NFL DRAFT CENTRAL: stories and rankings

Cordy Glenn (71) is one of top tackle prospects in the NFL draft.  (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

Cordy Glenn (71) is one of top tackle prospects in the NFL draft. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

The NFL draft, set for April 26-28, is less than two weeks away. 

We’ve been periodically running position-by-position stories and rankings.

I’ve collected all of those items here.

This week, we’ll finish up with the offensive linemen, running backs, special teamers, defensive line, linebackers and quarterbacks.  I’ll drop the links in here.

POSITION BY POSITION STORIES:

Special teams: Drew Butler set to follow in his Dad’s footsteps

Running backs: Trent Richardson adds value to the position

Offensive linemen: Glenn not letting high draft status change him

Wide receivers:  Stephen Hill prepared for pros

Tight end: Talent not deep at the tight end position

Cornerbacks: Montana’s Trumaine Johnson is an intriguing prospect

Cornerbacks: Boykin’s injury should not hurt his draft status

Defensive ends: West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin is trying to reach the top

 POSITION BY POSITION RANKINGS

Top 5 Special teamers

Player                        Ht                   Wt                 School          Proj. Rd

1. Joe Adams             5-10                   179                Arkansas                 3rd/4th

Comment: He led the NCAA with four punt returns for touchdowns in 2011.

2. T.Y. Hilton             5-9                  183             Florida International   4th/5th

Comment: He has run the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds and had six returns for touchdowns in his college career. The best combination kickoff and punt returner in the draft.

3. Drew Butler           6-1                 203               Georgia          5th/6th

Comment: Won the Ray Guy award, which goes to the nation’s top punter, after leading the nation with a 48.1 yard average after the 2009 season. Averaged 44.5 yards per punt last season.

4. Brian Anger            6-3                 208                California          6th/7th

Comment: He averaged 43.1 yards on 71 career punts.

5. Blair Walsh            5-9                  187                 Georgia         6th/7th

Comment: Has the big leg, but struggled with accuracy (21 of 35) on his field goal attempts last season.

Falcons need:The Falcons are set at punter with Matt Bosher and will try to get another solid year out of Matt Bryant, who turns 37 in May. A gaping hole on the special teams units was left with the departure of Eric Weems in free agency. The former Pro Bowler was the team’s top punt and kickoff returner for the past three seasons.

Others in need: Rams (6), Panthers (9), Cowboys (14), Texans (26), Ravens (29) and 49ers (30).

Comment:“T.Y. Hilton is the top returner. [Mark] Rogers from Cal-Poly is an excellent returner. Joe Adams is a phenomenal punt returner out of Arkansas. Some of the things he did were highlight-film material. . .Anger at Cal, I have as the top punter. Butler is the second highest rated punter. Shawn Powell of Florida State is third rated punter. . .I have Walsh as the third highest rated kicker. You have to look at the inconsistencies this year. He went from being a draftable guy to being an undrafted free agent. I think he’ll have a chance to compete for a job.”

Mel Kiper, ESPN draft analyst who has been publishing the Mel Kiper Jr. Draft Report for 34 years.

Video — Top 5 running backs

Player                           Ht                        Wt                            School         Proj. Rd

1. Trent Richardson 5-9                227                           Alabama                    1st

Comment: Because of his running and pass catching ability, Richardson has the potential to become a featured back.

2. Doug Martin 5-9                 220                           Boise State                 2nd

Comment: Needs to get stronger. Bench pressed 225 pounds just 16 times at the combine.

3. David Wilson 5-10               205                          Virginia Tech              2nd/3rd

Comment: “He is one of the most athletically gifted pure running backs I have ever graded,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.

4. LaMichael James 5-8                   195                   Oregon                         2nd/3rd

Comment: A dangerous runner in the open field because of his speed and cutting ability.

5. Lamar Miller 5-11                   214                            Miami                          2nd/3rd

Comment: He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the scouting combine. He needs to improve as a pass catcher.

Falcons need: Michael Turner is entering the last year of his contract. Second-year man Jacquizz Rodgers will get a bigger piece of the pie. With the re-signing of Jason Snelling and the recovery from knee surgery of Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli, the backfield is not a major priority. However, the team has worked out Wilson. “I think he’s the fourth best back in this draft,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.

Others in need: Browns(4), Rams (6), Jaguars (7), Bengals (17), Texans (26) and Patriots (31).

Comment: “There are a number of underclassmen making it another solid class of running backs.”

