Falcons OLB Draft Targets

Mid Round OLB Prospects

The two biggest positions the Falcons appear to be locking on for their #19 overall pick are outside linebackers and defensive ends. The Falcons have seemed to lock in on Sean Weatherspoon at Outside Linebacker and Brandon Graham at Defensive End. The Birds have had Weatherspoon in for two official visits and it was recently confirmed that the Falcons had Brandon Graham in for an official visit as well, even though that one was much more discreet. It’s almost a certainty that the Falcons will select an OLB at some point, but the same can’t be said of DE. Its impossible to know Thomas Dimitroff and Co.’s draft strategy since fans aren’t privy to information and how they truly feel about the players on their current roster, particularly on defensive end. Regardless of who the Falcons draft first, they most likely will be looking heavily at OLB’s if they pass on them in the first round.

Rounds slotted per NFLDraftScout.com’s rankings, special them and DraftCountdown.com for their superb draft analysis and projections.

*Linebackers Koa Misi and Daryl Washington projected to go in the second round

3rd Round

Eric Norwood – 6’1 – 242 – South Carolina

4.71 40 Time – Bench Reps N/A – 11.5 Tackles for Loss – 7 Sacks – 2 INTs

Norwood can be a big potential steal for some team ready to take a chance on one of the most productive players to wear a South Carolina uniform. Some believe he may be gone in the second round, but others believe that his game will be limited to a pass-rushing specialist. Norwood knows how to get to the QB and doesn’t have the eye-popping measureables, but finds a way to make plays. May be best suited for a strongside linebacker or even defensive end position. Has some limits in pass coverage. Voted first team All-American as a Senior at USC.

Thaddeus Gibson – 6’2 – 243 – Ohio State

4.78 Forty Time – 32 Bench Reps – 13 Tackles for Loss – 4 Sacks – 1 INT

ibson played defensive end in college and most likely will fit better in a 3-4 system as an outside linebacker instead of a 4-3 OLB. His college production wasn’t off the charts, but represents a lot of potential since he is such a good athlete. Probably wouldn’t be an ideal fit, but if the Falcons think he has the capability to make the transition, then the Falcons could possibly make the pick.

Jason Worilds – 6’1 – 254 – Virginia Tech

4.65 Forty Time – 24 Bench Reps – 11 Tackles for Loss – 4.5 Sacks

Worilds also played defensive end in college and, like Gibson, likely projects to a 3-4 OLB and some sites even have him slotted to play defensive end at the next level. Very good speed and above average strength. Has shown some skill in dropping into coverage, even though he was a defensive end. Lacks ideal size to project to the next level and makes more sense as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 strongside LB at the minimum.

Navorro Bowman – 6’1 – 242 – Penn State

4.70 Forty Time – 26 Bench Reps – 17 Tackles for Loss – 3 Sacks – 2 INTs

Bowman represents immense potential and had very good college production at Penn State. Some draft experts even had Bowman slotted to go in the first round, but character concerns may cause him to drop when draft day comes. Ran into trouble several times while in college and many teams may elect to pass on him. Based on pure talent and production, Bowman might be one of the best LBs in the draft. Has a nice blend of both being a good run stuffer and extremely fluid in pass coverage. Had some injury issues as well. Falcons have passed on many players with character concerns under Thomas Dimitroff and the trend may continue.

4th Round

Dekoda Watson – 6’1 – 226 – Florida State

4.55 Forty Time – 24 Bench Reps – 13 Tackles for Loss – 6.5 Sacks

Watson may be raw in some aspects of his game, but represents enormous potential. He is probably one of the more athletic linebackers in the draft and could be a big sleeper pick for some team. The FSU outside linebacker A very reliable tackler and has a large upside in getting after the passer and making plays in the backfield. Could be a perfect fit for the Falcons at weakside linebacker, even though he would need some time to develop and bulk up. Was a 3 year starter at FSU and very productive in his time there. If the Falcons don’t take an OLB @ #19, then Watson might be on high on the Birds draft boards.

