As The Cage heads full steam into talking, researching, and analyzing the 2013 NFL draft, the biggest question always leads off with who the Falcons will take first. The draft will contain anywhere from 5 to 11 new players, span 3 days, and cover 7 rounds, but the first pick is what everyone talks about the most. Also, it determines what direction the rest of the draft can and will take, along with what impact may be felt the most in the upcoming season.
Thomas Dimitroff has a pretty good slugging percentage on 1st round picks. Matt Ryan won rookie of the year, been to two Pro Bowls, set franchise records, and is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Julio Jones was elected to his first Pro Bowl in year 2, and nearly broke 1,000 yds receiving as a rookie. Sean Weatherspoon may not have earned a Pro Bowl trip just yet, but he’s already considered the leader of the defense and is easily one of the most dynamic players on defense. Sam Baker may not be a future Jonathan Ogden, but the Falcons thought enough of him to lock him up for the next 6 years when he hit free agency. The only obvious miss is Peria Jerry, selected in 2009 in easily Dimitroff’s worst overall draft.
Not only are there a ton of directions the Falcons could go in the first round, but they are picking just ahead of next-to-last. Fans and the Falcons GM alike will have to see how the draft unfolds a long while until they get to make their selection. Even though its a pretty wide consensus they will go defense at #30, that really doesn’t help narrow as much as in most cases. On defense, they could select a defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, or cornerback. Although its unlikely Atlanta’s team won’t take an offensive player, its not out of the question that Dimitroff wouldn’t consider a top rated tight end or offensive guard. A look at just a few of all the possibilities:
All Falcons fans couldn’t be happier that Julio Jones wears red and black. Even the most hardcore of draft geeks will be hard pressed to tell you all or even one of the picks that was traded to Cleveland to get JJ. All that being said, the vast majority of fans shudder at the thought of another massive giveaway if draft picks, especially with so many holes on defense. Once in a blue moon is one thing, particularly for a player like Jones, but anything else just makes no sense.
There’s also a major belief that hardly any players are even worth a big jump up the table. This draft seems like a really deep one, but it doesn’t seem chock full of ready-made elite players at the top. If there were, the thousands of daily mocks wouldn’t be so wildly different and completely scattered. Another point is the less-than-stellar player development program the Falcons have thus far, headed by Head Coach Mike Smith. Ultimately, though, it begins and ends with the Falcons simply having too many holes to give up any major picks.
This may make a little more sense than a major trade-up, but it still really doesn’t hold merit either. There may be a possibility of giving up picks next year to move up some, while keeping this years picks. But that also flies in the face of logic from earlier points. The difference in value just doesn’t seem to be there this year. They also need a lot of players, both for starters and backups.
In fact, they cut three players (Abraham, Robinson, Turner) and only re-signed two (Moore, Reynolds) from the entire 2009 draft class. They need a lot of good-to-great players and their defense just isn’t in a position to give away draft picks. This is the first time in a while, maybe since Dimitroff’s 2009 draft, that he’s had his full array of draft picks and it’s hard to believe he’ll give those away just to move up when there are a ton of quality players and a lot of holes that need filling.
This is a very popular idea among many Falcons fans as the draft nears. The belief is that the Falcons are in a very envious spot for several teams that need to spend their 1st round pick on one of the top studs of the draft, but they also have a ton of needs and would be willing to trade picks to get one of the players they really like, but don’t want to take that high in the draft. This has been a popular place for teams to trade up to get skill positions. The Lions traded picks to move up and select RB Jahvid Best @ #30 after they had already taken DT Ndamukong Suh with the 2nd overall pick. The Saints traded up to select Mark Ingram at #28 after they had just selected DE Cameron Jordan just a few places earlier at #24. Last year saw both the Vikings (S Harrison Smith @ #29) and the Bucs (RB Doug Martin @ #31) move up to get their 2nd 1st round player.
Although it would be hard passing on a guy sitting there that you want, it might be the perfect idea this year. It would afford them 2-3 players in the top 60 or so players. It’s obviously a risk that you may lose out on most of the players you covet, but it surely makes more sense than trading up and giving away picks. This year many experts think that teams in need of a quarterback, running back, or tight end could make a move at the end of the first round.
