The 2010 NFL Draft is finally within a distance that is manageable (under the 30 mark; 27 days to be exact) and the anticipation is really starting to build. Besides a couple of potential trades, all that’s left is private workouts and speculation. The Falcons can go in any number of directions as the Big Day draws closer. Some of the most obvious needs include outside linebacker and offensive line, but the defensive end spot is the position that draws the most interest.
Taking Thomas Dimitroff and Coach Mike Smith purely on their word, it seems that defensive end is not a need and might not be a part of the equation as the draft rolls around. Coach Smith talked about Jamaal Anderson making “great strides” at the defensive end position. Yes, he was being serious. Anderson can and does add great value to the team and defensive line, but at the defensive tackle position, not at End. The stats are pretty well known on drafting first round defensive ends and their ensuing rookie years. There’s a possibility of snagging the next Dwight Freeney, but for every Julius Peppers, there’s twice as many Michael Haynes’, Jerome McDougal’s, and Derrick Harvey’s. With that being said, Falcons Full Mock Madness 2.0 crashes that theory.
Remember to have fun with the mocks as we approach Draft Day. The Falcons mocks leading up to the draft won’t necessarily be what the Birds will do on April 22nd, but can be a wishlist of sorts as you play Falcons GM. Prepare your best combinations for the final submission of the 2nd Annual Bird Cage Falcons Mock Draft Competition.
The return on drafting defensive ends in the first round has been well-documented and the misses are much higher than the future Pro Bowl successes. 1st round defensive ends certainly can develop into solid to great players, but they usually have one of the deepest learning curves of any position. Since 2002, 71% of rookie defensive ends had less than 5 sacks and 58% of rookie D-Ends had 2 sacks or less. Brandon Graham has the massive potential to break the mold. His production in college is unmatched. Collaring almost 30 sacks over 3 years is impressive enough, but his tackles for a loss may be even more imposing, with almost 60 in 3 years and 26 in his senior season. Graham’s measurables match up almost exactly with Dwight Freeney’s. His quickness, strength, and non-stop motor will add the much needed pass rush heavily needed and desired by the Falcons top brass and fans alike. Adding Graham to the young and promising mix of Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury Jr. gives the Falcons a lot of explosiveness in rushing the passer as well as providing excellent insurance for Abraham as he enters the last two years of his contract. The Falcons strike the right pick on defensive end this time.
The Falcons made a strategic splash in free agency with the signing of the best free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson, thus eliminating the glaring need to draft a cornerback with their first pick. They promptly traded Chris Houston to the Lions, for very little evidently, and then they promptly cut Tye Hill soon after. The Falcons still have a need to stock their cornerback roster with talent, height, and playmaking ability, but they also have a glaring need in special teams. Owusu-Ansah, or AOA as he’s referred to sometimes, adds both. AOA adds height (6’0), excellent size (207), and superb speed (4.32 forty time) at cornerback. Had 10 interceptions in two seasons, including 2 returns for touchdowns. AOA is very aggressive in the run game and can flourish in a zone system. Of all things mentioned above, Owusu-Ansah adds an amazing threat on special teams, one of the most glaring needs for the Falcons. Eric Weems showed some promise early on returning kickoffs and punts, but quickly faded. One of Owusu-Ansah’s greatest strengths is his special team prowess, ranking 10th in the nation in kickoff return average and 15th in punt return average. AOA also took four punts back for touchdowns and 3 kickoffs to the endzone in his career. Many may disagree with a CB pick so early after the Robinson signing, but the Falcons have only 5 cornerbacks on the roster and one is coming back from major knee injury. Owusu-Ansah adds the size, speed, and special teams ability the Falcons desperately desire.
The argument has been made many times that wide receiver is absolutely one of the biggest areas to upgrade this off-season. Roddy White is one of the best in the business at wide receiver, but the injury to Harry Douglas exposed how thin the wide receiving corps actually was. Thomas Dimitroff felt so good about the receiving corps depth that he traded Laurent Robinson to the Rams to swap picks in the 5th round. Robinson showed major flashes as a rookie, but proved to be injury-prone. A decision that looks better since Robinson was injured for the year again in St.Louis, but the depth became a serious issue. Michael Jenkins can be a legitimate part of the team, but he needs some serious competition. Eric Decker may very well not be around by this time in the draft, but if he is the Falcons should run to the podium. Decker had superb productivity in college with over career receptions, 24 TDs, and over 3,000 yards receiving including a shortened senior year. Decker has magnificent size (6’3, 217) and speed (4.54) to complement his terrific route running ability. He has no problem lining up anywhere on the field and finds ways of getting open. Can come in and add speed, size, and hands to a much maligned receiving roster, in addition to pushing Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas for the number 2 or slot receiver positions. Carlton Mitchell also a strong candidate.