Perry Riley – 6’1 – 239 – LSU

4.69 Forty Time – Bench Reps N/A – 4.5 Tackles for Loss – 5 PBU’s – 1 INT

Riley’s size would seemingly lend itself to an ideal fit for the weakside position, the same one he played at LSU, but lacks the pure athleticism that many teams want in the OLBs. May actually be better suited to play as an inside LB and had very, very poor college production. Would offer little to help in rushing the QB and be a liability in coverage.

5th Round

Rennie Curran – 5’10 – 235 – Georgia

4.75 Forty Time – 25 Bench Reps – 130 Tackles – 5 Tackles for Loss – 3 PBU’s

Curran leaves the Bulldogs as one of the more beloved and gritty defensive players to come through Sanford Stadium in some time due to his immense work ethic, leadership, and tenacity for making plays all over the field. The most immediate knock is that he’s too short to play at the NFL level, something he’s been hearing his entire life. Extremely fast and agile and is just a superb football player that makes plays and will outwork most players to improve his game. Prototypical weakside LB that may fit in well with the Falcons scheme. Like many defensive players the last few years, could be a much better pro than college player, where the defenses in general severely underperformed.

AJ Edds – 6’4 – 246 – Iowa

4.62 Forty Time – 16 Bench Reps – 4.5 Tackles for Loss – 4 PBU’s – 5 INTs

Edds could also be another later round gem at outside linebacker. The Iowa LB projects perfectly to the Falcons weakside LB position where his superb coverage skills could flourish. Very athletic and might be one of the best coverage LBs in the entire draft, particularly at his size. Exceptionally athletic and can easily make big differences in the pass game. Will definitely need time to develop and work on his game in terms of run support. Offers little to no threat in terms of rushing the QB. Might be high on the Falcons radar if they pass the first couple of rounds without taking an OLB in the first couple of rounds.

6th Round

Roderick Muckleroy – 6’2 – 246 – Texas

4.68 Forty Time – 19 Bench Reps – 11 Tackles for Loss – 2 Sacks – 5 PBU’s – 1 INT

Muckleroy was thought to go much higher after an impressive senior year at Texas, but his lack of top-flight speed (according to some draftniks) could cause many teams to pass on him and take a flier a little later in the draft. Very good against the run and covers the flats well, but may have issues in dropping coverage. Possibly projects to strongside LB, where his run-stuffing could flourish more.

Cameron Sheffield – 6’3 – 257 – Troy

4.92 Forty Time – Bench Reps N/A – 10.5 Tackles for Loss- 7 Sacks – 6 PBU’s

Sheffield’s slow forty time may be what’s caused Sheffield to drop, because its not due to his college production. Sheffield may project to a 3-4 OLB with his weight and pass-rushing ability, but could be a good value pick for some team willing to take a chance on him and allow him to adjust to the NFL speed. Projected to be a very late pick, possibly even as a 7th rounder or undrafted free agent.

Other Notable OLB’s: O’Brien Schofield – Wisconsin,  Arthur Moats – James Madison,  Kavell Conner – Clemson,  Simoni Lawrence – Minnesota, Dexter Davis – Arizona State

Your Turn

-If the Falcons don’t take an OLB first, who looks the best for the Falcons

-Should the Falcons take an OLB later due to the value?

-How deep is this year’s OLB class?

-Give a list of your most desired OLBs

335 comments Add your comment

D3

April 11th, 2010
11:07 pm

My Quick OLB List (assuming no Spoon @ #19)

1) Dekoda Watson (could be a steal for someone, amazingly athletic)
2) AJ Edds (Seemingly great fit for weakside in ATL)
3) Eric Norwood (Great LB, but not ideal fit at WLB)
4) Rennie Curran (Short, but superb playmaker)
5) Navorro Bowman (They’ll likely pass due to character issues)

Have a good week Cage Ladies and Gents!!!

Sporkdevil

April 11th, 2010
11:27 pm

I’m thinking Norwood, for only the point that he can rush the passer in nickel situations. We need Lofton, or else we are susceptible to the run. Nicholas hasn’t shown an ability to rush the passer, and Peterson has lost a step. We could have Norwood/Lofton at LB and have a good set at nickle.