If the Falcons decide to stay at #30 and take the player they want, here’s a look at some (but certainly not all) of the candidates the Falcons could be looking at:
This is one of the most obvious choices, as has been since the failure of the Falcons to draft or develop one single defensive end in their five years since Dimitroff and Smith took over, and until they find a semblance of one, the draft experts will continue to slot a DE to the Falcons. A likely list of candidates:
Florida State – 6’3 – 266 – 4.83 Forty – Bench: 25 – Arms: 33 ¼ – Hands: 9 ⅜
Career: 41 Games; 99 Tackles; 35 TFL; 23.5 sacks; Projected Rd: 1
Most think that Werner is a top 10 pick, and even more sites and experts have him pegged as the number one defensive end. However, there are a few that think that Werner could take a slide down draft boards from teams thinking that Werner has maxed out and electing to go with prospects with a higher ceiling. If Werner does slide that far, it’s hard to see the Falcons passing on him.
Texas A&M – 6’4 – 250 – 4.95 Forty – Bench: 12 – Arms: 34¼ – Hands: 10¼
Career: 38 Games; 197 Tackles; 45 TFL; 26.5 sacks; Projected Rd: 1
Moore was once thought to be a top 10 pick with his athleticism and major production in the SEC, hauling in almost 100 tackles, over 20 tackles for a loss, and 12.5 sacks as a junior. Most still think that Moore will go in the first round, but he’s believed to be sliding due to his poor combine showing. Most Falcons fans will take Moore off the list due to having a red flag, or more appropriately “black dot,” on character concerns. He was arrested for marijuana possession as a sophomore. Dimitroff has yet to draft a player that has been arrested or suspended.
UCLA – 6’4 – 283 – 4.8 Forty – Bench: 29 – Arms: 32¾ – Hands: 10
Career: 51 games; 148 tackles; 36.5 TFL; 13.5 sacks; Projected Rd: 1
Jones is a logical pick both due to his size, production, and where he’s slotted to be picked. He also projects more as one of the few true 4-3 defensive ends. His sack numbers won’t knock your socks off, but he’s had almost 40 tackles for loss, which means he finds a way to get into the backfield. In fact, Jones has the same per game sack average as Dion Jordan, but Jordan seems almost a lock to go in the top 10, if not the top 5 due to his athleticism and everyone looking for the next Aldon Smith.
Texas – 6’4 – 264 – 4.78 Forty – Bench: 21 – Arms: 33⅞ – Hands: 9⅝
Career: 52; 165 tackles; 36.5 TFL; 23 sacks; Projected Rd: 1-2
This has been one of the most popular picks since the experts began their mock drafts for this year. Some are still holding firm that the Falcons will select Okafor at #30. He had a very good senior season at Texas. He’s strong and has very good size, but most don’t see a premiere pass-rusher ready to break out. The words “supplemental pass-rusher” has been used a lot. Also not helping his case is that one website actually compared him to Ray Edwards. Talk about the kiss of death.
SMU – 6’8 – 277 – 4.6 Forty – Bench: 38 – Arms: 33¾ – Hands: 10
Career: 53 games – 112 tackles – 28.5 TFL – 15.5 sacks; Projected Rd: 1-2
Teams looking for that vast potential and upside have their man in Hunt, born in Estonia. He was one of the most physically gifted players to grace the combine, being 6’8, running a 4.6 forty, and throwing up a mind-boggling 38 reps (with long arms, it may be said). Many experts were ready to throw him in the first round lock category immediately following the combine, but several things work against him going to the Falcons.
First, he’s 27 years old. While he may not have had as many hits on his body, that’s a mature age for a 1st round draft pick. Second, he’s very raw and described as a project by most scouts. His superior talent hasn’t translated on the field, establishing one of the lower sack per game averages among all defensive end prospects. He would seemingly make a perfect 3-4 defensive end, but the Falcons seem more inclined to stay with the 4-3 with their recent signing of Osi Umenyoria. Finally, the Falcons likely can’t afford to take on any more projects at defensive end because they already have plenty.
This may be more of a fascination with Cage Members than it is with Flowery Branch. Many to most fans feel that the defensive tackle position is one that needs a serious infusion of talent, power, but above all, girth. Mike Smith has executed his 4-3 under the guise of using smaller, quicker, and penetrating defensive tackles to be effective. Problem is, it hasn’t worked. They are often overpowered and overmatched when they run up against a beastly OL like the San Francisco 49ers. Many would like to see a big-bodied NT that would allow them to move to a 3-4. Or if nothing else, provide some beef to help out the defensive ends and linebackers, who are often smashed with a lack of any DTs taking on double teams. A look at a few candidates
Ohio State – 6’3 – 320 – Bench: DNP – 5.28 Forty – Arms: 33 – Hands: 9½
Career: 38 games; 137 tackles; 15.5 TFL; 4 sacks; Projected Rd: 1
Hankins represents a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. He may not have the biggest stats, but he’s what many coaches want from the NTs. He can take on double-teams, hold the point of attack, and allow the linebackers, rush ends, and even 5 techniques to make plays. Along with Jesse Williams and John Jenkins, Hankins represents the big body and girth that many want and need to run the 3-4 effectively. He has the talent, but his motor has been cited as an issue and is thought by many to be a 2-down DT, which is one reason that most think that a big DT isn’t in the cards. Can the Falcons afford to spend their 1st overall pick on a player that looks to be 2-down worthy? Remember, the Falcons have issue with pass rush, and most NTs like Hankins aren’t good pass rushers.