–Scott Pioli, Kansas City general manager

Top 5 offensive linemen

Player                      Ht           Wt             School           Proj. Rd

1. Matt Kalil 6-6           306              USC                    1st

Comment: He’s considered a can’t-miss prospect at left tackle because of size, mobility and great footwork.

2. Riley Reiff 6-5            313              Iowa                   1st

Comment: He was a first-team all-Big Ten tackle last season.

3. Cordy Glenn 6-5           345            Georgia               1st

Comment: ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projects him as a guard, but he’ll get a shot at left tackle.

4. David DeCastro 6-4           314             Stanford              1st

Comment: He’s the top-rated guard and perhaps best interior lineman in the draft.

5. Jonathan Martin 6-5          312             Stanford              1st

Comment: He started 37 games over three seasons with the Cardinal, protecting quarterback Andrew Luck’s blindside.

Falcons need: The Falcons must improve their pass protection in order to successfully implement new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing attack. They want to run the ball more efficiently in short-yardage situations. They will likely take a tackle in case Sam Baker [back, elbow] does not return to good health. The rookie could provide depth and eventually compete for playing time with Baker and Will Svitek. California left tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been heavily scouted by the Falcons.

Others in need: Vikings (3rd overall pick), Jaguars (7), Bills (10), Cardinals (13), Bengals (17), Chargers (18), Lions (23), Steelers (24) and 49ers (30).

Comment: “It’s a little better on the interior, specifically at guard, which is [different from what] it has been in recent years. The tackles are still good. It’s just not as deep as it has been and center is not very deep.”

– Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager

Top 5 defensive backs

Player          Pos                 Ht     Wt       School       Proj. Rd

1. Morris Claiborne      CB    5-11  188       LSU             1st

Comment: Has a chance to be a lock-down corner. How does Claiborne Island sound?

2.  Mark Barron              SS          6-1       213       Alabama      1st

Comment: Could be headed to Dallas which can use some help at safety.

3. Janoris Jenkins        CB      5-10     193      North Alabama    2nd/3rd

Comment: His troubled past will not help his draft status.

4. Stephon Gilmore      CB     6-0        190     South Carolina        1st

Comment: The former Gamecock has nice size, range and speed.

5. Dre Kirkpatrick       CB         6-2        186        Alabama           1st

Comment: NFL Network’s Mike Mayock thinks he may eventually wind up a safety.

Falcons need: The pass defense gave up 236.6 yards, which ranked 20th in the league last season. The Falcons have worked out intriguing Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who can play corner, but has the size of a safety, which could help their nickel packages.

Others in need: Buccaneers (5), Dallas (14), Chicago (19), Bengals (21), Lions (23), New York Giants (32).

Comment: “You have Morris Claiborne from LSU; Stephon Gilmore, who is moving up, from South Carolina; Janoris Jenkins, who is the second best cornerback in this class, but likely will fall to the second round. Who knows? He could legitimately fall to the third.” — Todd McShay, ESPN draft analyst.

VIDEO Top 5 tight ends

Player                     Ht       Wt               School            Proj. Rd

1. Coby Fleener     6-6      247             Stanford             1st

Comment: The league is trending toward athletic and fast tight ends. He ran the 40-yard dash in a 4.5 seconds at his Pro Day.

2. Dwayne Allen    6-3        255            Clemson            2nd

Comment: His 48 receptions for 577 yards and eight touchdowns last season were school single-season records for a tight end.

3. Orson Charles    6-2        251            Georgia             2nd

Comment: His DUI arrest on March 9 and slow 40-yard dash time (4.75 seconds) hurt his status, according analysts.

4. Ladarius Green 6-5       238        Louisiana-Lafayette    2nd/3rd

Comment: He needs to add some weight, but is athletic.

5. Michael Egnew   6-5        252       Missouri                      3rd/4th

Comment: Made 26 starts and played in 51 games. Had 96 catches for 1,543 yards (16.1 yards per catch) and 18 touchdowns.

Falcons need: With future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez nearing the end of his career, the Falcons have heavily scouted the tight ends. They are intrigued with Green, who is raw but has the speed to stretch the field. The Falcons don’t have a pick in the fourth round so they may have to reach in the third round for a need position.

Others in need: Rams (6), Browns (22) and New York Giants (32).

Comment: “(The Falcons) would like to find someone, but the trouble this year is that there really isn’t a lot of depth at the tight end position. I’d be surprised if Coby Fleener is still around when they pick.”

Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly draft analyst.

VIDEO Top 5 wide receivers

Player                               Ht       Wt               School           Proj. Rd

1. Justin Blackmon      6-1        207        Oklahoma State        1st

Comment: He became the only two-time winner of the Fred Biletnikoff award winner last season. The award goes to the top receiver in the nation.

