are I'm going to like you. Similarly, if you're a big horse of an offensive lineman and you sport a mullet there's a good chance you'll remind me of Bubba from that terrible movie 'Varsity Blues', but after that you'll probably really peak my interest.
So what do we make of a man who sports an epic mullet and gets bonus points for being named Levy? Well, you have Levy Adcock from Oklahoma State; an offensive lineman worth watching.
At 6'6", 322lbs Adcock is a power blocker who played extremely well protecting Brandon Weeden for Oklahoma State. While he was responsible for protecting Moore's blindside it's highly unlikely he projects to be a future LT at the next level. The reason for this is his lack of top-level athleticism that's required for the position. More likely he'll be a right tackle, and even more likely than that his future will be at guard.
Where he truly excels though is in the run game, and its here where he'll make the biggest impact in the NFL. Adcock definitely need to tweak his technique in order to get the most from his leverage, but as the National Football Post point out he has an explosive characteristic to his game.
Does his best work in the run game where he can really coil up into his stance, keep his base down, back flat -even from a three point stance- and really looks explosive coming off the football. Generates a real snap through hips into contact, gains leverage off the ball and extends his arms well at the point. Can create an initial surge off the football as an in-line guy with the power through his hands to stick and drive his man down the field. Absolutely can dominate when blocking down inside and can take defensive lineman right out of the play.
Levy isn't the kind of player who I think is worth the Falcons' second rounder though, as he's too much of an unknown quantity at this point. He has some of the characteristics you want, but he isn't 1st year starter material. I project him to be a solid 3rd round selection, and at that point he would be a quality selection.
In the second level of defensive ends likely to be available at the Falcons' pick in the second round perhaps no one has a more impressive frame, or set of measurables as Andre Branch, the powerful Clemson DE. He's a player who still needs room to develop as a defensive end, but like the NFC South's own Charles Johnson you can see flashes of a player who with a little grooming could easily break out and become a three-down DE.
At 6'4", 259lbs there it would be easy to unfairly label Branch as a 'tweener'. While I agree he has the versatility to be used in both 4-3 and 3-4 looks, make no mistake he's a 4-3 DE at heart. At the combine he ran an extremely impressive 4.70 in the forty, some 0.08 faster than top 15 lock Quinton Coples. If you couple this speed with his quick feet and strength you see a player who has the ability to become a force in the NFL.
A tall, long armed defensive end prospect with an athletic looking frame, good girth through his mid-section and has the size to get even bigger. Displays natural flexibility to keep his base down and sit into his stance. At times will uncoil at the waist and not eat much grass initially off the ball vs. the run game. However, when he does get off the ball on time, he always extends his long arms well, can gain initial leverage and anchor on contact. Uses his length well to control blocks, is a coordinated kid through contact who maintains balance and exhibits violent hands.
It's that balance and his use of hands that makes Branch such an intriguing prospect. These were similar qualities that Jason Pierre-Paul exhibited, but don't confuse his athletic ability with JPP's. For a team like Atlanta in need of a pass rusher, but who don't have a 1st round pick he is a prospect who makes a lot of sense and fills an obvious need.
In the 2011 season Andre Branch posted 10.5 sacks, including a signature 4 sack performance against Virginia Tech.
It's likely Atlanta Falcons have resigned themselves to knowing 2012 will be their last season with stalwart tight end Tony Gonzalez. Since arriving in Atlanta he has been one of Matt Ryan's favorite targets, and a key reason the offense has been able to run so smoothly with Ryan under center. In 2013 and beyond it will be imperative that the Falcons have a TE who is waiting in the wings and ready to take on the role of being a featured part of the offense.
Enter Stanford TE Coby Fleener who has made himself one of the premier tight ends in the draft through his stellar play, reliable hands and proving himself to be the perfect pro-style pass catcher to support Andrew Luck.
At 6'6" and 247 lbs he is a big, powerful, primarily offensive TE who will need to bulk up and little to become a premier blocker. However, after putting up 27 reps at the scouting combine he's already shown that he has the strength to develop these skills. What I see on film is an ability to catch in traffic, and fight for hard yards that separates the great TEs from the average ones.
