For the Falcons, a Round 1 defensive end only makes sense

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. He'd look good here. (AP photo)

Adrian Clayborn of Iowa. Is he explosive enough? (AP photo)

The NFL draft hasn’t yet arrived, and already Thomas Dimitroff has contracted a special strain of fatigue. “I’m sick of saying, ‘Explosive player,’ ” he said.

“Explosive” has become the latest buzzword to hit Flowery Branch.  (”Process” was beaten to death in 2008, and “urgency” and “consistency” were the twin themes of 2009.) Dimitroff is, among other things, a wordsmith, and the general manager hates it when he can’t find a synonym.

Trouble is, there isn’t one to describe what the Falcons lack. Repetition be hanged, they need explosive players.

In other offseasons, they’d have found one by now. That’s the Dimitroff Way: Build through the draft, augment via other means.  In 2008 the Falcons signed Michael Turner as a free agent, and he led the NFC in rushing. In 2009 they traded for Tony Gonzalez, the All-Pro tight end, ahead of the draft. In 2010 they signed Dunta Robinson, thereby alleviating the need to draft a cornerback.

This year: Nothing. The NFL lockout locked things down. Quoth the well-spoken GM: “Our incredibly narrow focus on building our team through the draft would not have been as narrow [this year] … The last three years we’ve been active [in trades and free agency]. This has caused us to focus even more on what we can control.”

Meaning the draft. The Falcons own the 27th pick in Round 1. Most mock drafts have them exercising that choice on a defensive end — a high-yield pass rusher meets the definition of “explosive player” — and this could be one time when external consensus mirrors internal thinking.

Not that Dimitroff is saying. But it seemed instructive that in a 45-minute conversation he took pains to review how defensive ends chosen in recent Round 1’s have fared as pros. CliffsNotes version: Results aren’t encouraging to those teams in such a market.

Dimitroff: “A lot of teams getting mass production from pass rushers are getting it from linebackers — like Clay Matthews [with Green Bay] or LaMarr Woodley with Pittsburgh in the 3-4.”

Does this mean the Falcons, who don’t employ the 3-4, won’t draft a defensive end in the first round? “I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that you, me, our owner and our entire fan base has to be realistic about the production you’re going to get from a defensive end.”

That said, Dimitoff also offered this: “There’s no question that if you’re drafting someone in Round 1, you want to get production and need to get production.”

The Falcons were 13-3 and the NFC’s No. 1 seed. They were routed in their first playoff game by Green Bay, which would win the Super Bowl, in large measure because they couldn’t pressure Aaron Rodgers or cover his receivers. Does Dimitroff see his team as being one explosive player from a Super Bowl title itself?

“Because we were 13-3 does not mean we were one more step from the coveted game … There are a number of spots in this team we need to address.”

It has been speculated that the Falcons are working to move upward in the hope of landing Georgia’s A.J. Green or Alabama’s Julio Jones. (Wide receiver also fits the definition of “explosive player.”) To do that, the Falcons would have to leap into the top 10 if not the top five, which would be a mighty bound when you’re sitting at No. 27. It makes sense to try, and it would be the coup of coups if they succeed. But we shouldn’t hold our collective breath.

What we should do is do as we’ve been doing: Look for the Falcons to draft a defensive end. They can find a receiver to complement Roddy White in Round 2; they might not find John Abraham’s pass-rushing bookend so low.

The guess is that the Falcons would be delighted if Adrian Clayborn, the Iowa defensive end, is there when they pick. (In light of revelations that Justin Houston, the Georgia linebacker, tested positive for marijuana, it would be a surprise if they chose him.) As much as Dimitroff might try to drive down expectations, the guess is that he’s hoping for a defensive end in Round 1, hoping even harder he’ll become that explosive player.

By Mark Bradley

78 comments Add your comment

GTT

April 27th, 2011
1:04 pm

Cam Heyward. First?

Mark Bradley

April 27th, 2011
1:05 pm

Yes. Kudos, GTT.

Outside Observer

April 27th, 2011
1:13 pm

Cam Heyward? No thanks.

GTT

April 27th, 2011
1:16 pm

Big, strong, high motor, football smarts and good character. Yeah, nothing to like there. What was I thinking?