2. Michael Floyd           6-3         220            Notre Dame          1st

Comment: Needs to get stronger. Bench pressed 225 pounds just 16 times at the combine.

3. Stephen Hill               6-4          215           Georgia Tech         1st

Comment: He has blazing speed and outstanding leaping ability. Has good hands, but must concentrate to eliminate careless drops and develop as a route runner.

4. Kendall Wright        5-10          196            Baylor                 1st/2nd

Comment: Highly productive as he led the Bears in receiving for four consecutive seasons.

5. Rueben Randle            6-3           215            LSU                    1st/2nd

Comment: He caught 53 passes for 917 yards (17.3 per catch) and eight touchdowns last season.

Falcons need: After making the five-for-one trade with Cleveland last season to pick up Julio Jones and re-signing Harry Douglas this offseason, the Falcons are set at their top three spots. They could take a receiver late with return skills to replace former Pro Bowler Eric Weems.

Others in need: Browns(4), Rams (6), Jaguars (7), Bengals (17), Texans (26) and Patriots (31).

Comment: “There are a ton of options at wide receiver throughout the draft.”

Mel Kiper, ESPN draft analyst.

 

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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19 comments Add your comment

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Marcus

April 15th, 2012
3:52 pm

Line help should be paramount ….. best player remaining from the ranks of OL or DL should be our pick at No. 55.

Sam

April 15th, 2012
3:54 pm

Orson Charles or Brandon Boykin in the 3rd round to the Falcons sounds terrific to me.

Marcus

April 15th, 2012
3:54 pm

Our 3rd rounder should be BPA listed on our board. Might turn out to be another lineman.

Paddy

April 15th, 2012
4:08 pm

Great Info, thanks

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

D. Orlando Ledbetter

April 15th, 2012
4:32 pm

Paddy — You’re welcome Paddy!

Sid

April 15th, 2012
4:49 pm

“Dre Kirkpatrick was being called the second-best cornerback in the 2012 draft class for much of the past year, but his arrest in January for marijuana possession, combined with questions about his injury history and durability, have teams backing off a bit. In some circles, South Carolina corner Stephon Gilmore has moved ahead of Kirkpatrick.” reprinted without permission

Sid

April 15th, 2012
4:51 pm

“Heading into the NFL Combine, Michael Brockers was being placed anywhere from No. 9 overall to the Carolina Panthers to No. 25 overall to the Denver Broncos.

But frankly, his display at the NFL Combine was deplorable. He showed up way overweight, tied for last among defensive linemen in the bench press (19 reps) and ran an snail-like 40-yard dash (5.36 seconds).

Brockers has the length, size, strength and athleticism to be a difference-maker at the next level, but his combine performance raised many red flags for NFL teams.” – reprinted without permission

Sid

April 15th, 2012
4:53 pm

“Jonathan Martin was supposed to be an unquestioned top-15 pick heading into the combine, but he’s dropped dramatically since then for many draft experts.

It’s not that he’s not a first-round prospect—he has the ability to become a reliable starter. He has the length and athleticism to be a solid tackle.

However, there are questions about Martin’s strength, and even speed, at the next level. He only benched 20 reps at Stanford’s pro day and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.33 seconds. He’s a risk in that respect and some draft experts have him falling out of the Top 20.” – reprinted without permission

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

The Real Falcon

April 15th, 2012
5:23 pm

Looks like TE is not a bet in the second round round. Best available is what we have then.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

crabapplejoe

April 15th, 2012
8:14 pm

The Falcons need to watch Safety Harrison Smith of Notre Dame……generally regarded as one of the top two safeties in the draft he may fall to 55 due to his low melanin content. Many front offices will be afraid to take him due to fan backlash at a “protected position”. Think Wes Welker and the leagues inability to adequately evaluate and draft talent.

Black Mamba

April 15th, 2012
11:11 pm

George Iloka from Boise State would be nice…Yeremiah Bell in free agency would also be nice, restructure some contracts and make it happen.

Mike in TX

April 16th, 2012
12:45 am

Why do they need to draft another WR? They have the top 3 filled and have HD, Franks, and Rodgers who have experience on special teams. Nice try though, but you did get to sneak in another player’s name from the home state (Hill).

D. Orlando Ledbetter

April 16th, 2012
7:55 am

Black Mamba – Are you going to be getting ready for the playoffs? I think Bell is a straight-liner and TD doesn’t like straight-liners. He’ll hit you and I like that.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]