I gotta think we are at least thinking about it since we worked out Hughes at LB and not DE.

I would also like a true 4-3 OLB like Bowman or Curran, but I’m not sure what the Falcons are drafting for in the middle rounds. It’s hard to say for sure, and it depends on the role the new guy plays. For instance, does the new guy replace Peterson, or do they fit at SLB and Nicholas moves over to WLB? Whatever the answer, I think it gives us some flexibility on the player that we do take in round 3.

Bangkapi Ajarn

April 11th, 2010
11:56 pm

Taking a different approach, I have seen 6 LB’s that the Falcons have apparently talked to.

Rolando McClain
Daryl Washington
Jerry Hughes
Sean Weatherspoon

Are likely gone before the 3rd as you noted. That leaves–

Eric Norwood (3rd round)

Darryl Sharpton (4th-5th round)

Vuna Tuihalamaka (Arizona, private workout 6 April – workout for at least 4 teams – round ???)
http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Source-Vuna-Tuihalamaka-visiting-Falcons-today.html

They likely are also meeting Rennie Curran Monday at the local day at the Falcon HQ.

Different way to look at it, I reckon.

Having said that, based on your list:
1) AJ Edds
2) Jason Worilds
3) Roderick Muckleroy

Bangkapi Ajarn

April 11th, 2010
11:57 pm

Should have said 7 LB’s they talked to, with an 8th coming up Monday. Can’t count pat 6, Time for bed

ATLJBO

April 11th, 2010
11:58 pm

whats up D3

I really like A.J Edds… He is great in coverage and good at everything else (except blizting… That can be learned)..

I also like Navorro Bowman in the 3rd round because he has 1st round abilities but like you said… He has character issues.

Its some pretty good LB’s on that list.

Bangkapi Ajarn

April 12th, 2010
12:02 am

Sarah B

April 12th, 2010
12:15 am

10 More days Ya’ll – hang in there…

Sly Ty

April 12th, 2010
12:51 am

I like AJ Edds, if Weatherspoon isn’t available at 19, we should nab Edds, heck grab him in the 4th even if we do get Spoony. Whatever we TD does, as long as he doesn’t Take TE Gresham, I will be happy with.

collegedude

April 12th, 2010
1:24 am

If we don’t get Spoon in the 1st then I really like Dekota Watson with our comp pick in the 3rd or Vuna Tuihalamaka in the 5th or 6th.

Falcon fans, come meet & have lunch with 3 Falcon’s legends & support a local charity at the same time. Jeff Van Note, Jessie Tuggle, & Buddy Curry will be there and have a Q&A session with those in attendence. Check it out here: http://www.falconnationcharities.org/lunchwithlegends.html

bigdave

April 12th, 2010
1:38 am

target Vuna Tuihalamaka in later rounds…

his combine 40 wasnt just for show, you can see his speed on the field..

Ed

April 12th, 2010
1:45 am

Continued stellar work D3…you know Mett’s not going to start because of “Goody Two-Shoes” Richt. The kid has an arm made for th pros and Bobo / Richt have got to get the most out of him. Unfortunately, Murray’s going to be the starter and will have to lose the starting job.

One OLB I’d like to throw in the mix is Simoni Lawrence Minnesota 6′1′ 232 ran a 4.55 40 at his pro day. He has a terrific motor and the type of attitude Smitty / TD love. He can be had in the fourth to fifth round. I’ve been on the Edds bandwagon for a while now…you gotta like his size which really stands out in this draft.

Ken Strickland

April 12th, 2010
3:03 am

Dokata Watson’s accomplishments and measurements are almost identical to OLB RJames, who’s already on the roster. I remember a few outstanding LB’s named Nick Bonaconti, Sam Mills and Jessie Tuggle, who were short, undersized and fell into the hands of some very greatful teams. I’m rather have a short undersized LB that plays big, than a big, tall LB that plays small.

TD and Smitty just might be looking to get a talented OLB in the lower rds that can be coached up over the course of a season to become a starter, with the help of MPeterson to further the process.