Mark Bradley

April 27th, 2011
1:17 pm

I like Cameron Heyward. Just saying.

Claws of the Scorpion

April 27th, 2011
1:17 pm

I think it’s going to be in this order OLB, WR, DE, LT

Outside Observer

April 27th, 2011
1:19 pm

I believe you just described Jamaal Anderson. They seem pretty similar to me. Do you think Heyward is fast enough to pressure the quarterback? I don’t. I would prefer a speed rusher and that is not Heyward.

D A DoubleU G

April 27th, 2011
1:19 pm

I personally do not think failing a marijuana test is that much of an alarm.

Many will tell me otherwise, but I truly hope the Falcons take Justin Houston if he is still on the board.

jhughes

April 27th, 2011
1:20 pm

KUDOS TO MARK! you were second very nice

falconsam

April 27th, 2011
1:22 pm

I like Cam Heyward as a football player, but not in our system. He is big strong, and suited to stop the run. Definitely a 3-4 DE.

The Dogkiller Returns

April 27th, 2011
1:28 pm

DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE!

Offense will take of itself once they unchain Ryan and let him call the shots.

joe

April 27th, 2011
1:30 pm

D A DoubleU G –

That is either the biggest homer comment I have ever seen or I guess you enjoy the medicinal purposes of the plant yourself?

Wunderlink

April 27th, 2011
1:31 pm

Enter your comments here

joe

April 27th, 2011
1:32 pm

Justin Houston??? Really??? Great brains on that one….

ss

April 27th, 2011
1:32 pm

Justin Houston?? Really???? Great brain trust there….

Big Dawg Daddy

April 27th, 2011
1:33 pm

I believe all the top DE’s will be gone by 27, unless teams trade up to get QB’s. Look for the Falcons to end up with the TE from Notre Dame or the WR from Maryland. DE may not come until the 3rd round.

Bob Pettit

April 27th, 2011
1:37 pm

Give us Barrabas…..

Cash

April 27th, 2011
1:43 pm

Justin H was a second rounder at best before the drug revelation.

juvenal

April 27th, 2011
1:48 pm

have been saying DE since your first post on this subject-glad you are on board…..don’t forget Bower’s stock also down, Houston flexible as DE/OLB(can’t believe i actually agree with da on something)

Dr. Warren

April 27th, 2011
1:52 pm

I like the intensity of that guy Clayborn. Just take a look at him in that photo. The red/black birds need that badly, especially since Weatherspoon, who was supposed to be a real fireplug, didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Wonder how Weatherspoon will pan out.

Wunderlink

April 27th, 2011
1:58 pm

You people are mad on this blog….. this is not be the great defensive draft they say it is …how many college teams actually dominated on defense this year…. Auburn & Oregon basically outscored their opponents….mark it down this will be one of the biggest bust years ever….there is not 16 DE/Dl that are 1st & early second round material period….the experts are just quoting what they hear from the GMs…one reason the offense is not so highly touted is due to the spread offense…nobody gives those guys a chance at the next level…….after the feeding frenzy is over early to get that impact defensive guy….teams will settle down & make picks that might actually benefit their teams! Remeber these can’t miss names from last years draft

Derrick Morgan -GT-Titans pick 16
Brandon Graham -UM-Eagles pick 13
Gerald McCoy -OU-Buccaneers pick 3
Jason Pierre-Paul USF-Giants pick 15
Alualu Tyson -UCal-Jaguars pick 10
Jerry Hughes -TCU-Colts pick 31
Dan Williams -UT-Cards pick 26

A lot of those pick were supposed to be impact guys….lol whatever there are not 16 impact D-linemen in this draft mark it down!!!!!!!

G4tor

April 27th, 2011
2:01 pm

1st round – take best available DE/LB
2nd round – take best available WR. Preferably one that can stretch the field with speed/size.

Once the lockout is lifted for good, take a look at the free agency market for a veteran DE. The Titans have a good one (Jason Babin) that could make an immediate impact. Give him a good contract, pay him and keep him happy. Take a look at Plaxico Burress…we could sign him to a 1-2 year deal and if he produces on the field and stays out of trouble, then it will be well worth it. This way, they get top talent at a good price. That’s my 2 pennies.

