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Atlanta Falcons Draft Picks: Cliff Matthews Completes Surprising 2011 Class

The Atlanta Falcons' 2011 NFL Draft haul is (probably!) done with, now that the team has selected Cliff Matthews at No. 230 in the seventh round. The South Carolina Gamecocks DE sounds like an excellent value to me*. The team captain was not the best athlete, but is productive and goes hard on every play, and every team needs defensive line depth. Besides, playing behind fellow Sakerlinan John Abraham has got to be a good sign for his development, right?

This will go down as a draft set up to include multiple immediate-impact guys. The trade for Alabama Crimson Tide WR Julio Jones is the make-or-breaker, but Oregon St. Beavers RB Jacquizz Rodgers and Miami Hurricanes legman-of-some-sort Matt Bosher will also be game-one contributors. Georgia Bulldogs LB Akeem Dent is likely to play at least special teams early, with an eventual takeover for Stephen Nicholas or Mike Peterson certainly possible.

Among the two final-round depth picks, Fresno St. Bulldogs OG Andrew Jackson looks like Atlanta's biggest steal. Nimble in both foot and mind, he was expected to be gone by the middle rounds, but Thomas Dimitroff landed him in the seventh. 

After years of drafting to build, Atlanta's definitely made a statement that it's time to win now. Even if Jones goes down as a bust, this draft could still be a success -- though of course the effect of the Jones trade on next year's draft could stunt Atlanta's postseason chances for years.

* Full disclosure: I've been lobbying for Matthews in The Falcoholic's war room for at least an hour now.

We have more on the Falcons' first three rounds and on how SEC and ACC players fared in the first three rounds. For national coverage, check out SB Nation's NFL Draft hub and our NFL Draft blog Mocking the Draft. For more Atlanta Falcons draft discussion, join The Falcoholic.

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