Ed: Continuing with our NFL draft coverage, we’ve got the Atlanta Falcons’ draft review. Plenty more teams to come, so keep checking back with us.
First off, I’d like to address the fact that most people are stunned the Falcons didn’t get a solid DB with their first pick.
People have lampooned the Falcons for having a weak secondary, and while it could certainly be bolstered with a good shut-down corner, the defensive numbers really weren’t as bad as a lot of people think they were.
Yes, they were 22nd in the league in pass defense. More importantly, they were fifth in the league in points per game on the defensive side of the ball and had 22 interceptions. They got burned, but they were able to hold when it counted, so while they’ll definitely need to work on it this season, it’s not the end of the world.
Sure, the Packers destroyed them in the playoffs, but they also destroyed pretty much everyone else they played, and don’t forget, the Falcons beat them in the regular season. Now on to the picks.
The Julio Jones (first round, sixth overall) trade-up shocked a lot of people, including myself.
The Falcons gave up a lot to get him, but here’s why it may work out in the end: Jones is a phenomenal, physical receiver that makes the offense a lot more prolific than it was before. Having a deep threat receiver pulls the safeties back, which should provide a lot more room for some shorter routes to White and Gonzalez, the go-to guys on third down, and keep the defense from stacking the box to shut down Turner.
Last year, the Falcons ran a system built on short yardage that ate up the clock. Now, they’ll be more of a threat at all three levels of the field. Having Jones should also spread the defense. Double-teaming either guy isn’t going to seem like a great option for many defenses this season and should cause more than a few headaches for opposing defensive coordinators.
Akeem Dent (third round, 91st overall), who I had the pleasure of watching while he played at UGA, is a solid tackler that while not being able to jump in as a starter over Curtis Lofton, should be able to give him some much needed rest and be a reliable backup.
He was a bright spot, along with Justin Houston, on a team that would have finished even lower without his tough work in the middle.
Jacquizz Rodgers out of Oregon State was an interesting pick that I personally really liked. Rodgers is a small, shifty back that should compliment the power running of Turner and Snelling. His role will more than likely be very limited in his first year, however, but that’s to be expected as he won’t have the ability to block the pass rush as well as the other backs.
That extra speed, however, could prove beneficial when up-the-gut running with Turner just isn’t getting it done.
Matt Bosher, punter out of Miami, was taken in the sixth round at the 192nd overall spot. While I haven’t watched a ton of film on him, he led the ACC in average punt yards (44.7) and averaged 65 yards kicking off the tee. I don’t think he’ll be jumping right in over Bryant or Koenen, but he’s got a hell of a leg and should become a solid addition to the special teams units.
The seventh round brought in two players I’m less familiar with. Andrew Jackson, OG from Fresno State (210th overall) and Cliff Matthews (230th overall). With players taken this deep in the draft, knowing exactly how they’ll pan out is difficult.
That said, I love the players South Carolina has been churning out on the defensive side of the ball, so I think Matthews will more than likely have the skills to build himself into a solid DE and hopefully have time to learn the tricks of the trade before starting his first NFL game.
There’s too much speculation to really know how well this will all pan out until the season starts, if of course it even happens. The only player the Falcons drafted for immediate impact was Jones, but when you’re coming off a 13-3 season, it’s probably okay to stick with a lot of the guys that got you there in the first place.
Overall grade: B.
– El Hammerpuncho