Larry

April 27th, 2011
2:01 pm

Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh or Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona

CMS

April 27th, 2011
2:02 pm

I still like the idea of getting AJ Green. Cam Newton to Carolina as the number one pick doesn’t make since from a football point of view…its a smoke screen. Who will he throw the ball to? AJ however presents a viable target that helps a young QB like Jimmy Clausen develop. TM must stop this. They don’t have the personel to stop AJ. He would present another problem for their defense.

Wunderlink

April 27th, 2011
2:11 pm

One pick on defense is not gonna improve VanGorders scheme on D……Dimitroff had better address this vanilla offense we run….teams pack the box because there is no deep threat….that means safeties play with more freedom against us…..any doubters should check the Green Bay tape, Charles Woodson played like a LB/SS out there!!!

kevin

April 27th, 2011
2:14 pm

Depending on what it costs to move up, AJ Green is the best wide receiver the draft has seen since Calvin Johnson. If you can reasonably trade up to get him, it’s a no brainer. Unlike many of the DE’s being considered, AJ, barring injury, a sure star in the NFL. With any of the DE’s being considered, it’s a gamble from a production standpoint.

rduck

April 27th, 2011
2:20 pm

I would stray away from Houston at this point. Good player, but showed a real lack of intelligence by smoking weed before the combine. Clayborn is a very good player but he also has issues with his health. I hate thinking about a WR or TE in the 1st, but I could be dead wrong. The Ayers kid from UCLA is intriguing. Haven’t seen much of him. Seems like a solid player and a good fit for the system. The whole AJ Green thing is a cop out. No way do we move that far up without mortgaging the farm. I guess if I had the pick, I would choose Clayborn. I have seen him be a takeover player and a real disruptive force in games. But what do I know?

Dr. Warren

April 27th, 2011
2:24 pm

This is a deceptive 13-3 team, plain and simple. They got whomped Hawks-style in the playoffs, at home, no less, allowing 48 points. Drastic losses call for drastic moves for improvement. Why not package Michael Turner, who will soon be declining, to grab A.J. Green and then start Snelling at RB.

rduck

April 27th, 2011
2:25 pm

Maybe hope Hankerson from Miami is still around in the 2nd. No way do we move up for Green or Jones. Cost is way too high!

rduck

April 27th, 2011
2:29 pm

I agree that Green is a talent. But the cost of moving up to get him seems way to unreasonable for a team that just won 13 games and was the top seed in the playoffs. Granted, it wasn’t the prettiest 13 wins, but a win is a win. I agree that we need help at WR for a deep threat, but we would have to give up major pieces to the already fitting puzzle and mortgage our top picks in the future to get him. Not worth it if you ask me…

kevin

April 27th, 2011
2:30 pm

If AJ Green turns out to be as explosive as a Percy Harvin our Calvin Johnson (and all indications suggest he will be), he is worth the move. Especially, when the alternative is potentially completely wasting a pick on a DE who may or may not perform in the NFL.

rduck

April 27th, 2011
2:33 pm

I just really hope they find a speedy, change of pace back later in the rounds to compliment the running game. The Norwood Project is finished. He can’t stay on the field, much less perform on it…

Bill

April 27th, 2011
2:34 pm

Adrian Clayborn will do just fine..if we can get him 27th. Some good recievers we can get later. Don’t give away the future to get Green.

Falcon fan

April 27th, 2011
2:35 pm

The coat is to high for AJ Green..

rduck

April 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

All I know is that Defense wins Championships in the NFL. The Falcons lost big in the playoffs because they were scorched on Defense for 48 points. Green is a very talented receiver, but IMO, you can’t give up that much to go get him (ala Ricky Williams). Percy Harvin and Calvin Johnson are great players coming out of college with little downside at all. Yet nobody made the move from bottom to top to get them. Reason… too expensive.

Wunderlink

April 27th, 2011
2:40 pm

We could have very easily finished 9-7 thank goodness we did not….everyone would be screaming revamp everything from top to bottom….TD has hard choices ahead…are we a for real 13-3 contender as is…if we draft all out for defense we better get a playmaker on offense thru Free Agency!