Mocking the draft did a great tape breakdown of one game vs. Notre Dame. In this they say:
His size and athleticism should create big mis-matches in the NFL. Corners and safety's will have trouble tackling him, while linebackers will have trouble covering him.
I agree with this assessment. I think in a draft that is rather bereft of really good talent at the TE position it will be up to a team to draft a prospect with the athleticism you want, and coach up some of the other abilities you want to see from an ideal TE. This plays directly into the Falcons' hands as Fleener could very well be available when they pick in the second round.
National Football post think even more highly of him, as they grade him at 7.0, which is a first-year starter grade. They say about Fleener:
An impressive pass catcher who can win both down the field and underneath vs. man coverage. Has the frame and flexibility to develop into a solid blocker as well and looks like a future starting caliber NFL TE.
Should the Falcons find themselves is a position to be able to select him I think it would be foolish to pass him up. There is a virtue in being able to move from strength to strength at the TE position, especially when your signal caller uses his TE as much as Matt Ryan uses Gonzalez.
The most wonderful day of the NFL calendar is here. Fat guys running all day long! It's workout day for offensive linemen, tight ends, and specialists, meaning former Georgia Bulldogs Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, and Justin Anderson are gonna run around all day long! It's the best. Also joining them in running around will be tight end Orson Charles and punter Drew Butler.
Since the Atlanta Falcons are in the market for players of those sorts, save punters, the local pro sports fan should lend an eye as well.
Quarterbacks, wide receivers including Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets product Stephen Hill, and running backs will be interviewed by teams. Defensive linemen and linebackers will be weighed and measured. And defensive backs like Brandon Boykin are just now arriving in Indianapolis. So that's what's happening today.
Here's the full, official schedule.
Just a whole bunch of fat guys running around, spreading joy everywhere they may go. It's all on the NFL Network all day long, so watch it if you like being happy about things.
As offensive linemen and tight ends weighed in and were measured in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, former Georgia Bulldogs tight end Orson Charles, who is listed as 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds on the UGA website, put on 10 pounds, but is only 6-foot-2. While that may be considered short for an NFL tight end, Charles compares himself to former SEC tight end and current New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez, who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 245 pounds.
Dion Caputi#UGA TE Orson Charles unfortunately did not crack 6'3" and measured in at 6'2" 251, but he's lean and compared himself to Aaron Hernandez. 1 hour ago via web · Reply · Retweet · Favorite · powered by @socialditto
Hernandez, selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, had an excellent year in New England in 2011, racking up 910 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Amazingly, Hernandez wasn't the most productive tight end on the team as Rob Gronkowski had a record-breaking season.
If scouts and coaches see Charles as the next Hernandez, his draft stock could rise drastically after the combine is over.
The Atlanta Falcons continued to poke around the tight ends aisle of the 2012 NFL Draft this week, sitting down with Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, who was interviewed by Atlanta tight ends coach Chris Scelfo. As always, Fleener echoed the sentiments of any logical player at the position about the prospect of playing behind All-Pro Tony Gonzalez for one season. Gonzalez is now considered a lock to retire after the coming 2012 season:
"Absolutely, I’d like to learn from Tony Gonzalez," Fleener said. "I’d be excited to."
The Falcons might have competition if they're seriously interested in Fleener. They don't pick until No. 55 in the second round, and Fleener's former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh could take Fleener to the 49ers.
Friday is when all the skill players are in town, so everyone will be paying attention to how well certain players bench press, run the 40-yard dash and other measurable attributes. The combine is being handled different this year with different groups coming in on different days and events being conducted at different times.
What most care about are the 40-yard dash, vertical and the bench press. Depending on the number one puts up it can drastically change their draft stock. Other physical tests that are conducted are teh
Hill will be one of the players that will be tested on the 40-yard dash on Friday where the offensive lineman, tight ends and special team players will be getting their interviews, NFLPA meeting, psychological testing and the defensive lineman will be getting their medical tests take care of.