Alabama – 6’3 – 323 – Bench: 30 – 4.94 Forty – Arms: 32 – Hands: 9⅜
Career: 26 games; 61 tackles; 6.5 TFL; 1.5 sacks” Projected Rd: 1-2
Like Hankins, Williams will be very high on many 3-4 teams looking for an nose tackle, especially one hailing from Alabama. He was thought to be extremely high on many draft boards after a good SEC Championship and BCS Title game. Once the college season ended, however, many sites are dropping him out of the first round. He’s only a two year starter at Alabama and his stat line is very, very low. He only managed 1.5 sacks in two years. Much of that is because he is an NT in a 3-4, but that’s still a very low total for someone at such a storied program. Williams is dropping out of the first round in most mocks. He could be a good NT anchor, but could he play in the 4-3 for 3 downs if necessary and still get in the backfield?
Purdue – 6’3 – 299 – Bench: DNP – 5.09 Forty – Arms: 34¾ – Hands: 9¾
Career: 50 games; 185 tackles; 49.5 TFL; 18 sacks; Projected Rd: 1-2
Short may be lost in the shuffle between the top overall DTs such as Shariff Floyd and Sheldon Richardson and the wide-bodied NTs like Hankins and Williams, but his career numbers aren’t lost on scouts. Short has had insane production in his time at Purdue, notching an eye-popping 49.5 tackles for a loss and 18 sacks. Those are crazy numbers for a defensive tackle. He has one of the highest tackle for loss and sack per game averages among both DTs and DEs. He seems to fit in a traditional 4-3 base, but could potentially project as a great rushing 5-technique in a 3-4. The guy simply knows how to get in the backfield. He likely didn’t help himself very much by not participating in any of the combine events, especially not the bench press. Many Falcons fans worry that they may be seeing a second coming of Peria Jerry and worse yet a strict adherence to Smith’s “light, penetrating” 4-3 scheme that hasn’t worked very well at all.
Georgia – 6’4 – 346 – Bench: 30 – DNP Forty – Arms: 34 – Hands: 9 ½
Career: 27 games; 78 tackles; 8 TFL; 4 sacks; Projected Rd: 1-2
Jenkins was initially projected by many scouts to be taken early in the first round, potentially a top 10 or top 15 pick. Big John has started to slide in most draft boards after scouts have had a chance to look at tape. Like many of the big NT’s, his fitness is an issue with him not being able to stay in much on 3rd downs, particularly passing situations. He’s a plugger and he dropped about 20 lbs to get ready for the draft, but many teams are going to have a hard time spending a first round pick on a player that likely will only be able to contribute on early running downs, especially given the current pass-happy state of the NFL.
This one has flown up Falcons fans draft boards the last few days. The Falcons parted ways with Dunta Robinson, Chris Owens, and it appears Brent Grimes as well. They have 3 cornerbacks on the roster in Asante Samuel, Robert McClain, and Dominique Franks. They are reportedly high on practice squad player Peyton Thompson and they just signed former Colts CB Terrence Johnson to a 2 year futures contract. However, there is an obvious need for major talent at the top, particularly with Samuel getting up there in years. After the run of mocks taking tight ends or defensive ends, this is starting to become the most logical position.
Washington – 6’0 – 190 – 4.38 Forty – Bench: 16 – Arms: 31¼ – Hands: 8⅝
Career: 50 games; 195 tackles; 33 passes defensed; INTs: 6
Many experts are starting to mock Trufant to the Falcons as most agree that he’s the 3rd best corner after Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes. He has NFL bloodlines with his older brother Marcus Trufant being an excellent corner for the Seahawks, who was a 1st round pick himself. Trufant is a four year starter who has played both man and coverage and is very good in run support. He doesn’t have a ton of career interceptions, but he has one of the best pass breakup per game ratio of any of the cornerbacks.Had one of the best bench press workouts (16) of any cornerbacks in the draft. Typical size and good speed for an NFL cornerback. Even though there are a ton of needs on the Falcons defense, cornerback is one of the few positions where they literally have not much talent already on the roster.
