The Falcons have to take a cornerback, right? Er, maybe not

Brent Grimes makes a play -- overruled by penalty, alas. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Brent Grimes makes a deft play -- overruled by penalty, alas. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Cornerback, cornerback, cornerback. Most every mock draft has the Falcons spending their first pick on one. Thomas Dimitroff, who’ll do the picking, went to a function Tuesday night and the conversation turned to … well, guess.

The speculation makes some sense. The Falcons couldn’t stop the pass last season — they were 28th-best in a 32-team league — and they’ll own either the draft’s 19th or 20th overall pick. (Depends on a coin flip with Houston, upcoming at this weekend’s combine in Indianapolis.) And the sight of the Falcons’ young defensive backs being undone in most every game is burned, so to speak, in every fan’s memory. That said …

Dimitroff has the reputation of being picky, pun intended, about cornerbacks. “I get a kick out of that,” he said Wednesday, meaning his professional image. But there’s truth therein. He played cornerback for the Guelph Gryphons . (Guelph is a university in Ontario.) He described himself thusly: “A feisty little guy who had to make up for my lack of ability. I played with my heart and soul.”

Something the not-very-talented cornerback has learned about cornerbacks in general: There aren’t many great ones. The prototypical “shutdown corner” is seen about as often as Sasquatch. The best corner in football cannot shadow a journeyman wideout for 15 seconds. And that’s why the Falcons’ young defenders — Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, Christopher Owens — might not have been as bad as they appeared. That’s also why in-house urgency to draft another cornerback mightn’t match peripheral expectation.

“I definitely would love to get a No. 1 [cornerback, meaning not quite a shutdown guy but someone who can take an opponent's best receiver and hold his own], an evolving No. 1,” Dimitroff said. “But generally speaking, we as teams are hesitant to crown a guy as a No. 1 until he’s proven.”

Example: Tye Hill, now a Falcon reserve. The Rams took him with the 15th pick of the 2006 draft.  Three years later,  St. Louis gave up on Hill traded him here, where he has made little impression.

Dimitroff, speaking not specifically of Hill but generally: “You’d hope a guy taken in the top 10 or 15 would become a No. 1.” Then, addressing this year’s first-round pick: “But if he’s a deuce [meaning a No. 2 cornerback], I would have no hesitation about pulling his tag off the board [and drafting him].”

Consensus holds that Florida’s Joe Haden is the best cornerback in this draft, but he figures to be gone by the time the Falcons choose. They’re expected to eyeball men like Alabama’s Kareem Jackson and Boise State’s Kyle Wilson and Oklahoma’s Dominique Franks and Oklahoma State’s Perrish Cox and Florida State’s Patrick Robinson at the combine, and there’s a chance Dimitroff could fall in love with one of them. There’s also a chance he won’t see any of them as Round 1 material.

In Round 1, the Falcons should draft:

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On the day he was introduced as the Falcons’ general manager, Dimitroff famously said: “Every draft is need-based.” But what do the Falcons need more — another young cornerback or a pass rusher who might render the incumbent young corners more formidable? And would there be a difference-making defensive end available at No. 19/20?

Something to consider: The Falcons would like to keep Brian Williams, the cornerback acquired from Jacksonville in preseason who started five games before hurting his knee. Williams is a free agent, and the team is monitoring his rehab. Would re-signing him mitigate the apparent Round 1 need for a DB?

Then there’s this: The Falcons’ defensive backs won’t be coached in 2010 by Emmitt Thomas, a holdover from previous administrations who was retained when Dimitroff and Arthur Blank hired Mike Smith as head coach.  The team and E.T. parted ways in January. Tim Lewis is now the secondary coach. Don’t overlook that, either.

And one thing more: Last year’s No. 1 pick, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, was lost to a knee injury in September. Said Dimitroff: “That was a huge loss for us. [His presence as an inside rusher] would have affected production in the secondary.”

With so many variables, there can be no knowing what Dimitroff will do come April 22. The outside world fully expects the Falcons to take a cornerback. Me, I’m still thinking the feisty little GM might grab himself a big ol’ defensive end.


119 comments Add your comment

mdk222

February 24th, 2010
2:00 pm

Bigstack O' Pancakes. It is an Irish name.

February 24th, 2010
2:01 pm

You are on a roll with butter today!

Dawg-Catcher

February 24th, 2010
2:01 pm

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:02 pm

Kudos to mdk222. Winner by a skinny minute.