Standing at 6'5" and weighing 347 lbs Kelechi Osemele has the ideal measurables you want from a mauling, franchise offensive lineman. Like many players who are trending in the 2nd-3rd round he's not without fault though, but he seems to be a player in a prime position to get taken too early by a team who falls in love with his size, and how he carries it.
While he played left tackle for Iowa State make no mistake, Osemele isn't light on his feet enough to play offensive tackle in the NFL. Most likely he'll be asked to transition to guard, and due to his size he's probably best suited at RG. However, he does have above average athleticism for his position which could allow him to move around the OL where needed. What he represents to the Falcons though is a certain nastiness their offensive line sorely needs. Adding someone like Osemele would immediately make life easier for Michal Turner, and he has quick enough feet in the pass blocking game to help take some of the pressure of Todd McClure and prevent DTs getting down-field so quickly.
Watching Kelechi Osemele on film he reminds a lot of the Pouncey brothers. He tends to get a little high in his blocks at times, but a lot of his deficiencies are made up for with excellent foot speed. The combine will mean a great deal to Osemele, especially the interview process because he's had some off-field issues to contend with during his college career.
National Football post are grading him at 6.6, which truly puts him in the 'boom or bust' category. He'll either be a star, or flame out- as they say "there is no middle ground". In these situations I like to get a sense of a player's character, and the best way to do this is here how they address and work with the media. I really liked this clip from before the season as Osemele addresses his team's chances.
Ultimately though we tend to over analyze these players. At the end of the day he is a mountainous offensive lineman with good agility and ability. He's not without his flaws, otherwise he'd be a first round selection- but with a little bit of time I can't help but feel that if a team can harness his abilities and hone his technique they will get an absolute gem.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For more on the Combine and the Draft, head over to SB Nation's NFL hub page.
In a nice bit of local football symmetry, Georgia TE Orson Charles, one of the top prospects at the position in the 2012 NFL Draft, has been linked to the Atlanta Falcons in pre-draft discussions.
And while Atlanta still has Tony Gonzalez manning the position, Charles said he would have no problem learning the ropes from someone like the future Hall of Famer:
Orson Charles said he'd be fine with not starting right away. Said he'd love go learn from someone like Tony Gonzalez— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 23, 2012
Gonzalez, at 35 years old, is winding down and there's no better safety blanket for a young QB like Matt Ryan than a TE he can count on to get open on third down.
However, the Falcons have spent heavily on surrounding Ryan with offensive weapons in the last few years, giving up this year's No. 1 pick as part of the Julio Jones trade.
Thursday is an off-the-field day of evaluations for Group 1 (kickers, special teams players, offensive linemen) which includes medical examinations, media sessions (mock press conferences and interviews for players), psychological testing and player interviews with team personnel.
The bulk of the actual physical activity won't start until Friday for Group 1 - they'll have workouts on Friday for special teams players, then drills and on-field tests beginning Saturday.
Of the four Bulldogs, two - Jones and Charles - could be targets of the Atlanta Falcons, who will return veteran Tony Gonzalez and possibly resign veteran Todd McClure to return at center, Jones' collegiate position.
The Atlanta Falcons' situation at cornerback will remain very fluid from now up until draft day, and the reason for this is Brent Grimes. Due for a big pay day in 2012, Grimes will likely leave the Falcons for more money unless the front office decides to slap the franchise tag on him, which is definitely a possibility. Until we know more about Grimes' status I think it's prudent to examine the CB position in a manor that assumes he'll be gone, and Atlanta will be looking for a future starter at the position.
There's an outside chance someone line Janoris Jenkins could fall, but it's far more likely that Jamell Fleming, the 5'11" CB out of Oklahoma will be a player to really watch as the combine rolls around. In a lot of ways Fleming reminds me of Devin McCourty coming out of Rutgers; not overly physical, and definitely lacking some of the tools you want but he was a smart cornerback with excellent lateral speed who could overcome a lot of his physical weaknesses.