Unca' Bob

April 12th, 2010
6:52 am

D3,

Good stuff. I like Edds. I’m not concerned about his ability to stop the run, but I do like his coverage skill set. With his size and speed, he could be a good pickup. Our third down conversion percentage (defense) last year was god awful, so adding him could help to address some of our shortcomings.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
8:31 am

Good morning Cage…

Edds has been on my board for a while now as an alternate to the Express. He is a solid player who will impress a team. He is a hard worker who will emerge in time as a complete LB. He is going to be a quality player for someone. Muckelroy is another one that will emerge as a good find in this draft. He has the makings of a great one at SLB. He too is in the mix as far as my mocks go.

Norwood is a beast. Since the day I was introduced to him by UnCa Bob (Semper Fi, my brother), I have been totally impressed by the young man. I personally would take him, put about 15 pounds on him, and let him become the hier to his mentor and idol, JA55. I think that he and the Bier Truck could be an mpressive DE tandem.

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
8:35 am

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
8:37 am

CB,

It took me some time but FINALLY, I’ve gotten him to come aboard the Express. Thanks for the link

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
8:40 am

SW,

DOL looks so stiff…LOL Anyways he’s right about Spoon. Just have to watch out for those Giants. They really have me nervous.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
8:42 am

Giants have been my concern all along the way. But I feel that they are not going to pull the trigger.

NFL Stats

April 12th, 2010
8:42 am

Can any of our bloggers give us some insight why the Falcons pass defense is SO bad? Appears the NFL stat website gives us some insight as why it was so critical in signing the CB D. Robinson: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef According to the NFL stats the Falcons were ranked 31th in defensing an opposing teams #1 receiver. Also appears we do an OK job on defensing Tight Ends, but are really bad also in covering backs in pass coverage.

Does anybody know of any stats that perhaps shows a glaring weakness in pass coverage at either strong side or weak side LB?

Also — does anybody know of NFL stats which rank teams on QB hits other than sacks, reflecting QB pressure.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
8:56 am

NFL Stats, I can not give you statistics to reveal this but I can give you the benefit of first hand view. We drafted our LBs to play the run first and then the pass. Lofton has played some SLB in the past but his skills in coverage are marginal at best. Nicholas is much better at WLB but the Falcons have chosen to us him at the SLB position. Seems to be a matter of scheme.

The addition of Weatherspoon would give us CONSIDERABLE flexibility in the LB corps as he has the ability to play all three LB positions.

Sorry I do not have stats but that is the observation from my point of view.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
8:58 am

Unca' Bob

April 12th, 2010
9:13 am

NFL Stats,

Try this site.

http://www.profootballfocus.com/home.php?tab=home

SW,

Thanks for the link. Looks like someone has been reading our posts(lol).

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
9:15 am

D3,

You hit the nail on the head with Curran. The guy can flat out play. He’s going to work hard which is going to push others around him. Stand up guy of high character. Whoever gets him they are will be getting an outstanding football player.

Warrior,

Your thoughts on Dekoda Watson. Being that you are an FSU fan I like to get a first hand opinion on him(not taking anything from you D3).

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
9:24 am

UnCa Bob, it does appear that many of the Cages thoughts are ending up in more and more posts around the realms of cyberspace.

CBrass, I love Dekoda Watson. But he is a little of an underachiever in my book. He has skills but is prone to injury as well. I did not see as much out of him as I would have loved to have seen from a FSU linebacker. He is a worthy selection for sure. I personally would take Edds, Norwood, or Misi (Utah). More complete production in each case without the injury bug….

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
9:30 am

I could learn to like Curran. If he could put 5-15 pounds on that frame, look out. Do not be surprised if the Falcons do not have him on their radar in a quiet manner. He is immensely popular and would help continue the upward take in ticket sales in the ATL metro.

Remember, we are quietly putting together a stadium package so the ability to sell the team to the fan base so that they will vote for the stadium tax will be crucial in the coming years.

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
9:49 am

SW,

If Curran puts on 15 additional pounds I hope he does it in a way that wouldn’t take away any of his speed. Yes he only clocked a 4.7 but I assure you that he plays much faster than that.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
9:51 am

CBrass, he seems to be the player. A smaller version of Eric Norwood from what I have seen. Just not as active in terms of the blitz.

