The Senior Bowl was fun to watch and provided a good glimpse at a number of players that may can make an impact for teams when the draft rolls around in April. Teams and fans alike will be looking for the obvious picks in the first round, but as the past has shown, drafting a player in the first round is anything but a lock, and many of the best players come later than the first round. The Falcons have a number of needs to address when the 2010 NFL Draft arrives. Some of the positions need immediate attention (OLB and CB) and some will need addressing very soon (TE and OL).
One of the most enjoyable things for fans to do as the off-season hits is to discuss what their biggest needs are to improve for the new season. Some of the needs are obvious, but its extremely interesting to see how often fans disagree on what the most pressing needs are, and for the Falcons, there’s even more scrutiny due to not having a second round draft pick. Several players showed flashes at the Senior Bowl and are likely on the Falcons radar:
The Falcons likely will add a cornerback in this year’s draft, but it’s a matter of when. Joe Haden, Florida, is widely accepted as the consensus number one cornerback and will likely be long gone by the time the Falcons select at #19. There seems to be a decent drop-off with the cornerbacks in the next group:
Patrick Robinson (Florida St) – Overall had a pretty good game. Definitely has skills on the perimeter. Showed good closing speed and athleticism. Made several sure tackles in space. A knock on him from draft experts was him taking plays off, one of which he was burnt down the sidelines by WR Mardy Gilyard. He also showed an ability to turn on the ball (already have a CB that has that issue; thanks JJ). Also had a crucial illegal hands penalty in the red zone.
Perrish Cox (Oklahoma St.) – Had a pretty decent day, but nothing outstanding. Showed some nice toughness and good ability in supporting the run. Players couldn’t play press coverage, which might be his strength due to his size. Had a few nice kick returns as well. Dismissed from the Cotton Bowl, so character might be an issue.
Kyle Wilson (Boise St.) – Was the big riser and the hot prospect during the Senior Bowl practices. Had a few nice plays on the ball, but nothing outstanding. Could be the victim of seriously raised expectations. Noticably dropped an easy interception. Not sure he’s a first round talent.
Senior Bowl Conclusion: It’s impossible to take too much away from one game, particularly an all-star game, but based on Saturday’s performance, no cornerback seemed worthy of a first round pick, at least not at #19.
Stephen Nicholas had a pretty good first year as a full-time starter, and Mike Peterson played good in coverage and was stout against the run, but he’s turning 34 this year. Peterson was always believed to be just a stop-gap and the Falcons have to get younger and more athletic at OLB:
Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri) – Had a pretty outstanding game. Showed why so many fans think the ‘Spoon might be the Falcons pick come April. Weatherspoon had excellent agility, nice speed and range, great coverage skills, and delivered some very big hits. Played mostly outside linebacker, but was lined up inside linebacker as well. In addition to his playing, he had energy and passion on and off the field. Is thought of as an excellent character and potential leader. Some draft experts think a 1st round pick would be a reach.
Roddrick Muckleroy (Texas) – Didn’t do anything fantastic or stick out very much in the game. Sergio Kindle is getting the most hype out of Texas, but many thought Muckleroy could rise up to the second round with a good combine and Senior Bowl, but didn’t stand out. Could be an option for the Falcons if they pass on OLB in the first.
Eric Norwood (South Carolina) – One of the best players to ever come through the University of South Carolina. Like Muckleroy, didn’t have a great day. One of the knocks on him is his lack of foot speed, and he did look slow at times, but whoever nabs this guys will get a steal, whenever he goes. Definitely an option if the Falcons pass on OLB first.
Taylor Mays (USC) – Yes, he is a safety, but he could easily slip down into a linebacker slot with his weight, aggressiveness, and coverage skills. Most teams will likely keep him at safety, but its definitely a possibility if the Falcons so desired. (Thanks WR)
Conclusion: Weatherspoon proved that he will bring energy and athleticism to whatever team drafts him. Question is whether he will be rated as a first or second round talent. Based on the game, likely that either Norwood or Muckleroy will slip to the third round.