Despite missing two games in 2011 due to academic ineligibility Fleming was able to put together a fairly impressive resume for the Sooners: 50 tackles, 2 INT and 2 FF. There's no doubting his totals fell a little from 2010, but overall he put together another solid season.
Currently the National Football Post are grading Fleming at 6.8/10, which puts him in the 'future starter' range. They go on to say:
He's a balanced, coordinated kid who keeps his feet under him when changing directions and can turn and run. Doesn't give up much separation, knows how to make plays on the football and if he can improve as a tackler looks like a guy who warrants a starting job in the NFL down the line.
It's always a risk taking players who need to improve a vital area of their game like tackling, and hope you can hone it at the next level. This is exacerbated when you consider that Fleming would be expected to be the #2 CB for Atlanta, and as such be responsible for the NFL's larger possession receivers. However, he is a play maker with a knack for making an impact, and as such he could be the most attainable CB for the Falcons in the second round.
The 2012 NFL Combine, the biggest event of the NFL's pre-draft season, kicks off Wednesday, with kickers, punters, offensive lineman and tight ends set to arrive in Indianapolis.
Former Georgia stars TE Orson Charles and C Ben Jones will be two of the most closely watched players in Group 1.
To better manage the crowds, the more than 300 college stars attending this year have been divided into four groups, with the marquee skill position players not set to arrive until Thursday.
Each group will undergo orientation on their first day, before submitting to media interviews, official measurements and psychological testing on Day 2, interviewing with various interested NFL teams on Day 3 and finally beginning the all-important workouts like the 40-yard dash on Day 4.
The Atlanta Falcons, who do not have a first-round pick this season as part of last year's Julio Jones deal, have been linked to the tight end and offensive line positions in many of the first batch of mock drafts, two of the position groups set to begin the testing and timing section of the Combine on Saturday.
We've looked at South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Stephon Gilmore as a potential second-round pick for the Atlanta Falcons. How about a certain famous former teammate of Gilmore's? Perhaps Stephen Garcia himself, who reportedly met with an Atlanta scout at the Battle of Florida game?
According to Scout's Aaron Wilson, Garcia says he was up front with the Birds about his adventurous past:
During his conversation with the Falcons scout, all of Garcia's transgressions at South Carolina were discussed. And Garcia said he didn't leave anything out, to the scout's approval.
"I went down the list and he said he appreciated the honesty," Garcia said. "He told me to stay on that track, and I will. I just wish I had changed earlier. I didn't fully understand until it was too late. I'm doing everything I can to do things the right way."
It's not out of the question that Atlanta could draft a quarterback late. The Falcons could bring on another quarterback should Chris Redman depart.
But would Arthur Blank approve of a quarterback who was suspended ... /counts on fingers ... many times by Steve Spurrier for various events, including showing up smelling of alcohol at a team function and carousing before a bowl game (in Atlanta!)? I sure don't think so. While Garcia is as talented and capable as just about any passer available, and has the chance to prove himself a great value if he's able to fly straight, the new order Birds have yet to take a QUOTE FINGERS character risk even for instant impact players.
Unfortunately for Zebrie Sanders he was the star of one of the funnier football blunders of the last decade. This took place almost three years ago when he lost track on the snap count, and rather than try to catch up with the play, he simply gave up.
Thankfully a lot has changed in the last three years, and now the 6'6", 307 lb OT find himself trending as a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the upcoming draft. Sanders is a serious athlete who could have the potential to be a future LT in the NFL, provided he can get his head on straight- which aside from this infamous video has been a problem for him. It's not that Sanders has had any off field issues, or anything worthy of striking off a board, but he does struggle with pre-snap recognition and forgets his assignment at times. In their report on Zebrie Sanders the National Football Post say:
A natural athlete who can bend and is athletic. However, struggles with power and makes too many lineman look like good pass rushers toward the edge because of it. Needs to get stronger to have a chance.
