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
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.
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.
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.
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
-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