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2011 NFL Draft: Mike Pouncey, Danny Watkins Potential OG Selections For Falcons

With as many as 16 free agents* this offseason, the Atlanta Falcons are not short on tough decisions. This is especially true along the offensive line where they have three potential free agents in tackle Tyson Clabo and guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl. Mix in 34-year-old Todd McClure's expiring contract in 2012 and the offensive line we have come to know and love could be drastically different in a few short seasons. This bring us to today's position in our draft needs profile, offensive guard. You can catch up on the offensive tackle and wide receiver options before diving in.

2011 Draft Need: Offensive Guard

Current Starters: Blalock (28 years old next season), Dahl (30)

Reserves: Joe Hawley (23), Mike Johnson (24), Jose Valdez (25)

If the Falcons are confident they can re-sign both Blalock and Dahl they would likely forgo this position in the draft but with the free agency period up in the air, it's smart to look at all their options. Here's some early round options from Mocking the Draft's top 200 they may consider. Their overall rank is shown below and you can see their entire offensive guard rankings here.

26. Mike Pouncey | 6'5, 320 pounds | G/C | Florida

Projected round: 1-2

The top-rated guard on the board, Pouncey can play all three interior line positions and even played defensive line as a freshman at Florida. Great pedigree - his brother made the Pro Bowl this year with the Steelers - and versatility make him a perfect fit (senior from the SEC) with the Falcons draft strategy.

Closest pro comparison: Todd Herremans, Eagles

39. Danny Watkins | 6'4, 310 pounds | OT/G | Baylor

Projected round: 1-2

The Falcons like fully developed college seniors and there's not many guards in the more developed than the 26-year-old Watkins. He impressed at the Senior Bowl but he's already older than 60 percent of the guards already on the Falcons' roster.

Closest pro comparison: Kris Dielman, Chargers

48. Rodney Hudson | 6'2, 283 pounds | G | Florida State

Projected round: 2

Like Pouncey, Hudson has versatility to play multiple line positions but the knock I've read about him is his small size is ideal for a spread offense, zone-blocking scheme. He may not fit the physical, pound-it-ahead style of the Falcons' offense.

Closest pro comparison: Ryan Lilja, Chiefs

62. Ben Ijalana | 6'4, 320 pounds | OT/G | Villanova

Projected round: 2

Played left tackle in college but it sounds like he's a better fit for guard. He missed the Senior Bowl with a sports hernia, and there are doubts about the talent he played against in the FCS.

Closest pro comparison: Josh Sitton, Packers

95. John Moffitt | 6'5, 320 pounds | G | Wisconsin

Projected round: 4

Played alongside fellow potential Falcons draft pick, Gabe Carimi.

Closest pro comparison: Adam Snyder, 49ers

All five early-round guys fit the most important part of the Falcons' draft profile: They are all seniors. Pouncey is the obvious choice especially considering Atlanta flirted with drafting his brother, Maurkice, last season and his versatility means they would have McClure's replacement in 2012 sewn up. The labor negotiations will play a huge role in which blueprint Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith use in April but their actions will tell us a lot about their confidence in Hawley, Johnson and Valdez.

* We won't know officially which players are declared free agents until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is in place.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.