Watching film on Sanders I find him a funny prospect. He has the speed and agility you want to see from a left tackle, but he lacks the awareness you need to play the position. That lack of awareness can be offset by moving him to RT, but here he lacks the strength to be a premier run blocker on that side. As such Zebrie Sanders looks like a jack of all trades, master of none when it comes to the offensive line. He's definitely a player the Falcons could look to add in the third round, but I think there will probably be some better fish in the sea and Atlanta need OL help ASAP.
Aside from having arguably the coolest name of any defensive player in the 2012 draft, Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus could be the perfect option for the Atlanta Falcons- should he fall to the second round. There are two key reasons this is the case: Firstly the Falcons finished the 2011 season 19th in the NFL in sacks, and secondly there's no guarantee John Abraham will accept a near $8 million pay cut in order to stay. Should Abraham leave he takes a reliable 10 sacks a season with him, and Ray Edwards can't do it alone.
Mercilus is a hard player to project at the next level, and this is an odd thing to say about a DE who led the nation in sacks with 15.5 last year. The reason for this is mostly based on the tangibles, as the fine folks at Mocking the Draft point out:
Mercilus' game is based largely on his effort. He does't have a great first step or overall athleticism. But he's a non-stop player who finds a way to shed blocks. Mercilus also plays with great leverage and technique. Because he's 6-foot-5, he has long arms, and he's good at punching the offensive lineman back.
The biggest problem teams are likely to have with him is projecting his role at the next level. Currently weighing 265 lbs, Mercilus doesn't fill out his frame particularly well and looks very lean in pads. This will likely get him branded with the infamous 'tweener' tag that is tough for a player to escape come draft time; compared to Julius Peppers he's roughly the same height, but weighs some 22 lbs less. Personally, I see no reason why the Falcons should be scared off, should they be lucky enough to have him at their pick. At 21 years of age Whitney Mercilus could easy add the extra weight to his frame, and though he lacks those high end athletic tools you want to see from a DE he makes up for it with his motor and heart.
Physically he looks the part and has the skill to simply man handle college lineman at times. However, he's a raw kid who is stiff in the hips and doesn't have a great feel for the game when asked to find the football. He's got some upside, but his tightness and overall lack of natural feel for the game are two very big concerns that will keep him from being the type of pass rusher his freaky skill set says he could.
The question for the team drafting Whitney Mercilus will be "Is he more DeMarcus Ware, or Vernon Gholston?" both those prospects carried the same raw potential, however the former was able to harness his ability into becoming an elite 3-4 OLB, whereas Gholston has struggled thus far. The Falcons have an opportunity to roll the dice on a player like this who has first round talent, but is raw. It's likely the dividends wont be immediate, but the right move in the second round for Atlanta could be patience.
The Atlanta Falcons will have plenty of time to see how the draft shakes out as they do not pick until the second round due to the trade with the Washington Redskins that helped them acquire Julio Jones. However, in a draft that looks to still have some first round grade talent, the Falcons could pick up a gem in round two.
WalterFootball.com has put together an intriguing 2nd-round mock draft that has the Atlanta Falcons taking South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Stephon Gilmore:
Atlanta Falcons: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
It doesn't appear as though Brent Grimes will be back in Atlanta next year. The coaching staff reportedly was miffed that he sat out the playoff game, possibly to avoid further injury that could have ruined his pay day. Meanwhile, Dunta Robinson won't be around in 2013 if he doesn't improve his play.
In the Falcons 24-2 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the secondary was continually exposed. With Grimes gone and Robinson looking to be on the wrong side of his prime, a talented cornerback would be vital to keeping the defense up to standard.
Monday, the NFL announced the official schedule of pro days, during which college campuses host departing players and local invitees for workouts observed by scouts. Other than the NFL Combine, it's the key period for team scouts to work out and interview players. Expect Alabama's to outdraw Colgate's, I'm saying.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will give junior Stephen Hill, along with seniors presumably including Roddy Jones, Steven Sylvester and Jason Peters, a chance to work out on March 6. Last year, Tech players had to work out indoors due to weather. No date has yet been announced for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Dates to watch for the Atlanta Falcons include ... all of them? They've been most frequently attached to tight ends for some reason, so keep an eye on those Stanford and Louisiana-Lafayette workouts, among others.