This might seem like the craziest pick of all in the draft. If the Falcons biggest need is outside linebacker, why in Hades would they wait until the 4th round? The argument goes something like this: if the Birds elect to not go outside linebacker with their first pick or don’t trade down in the first or second round, then value has to be become the main issue. Outside of Sean Weatherspoon and Daryl Washington, the draft doesn’t feature many true 4-3 linebackers, particularly LBs on the weakside that need good coverage skills. Players like Thaddeus Gibson and Jason Worilds project as a outside rusher in the 3-4 and a prospect like Eric Norwood is a fantastic player but might be more suited to a strongside linebacker or even a rush specialist defensive end. Navorro Bowman certainly might be a possibility around this time, but he’ll likely be gone. Dekoda Watson might not come in and replace Mike Peterson, but his upside is tremendous. He has good size (6’1, 240) and speed (4.55) that projects extremely well to the WLB position. He is fluid in coverage and a terrifically reliable tackler. The biggest bonus comes with his potential playmaking ability in rushing the passer where Watson had 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Watson would likely need time to grow into the position but his talent is off the charts and could turn into a magnificent weakside linebacker for the Falcons and add a much needed fire to the pass rush.
The rockets will be headed my way after waiting until the 5th round to add a much needed dose of depth to the offensive line, but hear out the argument. Even though Thomas Dimitroff will have his work seriously cut out for him this upcoming season with so many issues on the offensive line. Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock, and Quinn Ojinnaka will be due to become unrestricted free agents after this season. Add to the fact that Todd McClure is potentially on the verge of retirement and you get the feeling that TD needs to draft 4 offensive lineman this April. With all the bad news, TD actually still holds the cards to some extent. Dimitroff has one more year to see who is worth re-upping. TD might feel that Clabo and Dahl are both worthy of contracts and re-up them for their current positions, or he may elect to re-up them and shift the line around a bit such as moving Clabo to guard and inserting Garrett Reynolds at right tackle. The O-Line had a lot of injuries last year and felt some growing pains against a tougher schedule, but they’ll likely get another year to prove themselves. Adding some versatility and depth can be a great addition in developing them the way they are with Garrett Reynolds. Ciron Black adds excellent mobility in being able to play both tackle and guard. Black has a huge frame 6’4, 327 and is mauler in the run game. He was good enough in pass protection to play for LSU in the SEC and can add good pass blocking at guard. This is a risk in waiting so long to take an OL for sure, but its hard to imagine the current line not getting one more year to prove themselves.
This was the toughest of all the positions to rationalize in taking so late. Tony Gonzalez is at the end of his career and Justin Peele may be a stop gap, but little more. The Falcons can surely go TE a lot earlier, but good value can be found here with Peek. There are other prospects that have more upside in the passing game, but they have to block first in Mularkey’s scheme. Peek is a reliable, very well-rounded tight end. His blocking skills were honed in the rough and tumble SEC paving the way for Alabama’s national title run. Peek is athletic enough to find the soft spots and stretch the field enough for the Falcons needs. He showed great ability in having a big game against the extremely athletic Florida in the SEC Championship Game and also had an excellent Senior Bowl in catching a long TD pass. Peek has very good size at 6’5, 252 and is not a burner, but is an excellent pass-catching in a run first, play-action offense.
Waiting this late to take a defensive tackle is assuming that the Falcons plan on going with a DT rotation of Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, Thomas Johnson, and Jamaal Anderson. The defensive tackles played very well in the run game, but needs improvement in rushing the passer. Peters was a very disruptive force in the run game totaling 12 tackles for a loss and even notching 4 sacks. Peters played in SEC and goes right in line with the type of defensive tackle that Coach Smith desires. Peters could be last years Vance Walker.
The popular choice would be to add another offensive lineman, and that’s completely understandable. The fact still remains that the Falcons aerial arsenal looks to be one of the weakest positions in terms of depth. They tried going the right of undrafted free agents last year and not one of those receivers even made the practice squad. The two names that need repeating are Marty Booker and Robert Fegurson. Those two names were being bandied about around mid-August as legitimate receiver prospects for the Falcons. Booker even became the Birds number 3 receiver after Brian Finneran fell to another injury. Barnes broke the record for number of receptions in a year. One of the most sure handed receivers in the draft. Could be a fantastic addition as a #5 receiver being able to catch anything thrown his way. After seeing the drops of the past few years, the Birds can use another sure handed, tough receiver that has an inspired work ethic and will come in with a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked.
So there it is Cagers. Fire away at will and find the holes in the Falcons Full Mock Madness 2.0. Work out your own Mock 2.0 and feel free to change some things from the first just to see what might give a better combination. And have fun with it!
-Give your Falcons Full Mock Madness 2.0
-Is DE off the Falcons radar?
-Can the Birds afford to wait for an OLB?
-How many OL should the Falcons draft, and when?