The Falcons spent their first round pick on Peria Jerry last year, have Jonathan Babineaux inked for a big contract, and developed 7th round pick Vance Walker into a legit NFL defensive tackle. Throw in Jamaal Anderson and you get the feeling if the Falcons spend any pick on D-Tackle, than it will be late.
Terrance Cody (Alabama) – Thought of as a first round talent in the middle of the college year, but his stock has seemingly dropped. His weight is obviously an issue, but he showed up looking out of shape at the weigh in. Will have to lose weight to improve his draft standing and be a legit 4 down player.
Jeff Owens (Georgia) – Came out of the Senior Bowl as a big riser that helped himself a lot. After a fairly mediocre season at UGA, Owens was thought to be slipping to the second or even third round. Was hoping for an invite to NFL Scouting Combine and likely earned one. Could have possibly been around for the Falcons to select later in the draft for depth, but likely moved out of that range with his performance.
Cam Thomas (North Carolina) – Showed good agility for a big man (330+ lbs). Drew double teams throughout the game and still made plays. Very good feet for large defensive tackle. Good strength and power. Possibly a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense, rather than the Falcons 4-3.
Conclusion: The Falcons might be looking for a big body to challenge Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis for roster spot and Cam Thomas might fit that bill very well, if he’s available.
The Falcons will likely be picking up a receiver at some point to add to their depth. Michael Jenkins inconsistent play combined with injuries to Brian Finneran and Harry Douglas would seemingly prompt the Birds to take a WR
Riley Cooper (Florida) – One of the hot prospects of the week with his route running, speed, and size, but had a less than stellar game. Most of which probably had to do with the inconsistent play from the South’s quarterbacks. Had a big drop on the very first series that hit him right in the hands.
Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati) – Already thought to be one of the top wide receiver prospects, Gilyard had a big day and was good enough to gain MVP honors, if not for Brandon Graham. Had over 100 yards receiving and showed good speed on the perimeter and soft hands. Proved to have good leaping ability in being able to locate the ball. Likely way out of when the Falcons would select a wideout.
Jacoby Ford (Clemson) – Speed demon that may not have had a huge day, but showed his versatility in taking reverses, wide receiver screens, and had some nice returns as well. Will likely make a very good slot receiver and special teams threat for whatever team selects him.
Andre Roberts (The Citadel) – The all-time leading receiver for The Citadel showed that his size is not an issue by going up for the ball over the middle and snagging a pass very nicely in traffic. Was the South’s second leading receiver and probably raised his stock some.
Jeremy Williams (Tulane) – A candidate for Breakout Player of the Senior Bowl, according to The Bleacher Report. A receiver who was relatively unknown coming out of Tulane that has nice size (6’1, 205) and had a good game making several nice catch and runs. Led the South with 83 yards receiving and even had a very nice run of 27 yards on a reverse. Two knee injuries in his career will scare away many, but he has talent.
Conclusion: At least from the Senior Bowl, the Falcons appear to be in a very good position to add a wide receiver. Depending on what the Falcons will be looking for, a speedy slot receiver or big possession receiver, there appears to be a plethora of talent at wideout.
Javier Arenas (Alabama) – Many fans may want to throw their computer across the room on this one, because the last thing the Falcons need is another vertically challenged cornerback (Arenas is 5’9). But Arenas has proven that he can play with the best, is extremely talented and tough, great in run support and is an absolute sensation on special teams, as he proved in the Senior Bowl.
Brandon Graham (Michigan) – Came in under the radar, had an excellent week of practice, and an even better Senior Bowl. Was absolutely dominant in the game, totaling 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Beat the best Tackles on display and probably raised himself into the first round, but many teams are eyeing him for a possible 3-4 OLB. Do the Falcons use a pick on a DE?