Thomas Dimitroff did what most experts and fans alike thought he would when he went heavy on the defensive side of the ball in the 2009 NFL Draft. However, many may not have thought he would spend 7 out of 8 draft picks on defense. Some may have considered last year’s draft a bust, when both 1st round pick Peria Jerry and 2nd round pick William Moore went down with season-ending injuries. Injuries certainly can’t be helped, but Dimitroff had to know that both were big injury risks and the gamble came up short when the two went down for the year. Jerry was playing well when he got injured in the second game, but Moore is still a complete unknown in the NFL.
Dimitroff saw some redemption in the latter part of the class when several players stepped up big, particularly at the end of the year. Chris Owens finally got a chance to start at cornerback and had a pretty outstanding year considering the amount of time he got to play and being a third round draft pick. He got burned a couple of times, but he looks to possibly be the starting cornerback for the Falcons for a while. Lawrence Sidbury Jr. played spot duty, but showed enough flashes to warrant a look at a starting position, even coming away with a sack and a touchdown. Garrett Reynolds got some snaps during the year, but not sure whether he’s starting material or not. Spencer Adkins played on special teams and made the roster outright over then 5th round pick Robert James. The steal of the draft may have been when TD selected local Georgia Tech product Vance Walker. Walker may not have had amazing stats, only racking up 13 tackles, but he started the last couple of games and played extremely well. Will the GM go defense heavy again? A look at some prospects on Saturday:
After being ranked among the worst passing defenses in the NFL, the cornerback position was the highest need looking forward to the draft, but the strong play of Chris Owens and Brent Grimes at the end of the year allayed many fears. Some believe that they may even be the starting corners come this September.
Patrick Robinson – Florida State; 5’11/189/4.45 Forty Time; Strengths:
Outstanding athlete — Excellent speed and acceleration — Quick and agile — Super fluid hips and transitions well — Terrific feet — Closes in a hurry and has a burst to recover; Weaknesses:
Inconsistent — Concentration will wane — Questionable instincts and awareness — Is too aggressive at times — Not a violent hitter; Projected 1st Rounder
Perrish Cox – Oklahoma State; 6’0/198/4.45 Forty-Time; Perrish Cox is much more than a cornerback, but his ability to be a shutdown corner has him moving quickly up most draft boards. In 2009, Cox has become more of an impact player on defense, ranking fourth on the team in tackles and intercepting four passes through ten games. While Cox is a serviceable corner who can be a nickel or dime back in the NFL, it is his ability to return kicks and punts that make him worth a second or third round selection. (fftoolbox.com)
Jerome Murphy – South Florida; 6’1/185/4.5 Forty-Time; Murphy is shooting up most draft boards after finishing off his senior season with 77 tackles, four interceptions and a team high eight pass breakups. However, with players like Donovan Warren out of Michigan heading to the NFL early, Murphy is still probably a third round draft pick. If he can separate himself from the pack leading up to draft day, he could sneak into the second round (but he could just as easily fall back to the fourth round). (fftoolbox.com)
Brandon Ghee – Wake Forest; 6’0/190/4.45; Ghee will not be one of the first corners off the board, but he could turn into a solid cornerback in the NFL in time. Unless he has a great senior week and a nice showing at the NFL Combine, Ghee will likely be a mid-round selection. (fftoolbox.com)
Many believe this may very well be the first round selection for the Falcons this year, and rightly so. While Lofton is one of the best in the biz, Nicholas had a good first year, and Peterson was a likely upgrade, a paltry 4 sacks from the linebacking corps combined won’t cut it. Peterson will be 34 years old this season.