The Falcons don't have a first round pick in 2012. They gave their pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the Browns' first-round pick in 2011, which Atlanta used to pick Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Now that the Super Bowl is officially over and the draft order is set, every website that knows anything about the draft has come out with their own mock. One of those sites is SB Nation's Mocking the Draft.
It's only a first-round draft so Falcons fans don't really need to look. However, if you were curious about who the Browns might take with the Falcons' first-round pick, here ya go.
22. The Cleveland Browns select: Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina.
So Brown becomes a Brown (Ok, I'm done with those...maybe...). Cleveland could use with some help at defensive end and outside linebacker. I don't really see a defensive end worth taking at this selection, so Brown is the pick. Brown projects as a will backer in the 4-3, and has a nice ability to drop into coverage, a rarity among most young linebackers today. Brown isn't necessarily a flashy pick at this point, but he's a very useful one and will offer a big improvement to the Browns defense.
Now that all of the coaching vacancies in Atlanta have been filled, Thomas Dimitroff and the revamped Falcons staff will look ahead to see how they can improve the club for 2012. With several big-name players scheduled to become free agents and a boatload of Arthur Blank's money available to spend, the Falcons now have to run down the to-do list and choose which areas of the team to focus on. Here's what I'd like to see from the club:
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez sent some waves through the Falcons fan base earlier this week as the 15-year veteran as been the model of consistency in the NFL, yet Gonzalez has made the decision that the 2012 season will be his last year of service in the league.
"I said that last year though, and the year before. But I really do believe this is it," Gonzalez said. "First of all, this is the first time my wife came to me and said, ‘You’re only going to play one more year, right?’"
While many pundits and prognosticators (including ones on this site) will point to the draft as the obvious recourse for replacing a legend, the legend they acquired was via trade. While the cheaper route would be to draft a young tight end based off potential, the Falcons are trying to win now. With the aggressive draft of Julio Jones and the giveaway of future draft picks, acquiring a tight end of their liking might not be possible.
The Green Bay Packers and Jermichael Finley have had issues at the negotiating table, and the money that the Falcons were going to pay Gonzalez could go right to Finley. Its an aggressive move, but can the Falcons afford to do anything but?
Another intriguing option is Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett, who in his four years as a Cowboy showed flashes of brilliance along with flashes of ineptitude. He's an impending free agent and could come into a veteran locker room ready to coach him up and provide leadership.
The Falcons are on the clock, as a legend prepares to leave the building in 12 months.
The Atlanta Falcons do not have a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, so all speculation for potential college recruits this year begins in the second round. There are a great many mock drafts circulation around, but the Falcons are kind enough to round them all up for you.
The Mock Monitor at the official Falcons website summarizes the various notable Falcons mock drafts available. Of the nine mock drafts that the Falcons website takes a look at, the vast majority suggests that the team will look to shore up the tight end position. The consensus pick, appearing on four of the drafts, is Coby Fleener of the Stanford Cardinal. Fleener had a terrific couple of years in the Pac-12 as a favorite target of Andrew Luck. Odds are good that he would make a terrific receiving tandem with Matt Ryan.
Two of the other drafts suggest a different option at tight end; namely, Dawyne Allen of the Clemson Tigers. A third mock draft predicts the Falcons using their second-round pick on tight end Orson Charles of the Georgia Bulldogs. Only two of the nine mock drafts suggest a position other than tight end as the team's opening selection.
By trading up in the 2011 NFL draft to select wide receiver Julio Jones in the first round with the No. 6 overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons have lost their first-round pick in the 2012 draft, giving to the Cleveland Browns. Jones helped the Falcons make it into the playoffs in 2011 with 959 yards and eight touchdowns so most would say it was worth it. When it comes to mock drafts, though, Falcons fans may find them a little boring since they're not included. However, based on Sports Illustrated's Don Banks' latest mock draft, the Falcons trade with the Browns may give Cleveland the ability to trade up to select quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Banks proposes that the Browns will trade the No. 22 pick (which they received from the Falcons) to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the Browns and Rams to swap places with their top-five picks. The Browns, who would move to No. 2 would select RGIII, and the Rams, who would drop back to No. 4, would pick wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Then with the No. 22 pick, the Rams would take offensive tackle Mike Adams.