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
9:57 am

SW,

That’s because blitzing to soft Willes was a foreign concept. Rennie can get to the QB, trust me, he has not problem doing that.

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
9:58 am

Sorry for my typos.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
10:12 am

No issues with the typos…it’s Monday

FalconsFan284

April 12th, 2010
10:23 am

I really love AJ Edds! He’s a good kid and can fly all over the field. That being said I think the Falcons will take a LB in the First (Sean Weatherspoon or Sergio Kindle) and will also pick up Edds if he is available in the Fourth of Fifth Round.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
10:28 am

FF284, I love the way you think.

blord

April 12th, 2010
10:35 am

DOL,
If Spoon is gone I would love to see the priority list as you listed.

“1) Dekoda Watson (could be a steal for someone, amazingly athletic)
2) AJ Edds (Seemingly great fit for weakside in ATL)
3) Eric Norwood (Great LB, but not ideal fit at WLB)
4) Rennie Curran (Short, but superb playmaker)
5) Navorro Bowman (They’ll likely pass due to character issues)”

As a FSU fan I pretty much agree with eveything SW said about Dekoda Watson. He does have a hard time staying on the field but his preformance this past year was good when he was playing considering the horrible play around him. He was one of the few playmakers on Defense. I think the guy has loads of potential and really think a solid coaching staff can make a bigtime playmaker out of him. I do like A J as well.

waynester

April 12th, 2010
10:39 am

Cage
As usual, great observations from D3 and friends–
EDDS: There seems to be a consensus here…my favorite mid-rounder for our needs.
BOWMAN: On skill alone, he’s the #2 OLB in the class, but there’s the Falcon Filter Factor
CURRAN: He’s a tough call–all the intangibles and on-field performance, but not NFL size– I like him anyway.
MUCKLEROY: I can’t understand why he’s fallen through the cracks…another outstanding value in the latter rounds.
WATSON: Seminole Warrior summed up my feelings perfectly–underacheiver/injury riddled
NORWOOD: like Curran, one of the hardest working/hitting guys in the SEC that may have a really tough time acclimating to the NFL–I still like him a lot
MOATS: not a perfect fit for us, but another late-rd gem skill-wise
TUIHALAMAKA: Saw his youtube vids on falcons.com, and like everyone else was quite impressed.
If we can’t find our OLB(s?) of the future among this group something’s wrong. I like ‘Spoon due to his versatility, but the guys listed above are very close in my mind. A truly impressive group this year.
Ya’ll have a great day!

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
10:44 am

Great points waynester….see you on the other side.

BLord, Watson is loaded with upside and potential. I hope he realizes it somewhere in the league. There is that outside chance he will land here and I would not be upset.

Hamad Meander

April 12th, 2010
10:58 am

If the Falcons do not select Sean Weatherspoon @ #19, as I hope they do, then it is a priority to find an outside linebacker in the 3rd round. I prefer Dekoda Watson in the case, as he is really fast, seems to cover pretty well, and can bulk up a little and still be quick. If we start looking for an OLB in round 4 or later, I believe we aren’t looking for a starter. I really think Watson could start Day 1 at eitehr OLB position. To tell you guys/gals the truth, if we went Weatherspoon, Tennent (C), and then Watson I would not be bothered at all. A younger, more athletic linebacking corp would benefit this team more than a situational pass rusher would.

Bangkapi Ajarn

April 12th, 2010
11:09 am

waynester, agree with your analysis – excellent summary of my thoughts presented better than I could have :-) . I will not be surprised if Spoon is the choice if available, but a surprise DT or WR at 19 if he isn’t (then Norwood who they worked out, or Edds who doesn’t have any info on who he talked to in the 3rd), and a possible late round surprise with Vuna Tuihalamaka (now rated #8 LB by espn.go) or Curran.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
11:18 am

Hamad, I concur. I have said all along that an upgrade in productivity is needed in the LB corps. The two outside positions are definately needing. Nicholas showed upside in his first full season as a starter and I expect bigger out of him this season. The WLB position is where it is needed and there is no better selection than the Spoon. If we can’t get him, I am for Edds over Watson as I feel Edds is the more complete package.