Brandon from Warner Robins

February 24th, 2010
2:02 pm

Afternoon Mark,

I think a CB makes sense. But what about a DE or LB? both areas of concern.

Lost KSU fan

February 24th, 2010
2:03 pm

Lost KSU fan

February 24th, 2010
2:04 pm

Lost KSU fan

February 24th, 2010
2:04 pm

What about going after Dunta Robinson???

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:07 pm

Brandon, a cornerback makes sense if he’s an upgrade. But I think it might be easier to make an uprgrade at defensive end.

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:09 pm

Dunta Robinson would be an option, Lost KSU fan. But he’s going to want No. 1 cornerback money, which is what the Falcons wouldn’t give Domonique Foxworth, who got it in Baltimore.

NCFalconFan

February 24th, 2010
2:09 pm

FIRST!!!! Do you think they will go after free agents, Bodden or Dunta Robinson?

Love your work !!!

Ree Roe

February 24th, 2010
2:10 pm

Mel Kiper’s needs for the Falcons are CB, DE, OLB & WR. I think Sidbury & Bierrman are quality ends & I expect Abe to bounce back. So the demand for another DE isn’t as great as some might think. However, this team still needs quality defensive backs to match up against NO’s plethora of WRs, Carolina’s Steve Smith & Tampa’s Antonio Bryant. Grimes has heart, but he’s severely undersized. Houston is a serviceable nickleback & the jury is still out on Chris Owens. Pick a corner!

BTW, do you think the Falcons would consider going after Darren Sharper?

-REElentessly Roe!!!

NCFalconFan

February 24th, 2010
2:10 pm

DARN!!!! It did not take me 8 minute to write my comment :-)

gabeaux

February 24th, 2010
2:11 pm

A great pass rush makes your DBs look real good.

Harry

February 24th, 2010
2:12 pm

I strongly feel that TD might take a OLB, Sean Weatherspoon. He has mentioned in numerous Radio Shows that he can find a DE in 3rd or 4th round.
Also, We have Biermann in the wings to flourish beside Abraham. We will have Jerry and Moore return this season too. If we draft an OLB to make impact right away and draft a DE later to learn under Abraham to replace him in couple of years….that will be good for the team.

That is just my 2 cents

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:12 pm

I don’t think the Falcons would be interested in Sharper, Ree Roe. He’ll want too much.

TommyP

February 24th, 2010
2:14 pm

I’d prefer a pretty good DE. It seems CBs can be had later but good DE’s seem difficult to find after the first round.

Lost KSU fan

February 24th, 2010
2:17 pm

I’m with TommyP. I think you make more of a difference on a defense with impact guys in the front seven.

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:19 pm

Agreed, TommyP.

Falconz fan

February 24th, 2010
2:19 pm

No, no no. Not another DE in the first round. I would rather them go OLB or CB. Houston is a bust, don’t think he could cover my Mom. Grimes and Owens are decent and would serve as good backups, nickel and dime type guys. I love Grimes heart but you can’t coach height. It’s hilarious that the Falcons website lists Grimes at 5′10″. I can promise you he’s not even 5′7″ with cleats on!

F-105 Thunderchief

February 24th, 2010
2:19 pm

At the end, Owens and Grimes, especially, showed some decent play. Grimes had what, five picks? He’s still awfully short, though.

Don

February 24th, 2010
2:20 pm

It’s a question of relative value. If Dimitroff thinks there’s not much of a difference in the corner they rate #2 and the one they rate #6 and he thinks he can get #5 or #6 in round 3 it would make more sense to use the first round pick on a defensive end or outside linebacker who can help improve the pass rush and effectively improve the entire secondary.

Since corners are a bit of a crapshoot, there might be the opportunity to take one in round 3 and another in round 4 or 5. From what I read Trevard Lindley of Kentucky has slipped to a projected 4th or 5th round pick.

Just the Facts..

February 24th, 2010
2:20 pm

Get a solid DE, and your CB’s look good when the QB hasn’t much time to throw. Listen people the Falcons, HAVE NO PASS RUSH OUTSIDE OF ABRAHAM!

JMF

February 24th, 2010
2:21 pm

I thought donovan warren from michigan was considered the 2nd best cb. I think we should draft the best available cb, lb or de. Then I think we should look at upgrading our off line.

K. Biermann

February 24th, 2010
2:22 pm

Oh, I don’t know about that.

George Bailey

February 24th, 2010
2:23 pm

I thought our corners looked pretty good the last 4-5 games of the season. With a different coach and some maturing and Brian Williams back they’ll be fine. We need a playmaking DE or OLB.

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:24 pm

Something to consider: How many good tall cornerbacks are there? Nnamdi Asomugha is 6-foot-2, but he’s the exception. Darrelle Revis is 5-11. Asante Samuel is 5-10. And there’s a reason for that: Receivers can be big because they have only to run their pattern. Cornerbacks have to run and turn, and a bigger man doesn’t have — sorry to break into football-speak — the same lever action with his hips.

Falconz fan

February 24th, 2010
2:24 pm

MB, is Jamal Anderson’s contract up yet? I sure hope he’s not wearing the red and black come September.

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:25 pm

Jamaal Anderson is still under contract, Falconz fan, but there’s a good chance he’ll work elsewhere next season.

tddf30

February 24th, 2010
2:25 pm

The way I see it is you never go after a position as deep as DE around the 20th spot. If you are lucky enough to get one of the top 2 guys at that position that is great. But if there is depth you are always more likely to over draft one because there will be far too many “good” players to compare him to. I say go with OLB where we are almost guaranteed to get a top 2 player since there will be so many DE and DT drafted before the 20th and there is probably only 1 or 2 CB’s that are worthy of the 1st round.

Or we could trade down to the second round and draft a CB and pick up another pick or 2 in this deep defensive draft.

Or even just draft AOA in the 3rd-4th round as he could develop into a solid CB considering his combination of size and speed, only real flaw is his small school, but maybe we will go back to the athletic small school pool after drafting Sid last year.

AndyC

February 24th, 2010
2:28 pm

Is mightn’t a real word?

Falconz fan

February 24th, 2010
2:29 pm

Like at Burger King?

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:30 pm

It is for my purposes, AndyC.

Mark Bradley

February 24th, 2010
2:31 pm

OK, Falconz fan, you went and did it. You made me laugh out loud.

AndyC

February 24th, 2010
2:33 pm

Mightn’t is a real word and here’s and article on it’s sudden proliferation.

http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/mightnt_the_journal_mind_its_c.php

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 24th, 2010
2:35 pm

Mark, you mentioned the 19th or 20th decision resting on a coin flip this weekend (Friday??), but I haven’t seen an expected announcement date of the supplementary picks, which should affect the Falcons options – which rounds and how many could affect strategy perhaps?

When will be know for sure what supplementary picks the Falcons have been officially awarded?

Mike in H-Town

February 24th, 2010
2:40 pm

Trust me, you guys don’t want Dunta Robinson…take it from someone who has seen every snap of his career. Overrated and overpriced.

SimpleDawg

February 24th, 2010
2:42 pm

The closer to the ball, the more important the player is on defense.

Get a top-notch pass rusher, and everyone in the secondary gets better.

Abraham is too unreliable, too brittle. Get a young stud who’s full of vim and vinegar…one who has a nose for the ball and evil intentions for the opposing QB.

Ree Roe

February 24th, 2010
2:43 pm

Will the Falcons be big players in free agency? It’s looking more & more like we’ll have an uncapped yr next season, but nothing I’ve read indicates the Falcons are willing to spend big money on free agents. Am I misinterpreting or do the Falcons intend to make ANY noise in free agency?

-Roe v. REE!!

PMC

February 24th, 2010
2:52 pm

Two injuries that really sunk the defense for quite a large portion last year were the Peria Jerry injury and the Brian Williams injury.

The first two games of the year they were still not quite getting the pressure they wanted but it was enough to create quite a few turnovers.

The Saints offense has been really good for several years. The difference this year was that turnover margin.

I really don’t think the secondary is all that terrible evidenced by what they were able to do at the end of the year. Where they really need to get a lot better is outside linebacker and defensive end… though a lot of this would have been better last year had Jerry not gone down so perhaps finding quality depth at Nose Guard is a priority too.

All this said…. the offensive tackle situation is far from rosy and it would be nice to have another weapon on offense. He might go earlier than we can afford to get him but Collin Peak would look nice in a Falcon Uni.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 24th, 2010
2:53 pm

whats the over/under on Al Davis drafting the fastest man in the draft in the first round even if he could have got him in the 5th ?

Craig

February 24th, 2010
2:53 pm

Dunta Robinson. C’mon Arthur Blank. Pay the man, get him here, and draft Brandon Graham out of Michigan. Or get Sean Weatherspoon out of MO at outside LB, who was solid looking in the senior bowl, and we are loaded at the DE position. But seriously, don’t pass on Dunta Robinson. We know what to expect out of him, unlike any of the corners available in the draft, and lets not forget ATL’s track record with CBs in the draft.

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 24th, 2010
2:53 pm

Dimitroff has mentioned on occasion that he prefers needs based draft selections, as I recall, with an eye towards “motor” and character. Based on that, I suspect that he may look at the greatest need to be addressed is a pass rush.

Be it thru free agency (not a realistic quick fix based on D3’s excellent posts sofar) or the draft, there are three areas of need that must be addressed in one way or another –

a) secondary play to allow pass rushers more time (coverage sacks) – Thia has been addressed GM wise by a change in position coaches, and could be further addressed by resigning Williams.

b) Line backers upgrade to provide blitzes. Two of the supplementary picks should be for the two starting LB’s lost last year (Brooking and Boley), Patterson is past the point of being able to provide the urgency and speed needed at starting OLB, so this is a definite area for Dimitroff’s attention. Draft possibly very early, another stud to match with Nichols and Lofton.

c) DL, which he addressed last year with Perry. Abraham is aging, and has a history of injury and will need to be replaced soon. He has two studs in training, but there ARE two positions and a need for rotations to keep them fresh. Anderson, if he has a future here, is a DT and will likely need to fight Walker and/or Jefferson for a roster spot if he isn’t traded for a better draft position (trade one of the 4’s and Anderson for a 2 for just one example). DT is a definite area of need for Dimitroff to address in the offseason, then.

Based on this, I would humbly submit that OLB is the greatest need for the 1st round pick, and a pretty good DE could likely be had in the 2nd if a trade using Anderson could be effected.

Just some idle thoughts from afar. Thanks for listening.

Mike Jay

February 24th, 2010
2:54 pm

Bradley just said ” It’s all in the hips, It’s all in the hips”

I would take a OLB or DE before CB. I like the young guys on our Dline and think they will only get better but outside of Lofton our LB’s are a big Meh.

Mike Jay

February 24th, 2010
2:57 pm

Nobody is going to give us 2nd rounder for Anderson and a fourth.

Nativebird

February 24th, 2010
3:08 pm

Puuulease…no more first pick college cornerbacks that are ’supposed’ to be shut-down NFL’ers, and inevitably never are. And we waste 3 years “developing” him.
Cornerbacks, schornerbacks…they’re a DIME A DOZEN in the draft. NONE, should ever have a #1 pick wasted on them. You PAY for PROVEN Nfl cornerbacks in this league in FA. draft linemen, ends and linebackers.

matt r

February 24th, 2010
3:12 pm

ET phone KC?

cheese

February 24th, 2010
3:15 pm

we have more than enough CB’s on our team that are good enough to start. like many said if you get good pressure on the QB it will make your corners look good. i would like for the falcons get the best available DE or OLB with thier first pick, possible get a quality RB & TE for turner and gonzalez to mentor, and it wont hurt to get more depth for the OL & DL.

Only LOSERS Back into Parking Spaces

February 24th, 2010
3:16 pm

I hope the Falcons draft a new owner.

Ricky

February 24th, 2010
3:19 pm

Look, I didn’t read your article and I apologize for the snub but we have some talent back there believe it or not. But if you give even an average QB all damn day to throw the ball he will eventually find an open receiver.

We need a pass rush……………plain and simple. And the answer is NOT Julius Peppers……….!! We had 26 sacks for the season…………NFL leader in sacks was the Vikings with 48. So 4 fewer sacks and we would have been next to last in the category. Still waiting on the Jamaal Anderson experiment to be officially concluded as his stats contribute little to the pass rush, not even being double teamed: 2007-0 sacks, 2008-2 sacks, 2009-1/2 sack (yes, as in 0.5). So let’s get a bad ass defensive end (thru the draft). Yes, Peppers had 10.5 sacks last year but so many times production drops in direct contrast to the big fat contract he will get. John Abraham went from 16 sacks in 08′ to 5.5 in 2009. We can make that Peppers money work for us in other ways.
Wished we could trade for Suh but that ain’t going to happen, but he would be worth it.