Although the NFL Draft is still a good little piece in the future (63 Days-19 Hours, but no one’s counting), General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Company are hard at work organizing their draft boards getting ready for the NFL Scouting Combine next week. Before TD & Co. started worrying about free agents and college players, they surely spent a long while assessing what the biggest needs are for the team as a whole with Coach Mike Smith and the rest of the assistants. As we move into the Scouting Combine, Free Agency, and the Draft, sculpting your draft boards based on which positions are the biggest needs will help to get your free agency targets and your multiple mock drafts rolling towards April. Some great debates and discussions have already taken place in the Cage, and they only look to heat up as we move closer to the big day in April. Use your arguments, stats, available free agents, and upcoming draft class to assist in your ventures.
The Falcons look to have at least 8 draft picks come April, 5 of their own and 3 likely compensatory picks.
Compensatory formula from Wikipedia.com (not the most reliable, but free and close enough)…..
Teams that gain and lose the same number of players but lose higher-valued players than they gain also can be awarded a pick, but only in the seventh round, after the other compensatory picks. Compensatory picks cannot be traded, and the placement of the picks is determined by a proprietary formula based on the player’s salary, playing time, and postseason honors with his new team, with salary being the primary factor. So, for example, a team that lost a linebacker who signed for $2.5 million per year in free agency might get a sixth-round compensatory pick, while a team that lost a wide receiver who signed for $5 million per year might receive a fourth-round pick.
Also check out a good rundown by FalconFan13 from Life.AtlantaFalcons.com (second post)
Dominique Foxworth will likely net a 4th round pick
Michael Boley will probably bring a 5th round pick
Grady Jackson will likely replace the 7th round pick we traded to St. Louis
Mike Peterson and Keith Brooking will probably cancel each other out
Atlanta Falcons Potential Draft
4th Rd (Compensatory Pick)
5th Rd (Compensatory Pick)
7th Rd (Compensatory Pick)
My weak attempt
1) Outside Linebacker – Going to dig the heels in on this one for the long haul. The Falcons do have other issues abound, but this is the highest need on the roster with the outside backers being overlooked in both Dimitroff’s drafts (Robert James, 5th rd, has been on and off the practice squad and Spencer Adkins, 6th rd, does have potential, but is still too raw to start on day one). Stephen Nicholas showed good promise in his first year as a full-time starter, but needs some help. Mike Peterson started strong, but faded down the stretch, added no QB pressure (1 sack), and struggled in the run game. He is in the last year of his contract, but is a great locker room guy and leader. Could mentor his replacement. Sean Weatherspoon or Sergio Kindle would add immediate playmaking ability to the LB corps and pair with Lofton and Nicholas for many, many years.
2) Cornerback – Many of our O-Line first members will likely throw their computers through the TV after not listing the offensive line first or second, and its completely understandable, but this will be a great place for TD to find a potential cornerback of the future. He mined Chris Owens in this round and not many had ever heard of him. He looks to possibly be a long-term answer at one of the cornerback spots. Owens and Brent Grimes performed well down the stretch after cementing their starting roles. Chris Houston, Chevis Jackson, and Tye Hill should all benefit from new CB coach Tim Lewis, and Brian Williams was excellent before getting injured. He drafted Owens, but also Asante Samuel in the 4th round as well. Keep an eye on Donavan Warren (Michigan), Myron Lewis (Vanderbilt), Jerome Murphy (South Florida), or Chris Cook (Virginia) around here.