Mississippi State – 6’2 – 185 – 4.58 Forty – Bench: 10 – Arms: 33⅞ – Hands: 9¼
Career: 51 games; 221 tackles; 26 passes defensed; INTS: 16; 320 Int Rtrn Yds
Most draft sites have Trufant and Banks as 3a and 3b after the top two. Banks has great size for today’s changing cornerback and is one of the best ballhawks in the draft. Only David Amerson pulled down more career picks than Banks did. He’s also one of the best tacklers in the group as well, averaging well over 4 tackles per game. Not only is he able to get his hands on the ball, he has a great ability to get up the field afterward. He’s earned his chops in the SEC, where he faced off against some of the nations best receivers on a weekly basis. He may not have top flight speed, but his long arms, frame, and quickness more than make up for it.
Many Falcons fans are already practicing their throwing motions towards the television, maybe in an attempt to miss the TV when the mug is slung on draft night. What once seemed like a worrisome possibility has now logically gone out the window, right? As Lee Corso says, “not so fast my friend!” Fans that have followed Thomas Dimitroff’s handiwork the last 5 years knows to expect the unexpected come draft weekend. Chris Owens? Joe Hawley? Kerry Meier? Lamar Holmes anyone? Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one final year and they’re supposedly high on Chase Coffman going forward, but if the draft’s best tight end is starting them in the face at #30 (which could help both short term, and more importantly long term), they may just pull the card after all. Still doubtful, but you just never know…..
Notre Dame – 6’5 – 250 – 4.68 Forty – Bench: 22 – Arms: 33⅛ – Hands: 9⅛
Career: 37 games; 140 Rec; 1840 yards; 11 TDs
Eifert is the undisputed number one tight end prospect in an otherwise fairly weak class. Many see a tough and athletic tight end who can create mismatches, block well on the line, and be a huge red zone target. Many believe that Eifert may be the only tight end taken in the 1st round and the end of the round may be a perfect fit for it. Eifert was once slotted to a number of teams in need of a tight end, but then free agency changed that for many teams (Bears signed Martellus Bennett, Packers kept Jermichael Finley, Rams signed Jared Cook) and others believe that teams in need of a tight end (such as the Giants) won’t take Eifert with their first pick. It’s still highly unlikely, but Eifert would be a good fit if the Falcons didn’t have so many needs on defense.
Stanford – 6’5 – 249 – 4.76 Forty – Bench: 24 – Arms: 31¾ – Hands: 9¾
Career: 37 games; 112 Rec; 1434 yards; 15 TDs
is a close second tight end to Eifert before the major dropoff to the next group of TEs. Some thought Ertz may even get taken before Eifert, but Eifert’s measureables and combine seems to push him to a unanimous number one. Stanford has may be getting a title of “Tight End U” after sending Coby Fleener as the first overall tight taken in just last year’s draft. Several mocks are still slotting Ertz to the Falcons even with Gonzalez coming back. It’s hard to think that the Falcons would take Ertz if Eifert is gone earlier in the first.
At linebacker, the Falcons have Sean Weatherspoon and…….Akeem Dent showed some progress, but is still questionable long-term. Stephen Nicholas is serviceable, but it’s fairly clear he’s hit his ceiling. Robert James is the only other player on the roster, unless they move someone like Kroy Biermann permanently to outside linebacker, which is highly doubtful given Smith’s history. The Falcons need a major infusion of talent at linebacker, but it’s not the best year to for top end talent. The likes of Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo, and Dion Jordan will likely be long gone.
Alec Ogletree would be a great addition athletic wise, but if there’s a darker dot on Dimitroff’s board than black, than Ogletree has it after making bone-headed decisions not once (stealing a bike helmet), not twice (testing positive for marijuana), but three times (getting a DUI in the months directly before the draft). Some think Arthur Brown of Kansas State may get a look, but one site compared him to Curtis Lofton, which the Falcons just let go. Linebacker will definitely get a look, and maybe more than once, but unlikely in the first unless some players seriously slide.
1) If you’re ready to go: In the 2013 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select………
2) Should TD and Co. trade up for a player? If so, who and how much?
3) Should the Falcons seriously consider trading out of the first round?
4) If Falcons go DE first, who should it be?
5) Is defensive tackle the way to go on draft day? If so, who?
6) Has cornerback vaulted to the top of the Falcons need? Trufant, Banks, or other?
7) Have you practiced your mug / remote toss if Falcons take a TE first?
8.) Is there a “wildcard” pick position that was left out?