Bangkapi Ajarn

April 12th, 2010
11:26 am

According to Pete Prisco-

“The New York Jets acquired talented but troubled wide receiver Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night for a fifth-round draft pick this month, according to a person familiar with the deal. “

Hamad Meander

April 12th, 2010
11:33 am

Seminole – the way I look at it is that the player we pick @ # 19 needs to be one that is on the field a lot. First round is not where you pick up depth, a starter for next year, or a situational player. With the first pick, and the money and contract that goes with it, you need an every down player. That’s why Weatherspoon makes the most sense to me. Even in the nickel, I could see him play as the other linebacker due to his speed and ability to cover the slot receiver or tight end.

If we are shopping for linebacker depth in the 5th or 6th, I like Muckelroy from Texas. He seems to be around the ball a lot and plays faster than he 40 time.

Bangkapi Ajarn

April 12th, 2010
11:38 am

Probably means nothing, or just means that I just ain’t smart enough to see thru the smokescreens – but it seems to me that the Falcons are looking at a LOT of DT’s with 2nd round grades – looking at a potential trade, or hoping one slips to the 3rd? Interviews of DT’s that I have been able to glean so far, with projected draft position from two sources:

Brian Price (1-2), (1),
Arthur Jones (3-4), (2)
Jared Odrick (1-2), (2)
Cory Peters (6), (7)
Tyson Alualu (2), (2)
Torrell Troup (2), (4)

Concern at the Branch with the Babs situation???

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
11:47 am

BA,

If the front office wasn’t concerned with the Babs situation I would really be concerned about them. TD is going to find a way to get back into the 2nd round.

Falcon Devil

April 12th, 2010
11:47 am

DEXTER DAVIS is a beast

bro

April 12th, 2010
11:48 am

Don’t worry about the height–remember J. Tuggle was not a giant-except in production.

Young Gun

April 12th, 2010
11:52 am

Im not a big Bulldog fan, but Rennie Curran impresses me

Coop

April 12th, 2010
11:54 am

Hello all. On the road again. I love Waatson and Curran and wouldn’t mind if we took both. Mark my words though, we WILL NOT draft Sppon. He’ll either be gone, or we’ll dangle him to move back.

CBrass

April 12th, 2010
11:55 am

The height issue is crazy. Both Robert James and Spenser Akins are only 5′11. I do not recall ever hearing fuss being made about their lack of height. It’s crazy they are making such a big deal about Rennie’s height. He’s a football player. Prime example is our very own Jamal Anderson. He has the height and weight to be an outstanding defensive end but as we all know he’s not. He’s a work out warrior not a football player. The guy has no heart. Brent Grimes is short but he’s an outstanding football player. Another example is Drew Brees. He’s only 6′0(if that) and looks what he’s done. People get so caught up in physical measurements and completely ignore the fact that you can’t measure the size of a players heart.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
11:58 am

BA and CB

BA…I have been saying for weeks that there is too darn much quiet on the Babs front. The DA is Gwinnett County is no joke and Babs was charged with some serious offenses. The fact that there has been no reduction in charges or even discussion of a “deal” is troubling to me. I think that the front office also realizes that this could be a major distraction and a possible long-term issue. They must take action now to deal with it. There is value at DT in this draft. I like Hip Hip Peria even though he was not my pick and the concerns I have about his injury history. But in TD I trust.
I have Troup projected to ATL in the 4th in my mock draft.

The question is: Will we have to give up too much to get back into the second round. I think that the current draft scenario (pick order) allows us to get both the desired OLB and a very good DT in this draft.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
11:59 am

Feeling you Coop…I’m back to suitcase living next week as well bro.

Giving you one last chance to come aboard the Express. I got DO Led to change his mind. You, my brother, are next.

SeminoleWarrior

April 12th, 2010
12:01 pm

Muckelroy is one that I have slotted late in my mock as well. He is seriously underrated. The guy makes plays and is better than advertised.

Some guys simply play the game so the hell with all the crap about 40’s, height, etc. Draft football players and continue the process.