4) Wide Receiver – This position has gone from a big strength to one of the weakest in a short time. Roddy White is a two-time Pro Bowler and that’s where it stops. Harry Douglas was a sensation as a rookie, but went down in training camp and is coming back from a tough knee injury. Michael Jenkins good but too inconsistent as a #2 receiver. Brian Finneran is a fan favorite, but is 33 and has had knee injuries in 3 out of the last 4 years. Eric Weems started strong and had high hopes, but faded quickly. Seriously doubt Marty Booker is re-signed. Troy Bergeron has never made it onto the field in a game. Time to upgrade wideout and this is the year to do it. Tons of talent abound in this year’s group: Eric Decker (Minnesota), Jordan Shipley (Texas), Riley Cooper (Florida), Jacoby Ford (Clemson), Demaryius Thomas (GT – rumored to break his foot), Jeremy Williams (Tulane), and Danario Alexander (Missouri) are all extremely talented and at least some will drop down to the Birds.
5) Defensive End – Obviously, the Falcons need some more production at the defensive end position, but several factors come into play this year. John Abraham surely had a big drop-off in sacks from 2008 (16.5) to 2009 (6.5), but he played well in terms of other parts of his game (QB Hits, QB Pressures, Run Stoppage). He’s signed through 2011, not 2010, as many believe, so he deserves more chances to shine again. Kroy Biermann went from 2 sacks as a rookie to 5 sacks in his second year, and should be given a chance to win the job. Lawrence Sidbury Jr. showed major flashes of his enormous upside. Chauncey Davis is an extremely versatile and solid backup. Much like the offensive line, this one gets a deference for another year to see what the Falcons have in their younger DE’s. Tucker High product Brandon Lang (Troy) may slip and keep an eye on CJ Wilson (East Carolina), Austen Lane (Murray State), and George Selvie (South Florida).
6) Tight End – Tony Gonzalez is likely either in the last year of his contract or next to last year. He’s coming back for one more year for sure, but after that is borrowed time. Justin Peele has shown upside, but he’s also over the age of 30 and would be a stop-gap if nothing else. Keith Zinger is nothing more than a backup at this point, but does add depth. Won’t find immediate impact here, but don’t have to and let a project learn from the best TE to ever play the game. Could Colin Peek (Alabama) slip? Or check out Andrew Quarless (Penn State), or Dedrick Epps (Miami).
7) Defensive Tackle – Seemingly could go much earlier with this pick for major depth and competition, but this actually might be one of the deepest positions on the team. Babineaux will serve a suspension, but was one of the best DT’s in the NFL last year. Peria Jerry should return to full health after an early injury. Jamaal Anderson may have finally found his calling at D-Tackle and could turn into a Richard Seymour type of DT. Vance Walker had an excellent rookie year in limited time. Thomas Johnson came on strong and filled in nicely, even starting many times. Trey Lewis could get back to form after slowly rehabbing two injury riddled years. Could add a big bodied DT late like Kade Weston (UGA), Linval Joseph (East Carolina), or Demarcus Granger (Oklahoma) to compete with Lewis and Johnson for the final spot. TD found great pick with Vance Walker in the 7th round last draft.
8] Wide Receiver/Running Back – Call it crazy, but this could a good chance to take a flier on a speed running back or another wide receiver to add to the mix. Running back may not be as bad off as some thought. Turner obviously is the franchise back, Snelling is a great number 2, and signs point to TD wanting to possibly bring back Norwood. Due restricted free agent status to Norwood, if any team wanted him, they would have to part with a draft pick and the Birds could use that to snag a speed back. Many believe Antone Smith may be a huge steal after being signed to the practice squad. Keep an eye on Michael Smith (Arkansas), Andre Dixon (UConn), and Lonyae Miller (Fresno State). At WR, maybe Freddie Barnes (Bowling Green), Kelton Tindal (Newberry), Pat Simonds (Colgate), or Chris Bell (Norfolk State). As the Saints and Colts showed, you can never have too many playmakers.
Quarterback – Re-sign Redman and ready to go same as last year.
Kicker – Too many solid kickers out there to take and develop. Re-up Matt Bryant for short term.
Safety – Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, and Erik Coleman can form one of the best Safety trios around.
Alright Cagers…..YOUR TURN! Fire away at my Needs-Based Draft Board and develop your own in getting ready for the sprint from the NFL Scouting Combine, Free Agency, to the NFL Draft.