Falcon Flyer

April 27th, 2011
2:41 pm

juvenal

April 27th, 2011
1:48 pm
have been saying DE since your first post on this subject-glad you are on board…..don’t forget Bower’s stock also down, Houston flexible as DE/OLB(can’t believe i actually agree with da on something)
—————————————————————————

IMO, I think Houston will get manhandled as a DE in the NFL. I could be wrong but I doubt you’ll see him there in the NFL and if the Falcons take him at 27 (highly unlikely) he’ll end up at OLB.

Wunderlick, you can’t even compare Morgan to the other guys on that list. The guy missed most of last year (approx 75% of the season) with a torn ACL. How the hell do you expect him him to do anything from the bench when he can barely walk? Not saying the guy will be great or even good as a pro, but the guy couldn’t help it because he got injured.

CMS, Newton going #1 to Carolina makes more sense than Green does. Their biggest issue is at QB I think anyway. AJ Green’s prescense won’t help Clausen much if any. I don’t think Green has the big play ability to stetch the field like alot of people believes he does. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good WR, but he probably can’t run by half or more of the CBs in the league.

kevin

April 27th, 2011
2:48 pm

Jacquez Rodgers from OSU might be a nice Norwood replacement. Small, but talk about explosive.

Fu Manchu

April 27th, 2011
2:49 pm

@rduck, have to agree with you there. New Orleans gave up just about their entire draft that year I believe to get Williams and it didn’t turn out to be as good as they’d hoped for. It wasn’t like they were going anywhere anyway but you get the picture. Agreed on Harvin and Johnson too, more specifically Johnson. The Falcons were sitting at 12 in the 07 draft and didn’t move up to get him when WR was a much bigger issue than it is this year. Alot of scouts and experts said he’s been the best, most complete receiver hands down to enter the draft since Keyshawn Johnson. I just don’t see the point in giving away a ton to move up and get Green when they could have done the same thing several years ago and given up so much less.

Fu Manchu

April 27th, 2011
2:50 pm

My mistake, they picked 8th in 07 not 12th.

Jimmy Crack

April 27th, 2011
3:00 pm

(Insert Defensive End’s name that falls to #27 here) = Jamaal Anderson

Wunderlink

April 27th, 2011
3:26 pm

@ Falcon Flyer

You make the perfect point for me i.e. could Peria Jerry help getting hurt his rookie season, also do you consider him an impact player or bust….injuries has & always will be a part of this game….so stop crying over spilled milk…check Morgans stats for the othe 25%….bottom line whether due to injury or poor play if you don’t get value if it was a wasted 1st rounder….here are some of the teams who got high value last year

Bradford -OU-Rams pick 1
Suh -Neb-Lions pick 2
Joe Hayden -Browns pick 7
Dez Bryant -OSU-DAL pick 24
Bryan Bulaga -Iowa-Packers pick 23
Eric Berry -Tenn-KC pick 5
Devin McCourty -URut-NE pick 27*
Rolanda McClain -Ala-Oak pick 8
Maurkice Pouncey -Fla-Pitt pick 18

There were others who showed flashes…. these guys were consistent

Wunderlink

April 27th, 2011
3:34 pm

Have to agree with Jimmy Crack ; at 27th all you will get is a “Hybrid” or “Tweener” ….who won’t turnout any better than what we currently have!

Dan

April 27th, 2011
3:38 pm

LB Akeem Ayers round 1, CB Ras Dowling round 2 and the droping of DE Justin Houston round 3 with his reveal of his liking to get a little high every once in awhile

Sid

April 27th, 2011
3:46 pm

People forget we still have Kerry Meier coming back at wide reciever. Another Steve Largent in the making.

Nate D

April 27th, 2011
3:48 pm

Forget Clayborn he suck and so does heyward if we stay 27th we draft either Ayers, Houston or Rudolph lets move up and get J.J WATT

Tyler

April 27th, 2011
3:51 pm

Trade up to 10-15 and take Bowers from Clemson. He’s a freak.

TSA Screeners = Uneducated Perverts & Pedophiles

April 27th, 2011
4:29 pm

I hope the Falcons can improve on Defense WITHOUT drafting any drug addicts from the University of Georgia.

bsg3003

April 27th, 2011
5:02 pm

TSA Screeners = Uneducated Perverts & Pedophiles
April 27th, 2011
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had to take your shot at uga huh? smh

Hey Marcel

April 27th, 2011
5:04 pm

Did I mention Kerry Meier is coming back?