Sean Weatherspoon – Missouri; 6’0/241/4.6; Strengths: Good size and bulk — Very athletic — Great speed — Has a burst and really closes in a hurry — Quick and agile — Solid instincts — Reliable tackler and a powerful hitter—Capable pass rusher and blitzer; Weaknesses: There isn’t a lot of violence in his game — Has some trouble taking on and shedding blockers — Can use his hands better (draftcountdown.com)
A.J. Edds – Iowa; 6’4/245/4.7 Forty-Time; A.J. Edds is yet another solid all around player from the University of Iowa. Like many that come out of the school, Edds doesn’t do anything that jumps out at you on film, but you just don’t see him making mistakes. A.J. Edds’ draft stock will rely heavily on the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. As of now, Edds is likely a fifth round pick, but a solid offseason could change that drastically. (fftoolbox.com)
Eric Norwood – South Carolina; 6’1/252/4.7; Strengths: Good bulk with a stout frame — Strong and powerful — Outstanding blitzer / pass rusher — Good tackler — Nice range — Does a great job in pursuit — Plays with terrific leverage; Weaknesses: Shorter than you’d prefer — Average athleticism — Is not overly quick or fast — Does not match up well in coverage
Roddrick Muckleroy – Texas; 6’2/235/4.7 Forty-Time; 6-2 and 235 pounds, Muckelroy still projects to the NFL as an outside linebacker, but his versatility is becoming a big plus. He may not be the fastest or the strongest linebacker in the draft, but he simply makes plays and knows how to win. On a team that boasts plenty of NFL talent, it is Muckelroy who is emerging as the team’s leader on defense and that says a lot about his character.
This is a very interesting position to examine this year in the off-season. John Abraham had a less than stellar campaign after his Pro Bowl worthy 16.5 sack year in 2008. Seemingly, the Jamaal Anderson at defensive end experiment is over, sensing a permanent move to defensive tackle, clearing a path for either Kroy Biermann or Lawrence Sidbury Jr. to take the starting spot. Or do the Falcons go for a top-flight defensive end? Even though this class is not stocked.
Brandon Graham – Michigan; 6’3/260/4.75; Strengths: Good bulk — Aggressive with a non-stop motor — Very strong and powerful — Tough and physical — Does a great job in pursuit — Good tackler — Plays with excellent leverage Weaknesses: Doesn’t have the ideal height you look for — Short arms — Frame may be maxed out — Not a great athlete — Average speed, quickness and agility (draftcountdown.com)
Brandon Lang – Troy; 6’4/256/4.85 Forty-Time; Strengths: Terrific athlete — Has a rangy frame with long arms — Explosive with a burst — Plays faster than he times — Can bend off the edge and get around the corner — Does a great job in pursuit — Covers a lot of ground; Weaknesses: Doesn’t have the ideal bulk you look for — Needs to get stronger — An inconsistent tackler — Questionable instincts and awareness — Isn’t overly sudden off the snap–Not stout at the point of attack
Likely will not pull the trigger on defensive tackles in the first round two years in a row, particularly with the advent of Vance Walker, Peria Jerry returning from injury, Babineaux locked into a long contract, and Jamaal Anderson’s likely move to defensive tackle. A big run stuffer in the later rounds might fit the bill.
Jeff Owens – Georgia; 6’3/304/5.0 Forty-Time; Owens had a slow start to the week but put it together on the money day of the Senior Bowl. He was explosive on Wednesday, showing spectacular speed off the line and consistently breaking double-team blocks. Owens gave scouts something to think about after what was a disappointing final season at Georgia. (si.com)
Cam Thomas – North Carolina; 6’4/331/5.1 Forty-Time; While the numbers may not be eye popping, Thomas is an experienced defensive tackle who has a great size. Most opposing offensive linemen have a difficult time moving his 6-3, 330 pound frame and that makes it very difficult to run against Thomas. Despite being so large, Thomas is surprisingly athletic and has good footwork. If he can learn to stay low at the point of attack, Thomas has all the tools to be a solid tackle at the next level. (fftoolbox.com)
Even though its an all-star game of sorts, this one can be a lot of fun to watch for several reasons. It issues in the official start to the NFL off-season and will go a long way to helping fans identify some players they may not be familiar with. Secondly, it helps give a barometer to which players may be on the rise and which ones take a slide towards the Scouting Combine in less than a month. Finally, its football, so you better enjoy it while it still lasts.