BIRDLAND – The NFL draft is right around the corner and some issues are starting clear up.
Here are 5 things we know about the Falcons’ draft:
2. Sackmaster Jr. is on the way: This draft is considered extremely deep at the defensive end position and John Abraham isn’t getting any younger. The Falcons will likely have a shot at selecting Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh’s Jabaal Sheard, Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt or UCLA’s Akeem Ayers. As the draft nears, I’m leaning toward the versatile Ayers as the Falcons pick for my final mock draft. He played defensive end and linebacker for the Bruins and was a destructive force.
3. Wide receiver help is on the way: We keep hearing how much the Falcons love Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan. He’s fast and he’s tough. If he’s still there at No. 59, they likely won’t waste much time turning in his card. Also, Fort Valley State’s Ricardo Lockette and Georgia’s Kris Durham could be added late or as free agents if they go undrafted.
4. Linebacker card will get turned in: The Falcons have to take a linebacker. Stephen Nicholas could likely get starter money on the open market and Mike Peterson isn’t getting any younger. They would like to re-sign both at
their price. Denver and Detroit are reportedly set to make bids for Nicholas whenever free agency hits. So look for the Falcons to consider Georgia’s Akeem Dent in the mid-rounds. They also have thick files on California’s Mike Mohamed and Oregon’s Casey Matthews.
5. Speed back is coming: The Falcons want explosive plays on offense. They wanted running back Jerious Norwood to fill that role, but he’s had trouble staying healthy. Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray, West Virginia’s Noel Devine and Louisville’s Bilal Powell are possibilities.
Another sub-plot: Will Dimitroff again steer clear of the Big 10 conference?
With 26 draft selections in three years at the helm for the Falcons, Dimitroff, the two-time Sporting News executive of the year, has drafted players from 10 conferences (0 from the mighty and slow Big 10!).
Below is the breakdown:
SEC: CB Chevis Jackson (LSU), RB Thomas Brown (Georgia), TE
Keith Zinger (LSU), DT Peria Jerry (Mississippi), DT Corey Peters
(Kentucky) and OL Mike Johnson (Alabama).
Big 12: LB Curtis Lofton (Oklahoma), S William Moore (Missouri), LB Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri), CB Dominique Franks (Oklahoma) and WR Kerry Meier (Kansas).
Pac-10: OT Sam Baker (USC), S Thomas DeCoud (California), LB Robert James (Arizona State) and CB Wilrey Fontenot (Arizona).
ACC: QB Matt Ryan (Boston College), OT Garrett Reynolds (North
Carolina), LB Spencer Adkins (Miami) and DT Vance Walker (Georgia Tech).
Big Sky: DE Kroy Biermann (Montana) and Shann Schillinger (Montana).
Big East: WR Harry Douglas (Louisville).
Western Athletic: CB Chris Owens (San Jose State).
Atlanticc 10: DE Lawrence Sidbury (Richmond).
Southern Conference: CB William Middleton (Furman).
Mountain West: C Joe Hawley (UNLV).
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog