To break up the off-season monotony a little, The Bird Cage decided to take a little break from the positional breakdowns and put a debate up that sure to stir some passion and heated discussions. We as fans may have some clue as to what Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith, and the Falcons front office have in store for us, but anyone watching last year’s draft knows that we’re only spectators and are just guessing in the dark after all. Anyone who guessed Joe Hawley, Kerry Meier, or Shann Schillinger would be wearing red and black before the draft began would be lying.
Try doing your best to rank your Atlanta Falcons on importance to the team and overall value to the team in future success. Some rankings will be tough, but this can also serve as a guidepost to the upcoming draft posts on truly what the Falcons need when late April rolls around. Make sure to give your own ranking and shoot plenty of holes in the authors. And of course ramp up the draft talk since it’s almost 50 days away.
The Bird Cage’s Poor Attempt
#1 – Matt Ryan – Franchise quarterback, who has led the Falcons to back-to-back-to-back winning seasons, won Rookie of the Year, made his first Pro Bowl, and tied Dan Marino’s record for most wins in first 3 years as a starter. Yes, he has a long ways to go and has yet to win a playoff game and the “great” talk shouldn’t be close yet, but they call it a franchise quarterback for a reason.
#2 – Roddy White – The guy is hands down one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and is just hitting his prime. He has gone to three consecutive Pro Bowls and made his first All-Pro team this year. He single-handedly carried the entire wide receiving corps and team many times throughout the season, with little help from the rest of the WR’s. The Falcons have proven they can win without Michael Turner (albeit tough), but they haven’t proven they can win without Roddy White, at least in the lineup.
#3 – Michael Turner – 2 Pro Bowls in three years and when Turner doesn’t go over at least 50 yards rushing, the Falcons simply don’t win. Maybe he’s lost a little burst from his first year, but the guy is still the main focus of a Mike Mularkey run offense. The Falcons seem to be hitching their wagon to Turner, even as he approaches the big 3-0.
# 4 – John Abraham – Pretty much the only pass rush the Falcons have been able to generate for a long while at defensive end. After a dismal 5.5 sack effort in 2009, Abraham jumped right back to 13 sacks and made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team. One of the best DE’s in the game and fans tremble at the thought of him retiring from the game.
#5 – Jonathan Babineaux – Perhaps the biggest surprise so far, but no defensive lineman has been more consistent over the Smith Era as Jonathan Babineaux. He has proven to be one of the best and most consistent defenders on the team. Has not had a “down” year, as some other defenders have.
#6 – Todd McClure – Many will rank Clabo ahead of McClure in terms of the offensive line, but McClure has been the captain on the offensive line for a long, long time and is the model of consistency and leadership. Is a lifelong Falcon and his work ethic and toughness are paramount.
#7 – Curtis Lofton – The old-school tackling machine is the leader of the defense and one of the best tackling linebackers in the game. He even moved up his play-making ability this year with sacks and interceptions. Has been the equivalent to the defense that Ryan has been to the offense. If he can improve his coverage, he’ll be one of the best unquestioned LB’s in the game.
#8 – Tony Gonzalez – Not much needs to be said. Arguably the best tight end to ever play the game. Is nearing retirement and may have lost a step or two in stretching the field, but no one is better at coming up with a clutch 3rd down conversion catch or TD snag.
#9 – Tyson Clabo – Made his first Pro Bowl this year and has been arguably the best OL on a lunch-pail group of offensive linemen. Is a prototypical enormous NFL lineman and looks to cash in his efforts for a huge payday if and when free agency hits. Would be much higher if he were a Left Tackle.
#10 – Brent Grimes – One of the best stories in coming from tiny Shippensburg all the way to the Pro Bowl. Constantly questioned for his small size, but probably pound-for-pound the grittiest and most athletic player on the team. One of the most targeted CB’s in the game and came up with some of the most interceptions over last two years.
#11 – Harvey Dahl – Helped identify the offensive line as mean and nasty all by his lonesome. Is one of the toughest (and some say dirtiest) players in the game and maximizes his potential on almost every play. Another great story of practice squad player who found his groove when he came to Atlanta.
#12 – Thomas DeCoud – Yes, shockwaves are being felt after his somewhat subpar season last year, but coupled with a pretty excellent first year campaign, DeCoud is considered a veteran on an insanely young defense. Next year will tell the story with the free safety.
#13 – Ovie Mughelli – One of the best fullbacks in the game got his first much deserved Pro Bowl as a Falcon and has been indispensable as a blocker for Michael Turner clearing holes and even showing he can catch the ball out of the backfield and is very versatile for a big man.
#14 – Jason Snelling – Has proven to be a legit #2 running back and one of the better backs catching the ball out of the backfield in the league. In fact, Snelling was third on the entire team in receptions behind only Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Isn’t a great complement to Turner, but could even be a feature back here or elsewhere. Carried the team last year when Turner was hurt and Norwood was ineffective and hurt.
#15 – Stephen Nicholas – Some will also be shocked to see this one here as well, but if you think in terms of the entire Mike Smith Era, Nicholas has been the Falcons most consistent outside linebacker and notched more sacks (3) in one year than any other LB has since Smith got here. Needs work on his coverage for sure, but would leave Falcons scrambling if he leaves via free agency.
#16 – Justin Blalock – One of the only Falcons offensive lineman to be drafted and show improvement, despite some bad games here and there and especially considering he’s been playing next to Sam Baker since Mike Smith took over in 2008. Has started every game since becoming a Falcon except for two. Hard to believe that Blalock wouldn’t be a part of any reconfiguring of the OL with his youth, upside, and experience.
#17 – William Moore – Would be much, much higher if he hadn’t just finished his first year as a starter. In terms of pure ability and future core of the team, Moore is probably top 5, he just needs to prove more consistency by replicating it in year 2. DeCoud was the next best free safety in the NFL and hit a definite downturn of sorts in his second year.
#18 – Dunta Robinson – Very tough to gauge since he just completed his first year as the Falcons cornerstone defensive back and had mixed results at best. Dimitroff obviously saw something in him to grant him a $57 million dollar contract. Even though he had his lapses at times, he seemed to improve and definitely was targeted less than Grimes, perhaps for a reason. Will definitely move up with a great second year.
#19 – Kroy Biermann – The ultimate Atlanta Falcon. The guy is tough, a hard worker, a great leader, and possesses a tenacity that some other teammates can borrow from. Drafted in the 5th round out of Montana, the guy has done anything the Falcons have asked of him: defensive end, special teams ace, and even nailed a kickoff when forced to. Had very high hopes as a first year DE starter and the hopes still remain. Will jump up the board with a breakout year as a second-year starter.
#20 – Sam Baker – Everyone’s favorite OL to talk about. Many believe that Baker was taken too high and that he simply is not a franchise left tackle to protect your franchise quarterback’s blindside. After a rough and injury-laden rookie year, Baker seemed to make some strides this year and seemed to kick the injury bug hopefully for good. Still the biggest question mark on the offensive line and the best left tackles are of the highest value to their respective teams. Should he stay at LT or be moved elsewhere?
#21 – Matt Bryant – Is one of the biggest reasons the Falcons had the record they did in 2010. After worries in preseason, Bryant came on strong and was ice cold during the regular season, booting many game-winning kicks that could have gone the other way if he misses. Age is only reason he’s not higher.
#22 – Corey Peters – Came in a fairly unknown defensive tackle and supplanted Peria Jerry, Jamaal Anderson, Trey Lewis, and Vance Walker to become a starting DT next to Jonathan Babineaux as a rookie. Since Weatherspoon was injured, Peters looks like the best pick of the draft from 2010 so far for Dimitroff. With another year of work and experience, Peters looks to be a major part of the Falcons defensive unit for years to come.
So have at it. Send the arrows at these selections and come up with your own. Remember, this is just part 1 (otherwise we’re looking at a novel), and some very interesting names are absent. Feel free to disagree and try to balance your own picks with both potential, value, and consistency to the Atlanta Falcons. This also could be a great guidepost for what appears to be a very tricky draft.
-Agree/Disagree with selections?
-Make sure to give your own.
-Can this be a valuable guide as the draft approaches?
-Who is ranked too high?
-Who is ranked too low?
-Who shouldn’t be in the top 22?
-Who should be in the top 22?