The Atlanta Falcons’ first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft is not until the second round. CineSport’s Noah Coslov and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter discuss their draft plans.
FLOWERY BRANCH – Despite some cyberspace angst from the fan-base, Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff contended that franchise has been rather active this offseason leading into the draft.
He noted that the team has made 15 moves.
“We’ve been aggressive as far as taking care of what we needed to take care of, keeping our core together,” Dimitroff said. The team is now focused on the draft, which is set for Thursday through Saturday in New York.
Here’s a position-by-position look at the team’s needs:
Quarterback: The Falcons re-signed Chris Redman to serve as Matt Ryan’s backup. Redman turns 35 in July and John Parker Wilson did not play well during the last exhibition season. The Falcons could take a quarterback in the seventh round to come in to challenge Wilson and be in line to replace Redman down the road. Tennessee-Chattanooga’ B.J. Coleman and Southern Mississippi’s Austin Davis are prospective late-round candidates.
Running back: 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 Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. “I think he’s the fourth best back in this draft,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.
Tight end: 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 Louisiana-Lafayette’s LaDarius Green and Cincinnati’s Adrien Robinson.
Wide receiver: 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, who signed with Chicago in free agency.
Offensive line: 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. Also, small-school guard Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State is a possibility.
Defensive line: The Falcons re-signed defensive ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann in free agency. Abraham turns 34 on May 6 and Biermann has just 5.5 sacks over the past two seasons after getting five in 2009. Ray Edwards had 3.5 sacks last season, his lowest output since his rookie season in 2006. The Falcons could take a defensive end in the second round and they’ve been looking at some heftier nose tackles as they’ll likely play more three-man fronts under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Linebacker: Curtis Lofton, who led the team in tackles in each of last three seasons, signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Akeem Dent, a third-round pick last season, will compete with free agent signee Lofa Tatupu to replace him. Dent starred on special teams last season, while Tatupu, a former three-time Pro Bowler, did not play. Sean Weatherspoon, who appears headed for Pro Bowl status, and Stephen Nicholas return. They could add another linebacker, with pass rushing skills, for depth.
Defensive back: 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. They re-signed safety Thomas DeCoud, but lost some depth when cornerback Kelvin Hayden (Chicago) and safety James Sanders (Arizona) left in free agency.
Special teams: 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.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog