OK, I’ve decided: The Falcons should NOT draft C.J. Spiller

C.J. Spiller ran a 4.37 40 at the NFL combine this week, and that’s really fast. That’s not so fast, however, as to convince me he’d be the right fit for the Falcons.

I’d gone back and forth on this one, and last week I asked for your help. Fifty-five percent of more than 2,000 respondents in a quickie poll suggested the Falcons should pass on the fleet Clemson back “only if they’re nuts.” (The Falcons, it should be stipulated, have done nutty things in past drafts, but they’ve been remarkably sane under the Dimitroff-Smith administration.) Many of you made impassioned and cogent cases on Spiller’s behalf, and it was hard for me not to be swayed by them.

Hard. But not impossible.

Having given this weighty matter way more thought than I’m accustomed to giving anything, I’ve reached this conclusion: The team that takes C.J. Spiller in Round 1 needs to be a team solid in the areas where solidity matters. (Meaning: In the running game and on defense.) The Falcons’ running game is fine. Their defense is not fine. Their defense ranked 21st in total yards yielded last season, up from 24th in 2008. That’s better, but it’s not yet good enough.

Against the pass, the Falcons regressed. They ranked 21st in 2008, 28th in 2009. There are only two ways to fix a pass defense: Get better pass rushers or upgrade your coverage crew. With this draft’s 19th overall pick, Thomas Dimitroff will have that chance. (Almost everyone expects him to draft a cornerback, but I’m thinking he’ll take a defensive end.)

The Spiller question arose because of a mock draft authored by Don Banks of SI.com that had Spiller going 20th overall to Houston, or one pick after the Falcons choose. Having monitored the comments on this dumb little blog the past two months, I know there’s a grass-roots moment — almost Howard Dean-like in its intensity — to go against conventional wisdom and take the game-breaker from up I-85. And I, having seen firsthand the havoc wrought by Spiller in the ACC title game, will concede he’s an impressive talent.

But the Falcons have someone under contract who approximates Spiller’s skill set in Jerious Norwood, and he really hasn’t broken many games. Even Reggie Bush, who was even more spectacular as a collegian and who was drafted second overall by the Saints in 2006, is widely regarded as overrated simply because there are many days when he does nothing spectacular.

I likened Spiller to Percy Harvin, the Florida product who was named offensive rookie of the year. But Minnesota took Harvin with the 22nd pick of the 2009 draft, and the Vikings already had Adrian Peterson to run the ball and an above-average D. (Minnesota ranked sixth in total defense in 2008.) The Vikings were solid enough to take the risk inherent in spending a Round 1 pick on a change-of-pace back.

The Falcons, I submit, aren’t there yet. They have clear and present holes on defense. And if they would invest the draft’s 19th pick on Mr. 4.37, they’d have to wait until 65 more players are taken to draft again. (Their Round 2 pick belongs to Kansas City as a result of the Tony Gonzalez trade.) Can a team with the league’s fifth-worst pass defense fail to address that need until the draft’s 84th pick?

No, I say, and I say this only after careful deliberation. As tempting as Spiller would be — and I must concede the chances of him being available at No. 19 probably plunged with reports of that 4.37 — he’d be a temptation best resisted.

184 comments Add your comment

F-105 Thunderchief

March 1st, 2010
12:02 pm

F-105 Thunderchief

March 1st, 2010
12:03 pm

There’s a lot of luck in this whole first thing, you know?

Bryan G.

March 1st, 2010
12:03 pm

I agree Mark. Unless there is no first round defensive talent left at #19, the Falcons shouldn’t get Spiller.

Bryan G.

March 1st, 2010
12:03 pm

Congrats to F-105 Thunderchief.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:04 pm

Luck plus skill, F-105 Thunderchief. Don’t be overly modest. Kudos.

C tha 1

March 1st, 2010
12:05 pm

Get Myron Rolle! For a team that’s itching for a high character player and a defensive player at the same time he’s your guy.

fireMarkBradley

March 1st, 2010
12:06 pm

Why would we waste a first round draft choice on a rb who may or may not be a game changer when we have Micheal Turner, who definitely is one, and Jerious Norwood who is pretty darn fast in his own right?

F-105 Thunderchief

March 1st, 2010
12:09 pm

You wander into the room, see it’s empty and then type like heck.

The point that puts the whole thing into stark relief is, that, yes, there is no way the Falcons could afford until pick 84 to add a defensive piece. And, I agree a pass rusher is more likely than a DB. The defensive backfield made big strides at the end of the season … that was legit.

Dawgday

March 1st, 2010
12:11 pm

If Mark Bradley says to not draft C.J. Spiller – draft C.J. Spiller.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:12 pm

“Stark relief”: I love that phrase, F-105.

Doesn't matter

March 1st, 2010
12:13 pm

It’s all academic at this point. After his performance at the combine, there’s no chance Spiller falls to 15, let alone 19. We might as well discuss whether the Falcons should draft Suh if he falls to 19.

With that said, unless one of the top defensive players falls to 19 (e.g., McClain), you’d be hard pressed to find a better value at 19 than Spiller, even for the Falcons who are in desperate need of a CB. It just doesn’t look like an impact CB will be available at 19, and the Falcons will be reaching for the CB from FSU or taking a risk on the CB from Boise St.

But, again, this entire discussion is moot, because there is no way Spiller is available at 19.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:14 pm

You might be right, Doesn’t matter. But let’s recall that Harvin was the 22nd pick a year ago.

Marcus

March 1st, 2010
12:14 pm

MB,
In 3rd paragraph from bottom, I assume you meant Harvin vs. Spiller for the 22nd pick in ‘09 NFL Draft.

I am liking Jacoby Ford in middle rounds to backfill for H. Douglas. I like Spiller and said as much in mid-season ‘09 Falcons blogs, but as a “wish list” guy, knowing that we don’t have the cache of early-round picks to snag all of our favorite guys (I like FSUs P. Robinson and UF TE Aaron Hernandez, as well, no way we snag even 2 of those guys).
I agree: Defense 1st.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:16 pm

I did, Marcus. Thanks for being my editor.

Marcus

March 1st, 2010
12:16 pm

MB,
Didn’t Harvin drop to No. 22 because of injury issues and/or some uhhhhh….canibis issues?

Marcus

March 1st, 2010
12:19 pm

ha-ha. just remember me when you get famous…hey, you … are … ALREADY… famous! :)

Are you doing another 1st round March Madness, feet-propped in front of a vintage Curtis Mathes TV AJC blog again?!?!?

Will

March 1st, 2010
12:19 pm

I still think that if Spiller is available at 19 the Falcons should take him. Maybe its just me, but I think that Falcons need help at RB. I thought for most of last year that perhaps 2008 was a fluke year for Turner and that maybe he’s on the downside of his career. Norwood seems to always be hurt or nicked up and has never been really anything more than “potential”. (He also has “almost frighteningly skinny legs for a RB.) I think that it may also be possible to find a DE or LB at one of the smaller schools in later rounds. I know that the ACC is one thing and the NFL is another…but Spiller is a game changer at either level in my opinion.

Doesn't matter

March 1st, 2010
12:19 pm

Mark, let’s also recall that Harvin tested positive for marijuana at the combine and saw his stock drop significantly between the combine and draft.

Falcoon

March 1st, 2010
12:19 pm

Mark Minnesota drafted Harvin 22nd not Spiller in 2009

out of work & broke

March 1st, 2010
12:21 pm

Mark Bradley is right. We need to secondary help in the worst way and some pass rushers too. Let’s see if Diminutroff can make some good picks again this year. There has to be some decent players flying under the radar out there we could develop.

Hamad Meander

March 1st, 2010
12:21 pm

The only reason that Spiller makes sense for the Falcons is that there may not be a defensive player at #19 that makes complete sense for them. They only have one first round pick and no second round pick, so let’s just say we get to #19 and Weatherspoon is gone. Do you gamble on a corner at that point? Do you go with a DE that has character issues? It’s not like the Falcons are going into 2010 without some weapons on defense – we get Peria Jerry and William Moore back from IR.

Personally, I’d like to see the Falcons trade down, pick up another 2nd or 3rd round pick, and grab Weatherspoon later down the first round.

Falcoon

March 1st, 2010
12:22 pm

How about trading Michael Turner to San Deigo for Cromarte and draft Dwyer. We get our cb and get younger at rb

Bamboozled

March 1st, 2010
12:22 pm

CJ is not even being considered. Maybe the Falcons gamble and try to get 2 first round picks on the defense side. DE & CB or Safety.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:23 pm

You wouldn’t believe how often I’m reminded of the feet-propped-up photo, Marcus.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:25 pm

And you folks do make a good point about the extracurricular issues regarding Percy Harvin. But I submit that most NFL teams feel about change-of-pace backs the way I believe the Falcons will — they’re great to have provided you have most everything else covered.

EW

March 1st, 2010
12:25 pm

Fair enough. Hopefully he won’t be the next Chris Johnson although I think THAT CJ went about 4.24 in the 40. Spiller looks like a beast in his combine getup tho.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
12:25 pm

Last I heard, it’s San Diego that is hoping to draft Jonathan Dwyer.

All I'm Saying Is...

March 1st, 2010
12:29 pm

Good post, Bradley. As I typed before, if a CJ Spiller type is what you want, then the Falcons should re-sign Norwood or sign Reggie Bush as a free agent (thereby filling a supposed need and removing him from an in division competitor) both of which are proven NFL players which CJ clearly is not no matter how good he looked at the Combine or over the course of an, ahem, ACC season.

In the first round, Falcons should draft the best athlete available at either the d-lineman (pass rusher) or d-back (corner with some size preferably) position.

LET’S GO FALCONS!

Larvell "SugarBear" Blanks

March 1st, 2010
12:29 pm

I tend to agree with Will in that Jerious was always nicked up last year. Also, I agree that Turner might be on the downside of his career. The NFL is all about speed and you do NOT pass up on speed.

DawgDad

March 1st, 2010
12:30 pm

I’d be hard-pressed to see Falcons draft a RB in round 1. If Spiller is there at 19, and you’re not impressed with the DE/OLB value on the board, TRADE DOWN.

MSS

March 1st, 2010
12:30 pm

pass on spiller we will draft a LB or DE but if RB Dexter Mccluster falls to the 3rd round i think that would be a good pick he could be a RB, WR and would help special teams

Hunter

March 1st, 2010
12:34 pm

I think drafting Spiller completely depends on what happens in Free Agency. I don’t think there are any players at the 19 spot who will be ready to play and make an impact day one. Maybe the kid from Michigan, only because of his tackle for loss stats, and overall ability to disrupt plays in the backfield. Other than that, all the prospects on these Mock Drafts are projects. Spiller, on the other hand, will make an impact immediately. One thing the Falcons offense/special teams lacks, is a game breaker. It is totally unfair to compare Norwood to Spiller, Norwood has been hurt and never played up to potential and probably will not be back next year. Spiller adds a whole new dimension to the Falcons offensive game plan, and if he’s available at 19, he’ll definitely be the best player available, and should be drafted. Keep in mind, we’ll have one DL, and two DB’s on the roster next year who missed the entire 09 season due to injury.

Banned By Cindy

March 1st, 2010
12:36 pm

I believe Ron Paul is a more apt metaphor for grass roots movement. Or is it analogy?

The CB’s are developing faster than the DE’s, therefore DE is likely the pick. But who knows?

Too bad that busybody Senator Lott made it nearly impossible to bet by removing the ability to move your money. Or was it Frist?

Sonny Clusters

March 1st, 2010
12:37 pm

Does that C.J. stand for Chipper Jones? Chipper Jones Spiller? Would his thumbs and toes stand up to playing in the NFL? He does look like a player but so does McClusters and you probably know where we stand on somebody named McClusters. When we was playing ball we had biceps like that but we was tearing so many shirtsleeves we stopped wearing real nice shirts. We had a Dairy Queen shirt we liked a lot with a Dairy Queen cone picture on it.

charles harris

March 1st, 2010
12:37 pm

DRAFT JACOBY FORD! You have to respect speed and Ford has it!

