FLOWERY BRANCH – The Atlanta Falcons could throw “The Polian Plan” into action during the 2010 NFL draft, which is set for 7 pm. Thursday.
The Falcons may want to do the same thing with quarterback Matt Ryan and continue to add weapons on offense.
Some of Polian’s first-round picks for the Colts have included running back Edgerrin James (1999), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (2001), tight end Dallas Clark (2003), running back Joseph Addai (2006), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (2007) and running Donald Brown (2009).
So while the Falcons appear to have a more pressing need in improving the defense — the team ranked 10th against the run (106.8 yards per game) and 28th against the pass (242.1 yards per game) last season — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff could turn in a draft card with either Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas‘ or Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham’s name on it.
There is a Polian influence in the Falcons’ draft room. David Caldwell, the team’s director of college scouting, spent 10 seasons with the Colts before joining the Falcons in April of 2008. He played linebacker in college at John Carroll. (Aside: Quick, who’s the famous former NFL head coach who has the stadium named after him at John Carroll in suburban Cleveland? Answer below.)
Here’s how the Falcons’ draft day plans are shaping up:
If the Falcons stay put at 19, they’ll have shot at Gresham and Thomas. I’m projecting that they have Gresham rated higher than Thomas. He could come in and work with Tony Gonzalez while he improves his blocking.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma, 6-foot-5, 261 pounds: Gresham did not play last season after having surgery for torn cartilage in his right knee. He started his college career as a wide receiver for the Sooners. Former NFL executive Gil Brandt compares the fleet Gresham to Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 224: The fact that he suffered a broken foot while preparing for the draft has not hurt his value. He’s the second receiver rated in the draft and appears to be a first-round lock. He showed his speed on streak routes at Tech as well as his blocking ability in the run game. He has to develop into an NFL-level route runner.
Under this scenario, the Falcons could end up trading down and picking up a second round pick. A trade down would signal they are going defense. Cincinnati and Baltimore could be trade partners. The Bengals like Gresham and the Ravens like Thomas.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri, 6-1, 241: Affectionately called “Spoon,” he led the team in tackles the past three seasons and was a team captain. Excellent motor and plays well in coverage. “If you play in the Big 12, every week you’ve got to come out and guard receivers,” Weatherspoon said. “You don’t want to be a liability in passing situations. I’m glad I played in the Big 12, and that will definitely help me out.”
Daryl Washington, LB, TCU, 6-2, 226: Played inside in the Horned Frogs 4-2-5 defense. He’s projected as an outside linebacker in the NFL, where he might need to add about 10 pounds.
Like he did with Sam Baker in 2007, if Dimitroff sees a player slipping away, the Falcons could make a little jump up to get him. Dimitroff said in a radio interview that it would cost about $8 million jump to move from 19 to the low teens. It wouldn’t cost as much to leapfrog over Pittsburgh in to get a clear path at Florida center Maurkice Pouncey if he gets past Denver or to take a shot at Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham.
Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida, 6-5, 318: He has been heavily scouted by the Falcons. Pouncey felt he did well diagnosing plays on the chalk board for the team at the NFL Scouting Combine. He won the Dave Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top center. He also played some right guard during his career. The 10-year chart (2000-09) reveals that only five centers have been drafted in the first round and none was selected higher than the 21st pick.
Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan, 6-1, 263: He’s the first defensive player in Michigan history to be voted the team’s most valuable player twice. He made a lot of plays (41 percent of his tackles) behind the line of scrimmage. Graham is stout, bench-pressing 225 pounds 31 times at the combine. He also had a good showing at the Senior Bowl and could be taken before the Falcons’ selection.
Well, in the Final Mock draft, (the one that counts), we side with The Polian Plan. Tonight we should hear this, “With the 19th pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham.”
1. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 6-foot-4, 236 pounds. In the past two drafts, the Rams passed on quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. This time they pull the trigger.
2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska, 6-4, 302. Coach Jim Schwartz, a former defensive coordinator, values a strong front line.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma, 6-4, 298. The Bucs get someone to anchor the defensive front and hope that he’s another Warren Sapp.
4. Washington Redskins: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 307. New coach Mike Shanahan wants someone to help get his running attack rolling. He needs a replacement for Chris Samuels, who retired because of a neck injury.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa, 6-6, 312. The Chiefs go with Bulaga to help anchor the line. He fits the personality of the team that Scott Pioli is trying to establish.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech, 6-4, 272. With the retirement of defensive end Patrick Kerney and the trade of defensive end Darryl Tapp, the Seahawks take Morgan.
7. Cleveland Browns: Eric Berry, DB, Tennessee, 5-11 5/8, 211. Only five safeties have been taken in the top 10 over the past 10 years. Berry, of Creekside High, becomes the sixth.
8. Oakland Raiders: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers, 6-6, 325. The Raiders are comfortable with the explanation from Rutgers coach Greg Schiano about Davis’ fluctuating weight.
9. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson, 5-11, 196. The Bills want to run the football and need to surround their quarterbacks with a weapon.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama, 6-4, 256. The Jags are not scared off by the fact that McClain has Crohn’s disease.
11. Denver Broncos: Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida, 6-5, 318. The Broncos want to anchor their offensive line with the Dave Rimington Award winner.
12. Miami Dolphins: Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas, 6-4, 255. The Dolphins have to replace outside linebackers Joey Porter and Jason Taylor.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Joe Haden, CB, Florida, 5-10 3/4, 193. The 49ers are not afraid of the slow 40-time he ran
at the NFL scouting combine.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma, 6-5, 318. The Seattle need to fortify their offensive line.
15. New York Giants: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan, 6-1, 263. The Giants believe you can never have too many defensive ends.
16. Tennessee Titans: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida, 6-6, 265: The Titans are in the defensive end market after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency.
17. San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame, 6-2, 223. The 49ers have seen enough of Alex Smith to know he’s not a franchise quarterback.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State, 5-10, 194. The Steelers have to address their porous secondary.
19. Falcons: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma, 6-5, 261. The Falcons can’t resist his potential and take the best player available on the board. He’s projected to be the next great tight end in the league by some.
20. Houston Texans: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State, 5-11, 220. The Texans want to add a running game to give quarterback Matt Schaub more weapons.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma, 6-2, 225. The Bengals have a program in place to help players with a history of problems.
22. New England Patriots: Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State, 6-5, 301. He has the size to play that hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker spot in the mold of Mike Vrabel.
23. Green Bay Packers: Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State, 5-11, 190. The Packers have him rated as the best cornerback in the draft, and he’s a nice system fit.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama, 5-10, 196. Played his career in the shadows of Javier Arenas, but he’s the better pro prospect.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 224. Perfect spot for Thomas, who can learn from veterans Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee, 6-2, 329. He is a brute force player who’ll fit nicely along side of Darnell Dockett.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Earl Thomas, S, Texas, 5-10 1/4, 208. The Cowboys like his versatility in coverage.
28. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech, 5-11 1/2, 222. The Chargers need to get their ground attack flourishing again and are impressed with the former ACC player of the year.
29. New York Jets: Everson Griffen, DE, USC, 6-3, 278. Is a natural fit for Rex Ryan’s defense.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Chris Cook, CB, Virginia, 6-2, 212. The Vikings need a big cornerback to go against the receivers they face in the NFC North.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho, 6-5, 325. A small school product who fits nicely in the Colts’ blocking scheme.
32. New Orleans Saints: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri, 6-1, 241. The Saints have to get stronger on the flanks and must replace Scott Fujita, who signed with Cleveland in free agency.
Answer: Don Shula