The Atlanta Falcons also reportedly spent time scouting former Louisiana-Lafayette tight end LaDarius Green at the Senior Bowl. Green caught 51 passes for 606 yards this season to go along with eight touchdowns for the Ragin Cajuns. Green is thought to be one of the top tight end prospects in the draft. In his career he totaled 149 receptions for over 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns.
The Falcons were reportedly busy at the Senior Bowl today having also interviewed Georgia defensive back Brandon Boykin and Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick.
Atlanta gave a one-year contract extension to tight end Tony Gonzalez this season but the Falcons will soon be looking for a long-term solution at the position. Gonzalez caught 80 passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns this season for the Falcons but has recently discussed retirement.
It was reported earlier on Tuesday that the Atlanta Falcons had interviewed defensive back Brandon Boykin of the Georgia Bulldogs at the Senior Bowl in Mobile this week. Now a CBS Sports report by Knox Bardeen, which comes our way courtesy of Dave Choate at the Falcoholic, claims that the Falcons have also interviewed Senior Bowl attendee Brian Quick, who is a wide receiver for Appalachian State.
Here is what Choate has to say about Quick:
Quick was incredibly productive for a very good small school, grabbing 71 catches for 2,001 yards (!) and 11 touchdowns in 2011. At 6'5", 220 with excellent hands and deceptive deep speed, he's a terrific prospect and another guy who seems likely to go in the second or third round. Draft Countdown has him as their ninth-best receiver prospect.
It appears as though the Falcons are already being very proactive about the upcoming NFL Draft and their preparations for the 2012 season.
If the Atlanta Falcons can't have Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, at least they can have one of his star pupils, am I right? D. Orlando Ledbetter reports the 2012 Senior Bowl saw the Falcons interview former UGA cornerback Brandon Boykin, and that the Panthers and Eagles both also showed interest.
An interview isn't exactly a declaration that Atlanta's going to draft a player, but it is a decent sign they're keeping their options open at improving a particular position. If more news emerges about the Falcons working out defensive backs, keep the position group in mind on draft day. With Brent Grimes' contract up, it would certainly make sense.
Boykin's expected to be selected in the second or third round, and, hey! We're in luck! The Falcons actually have those. Last year, the Birds picked UGA linebacker Akeem Dent with a mid-rounder. Boykin's also proficient at returning kicks and playing a little offense, all of which could become opportunities with the Falcons.
While this two-round 2012 NFL mock draft by Mocking the Draft and this mock draft from SBNation.com contain locally relevant nuggets, we're going to have to dig deep to find notes of interest for the Atlanta Falcons fan in the coming months. We don't get to enjoy a first-round pick this year, you'll recall. (The Birds take Wisconsin Badgers guard Kevin Zeitler in MtD's mock, BTW.)
This four-rounder at Walter Football gives Atlanta Georgia Bulldogs center Ben Jones in the second and Syracuse Orange defensive end Chandler Jones in the third. Not too sure about Jones -- who'd admittedly fit in just fine on the "dirtbags" line -- as the team already seems to like Joe Hawley or maybe Mike Johnson as Todd McClure's successor.
A defensive end like Jones might be one to consider, though. John Abraham could be gone next year, and a Ray Edwards-Kroy Biermann starting tandem wouldn't terrify the average opposing line. The temporary solution could be to go for end depth, at least.
The 2012 NFL Draft could help the Falcons recover from their latest disappointment, but with so few picks they'll have to get just about every one right.
The 2012 NFL Draft won't matter much to the Atlanta Falcons, who traded the house for Julio Jones last April, but the Cleveland Browns will be watching the NFC Playoffs closely.
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