Bill

March 1st, 2010
12:42 pm

Take Spiller and go after Julius Peppers.

18 Wheels of Love

March 1st, 2010
12:43 pm

Having watch Spiller here in SC I can tell you that the guy has an extra gear that few others have. I’ve seen him blow past speedy DB’s who had an angle on him…like Deion could do. But, he also is not the toughest. Just watch the replay of my Gamecocks stuffing him this past year…this after he ran the kickoff back. Hit him hard and he questions his routes. He also has a tendency to come up with questionable injuries…just ask any Clemson fan.

Now if the Falcons take him at 19 it wouldn’t be the worst move. Like I said he has Ferrari speed and has the track record to back it up, even with a few question marks. My question is will he get fair value for his house on Hartwell Lake?

18 Wheels of Love

March 1st, 2010
12:44 pm

I mention Gamec0cks and the blog ate my post. Maybe it will fish itself out.

Turnt_UP!

March 1st, 2010
12:45 pm

And to think, Bay-Bay Thomas ran a 4.38 in the 40? His size, and CJ Spiller’s speed? WOW!

todd grantham

March 1st, 2010
12:47 pm

Mark, how about “sans relief”?

Matt

March 1st, 2010
12:48 pm

We should see the benefits of drafting a CB in about 3 years soooooooo I’ll look forward to that in about 2012.

mark

March 1st, 2010
12:49 pm

i know everyone will think i’m crazy, but i’d draft tim tebow as a defensive end!
(and i’m a dawg fan)

Khao$

March 1st, 2010
12:52 pm

Mark, although I agree we need pass rush in the worse way, there has to be a legitimate pass rusher sitting there at 19. If Spiller is sitting there and the best available pass rusher on the board is a reach, go for the best available player. The last time we reached for need, we drafted Jamaal Anderson to replace the productive Patrick Kerney. How did that turn out. I’m in total alignment, WE NEED DEFENSE. That said if drafting for defense means we reach, go get Spiller. It wasn’t like our offense was burning up stat sheets last year.

dleemo

March 1st, 2010
12:54 pm

You take the best player on the board, and if Spiller is available at 19 or 20, you absolutely draft him. The Falcons drafted all d last year, and they had minimal impact. Spiller will without a doubt add huge playmaking ability and can easily add 10-20 yards in field position average. I like Norwood, but I don’t believe he has near the talent as Spiller, just check out some youtube highlights on this guy. Regardless, he will be gone by the Falcons pick.

Curt

March 1st, 2010
12:54 pm

While I dont think Spiller is in the class of Emmitt Smith, I believe that Smith would not have been the runner he was without one of the best lines in football. I think most decent backs can gain yards behind a very good line and on the other side, a good back will not gain yards without a good line. A good line is also necessary to give the QB time to throw. Last year, it was clear that Ryan felt the pressure. While part of that is Ryan’s issue, a lot of it was the line.

I think on offense the Falcons need to shore up the line and add another wide out. One who can take the pressure of White.

However, with their first pick I think the Falcons need to draft defense.

GTech

March 1st, 2010
12:54 pm

The kid IS a good one but he is too brittle. Brittle in college, missing too much time with injuries.

JoeV

March 1st, 2010
12:56 pm

You are an idiot.

dleemo

March 1st, 2010
12:56 pm

P.S. NFL = Offense wins championships

Signed,

New Orleans Saints.

Jon Contract

March 1st, 2010
12:57 pm

Falcons dont need a guy who will end up as just a KR PR guy.

Also his numbers have to be deflated somewhat as they were put up in a very weak conference.

willie

March 1st, 2010
12:58 pm

TD seems happy with Abe/Biermann/Chauncey/Sidbury at DE for now. P. Jerry coming back with Babs should help the pressure. Our first pick with be OLB (Weatherspoon, Bowman, etc.) or a corner (TD knows DBs, so he will have to fall in love with one of them to take him that high).