Making sense of the Falcons draft strategy...
Plenty of questions going into this year's draft for the Falcons. And as a fan I didn't get all the answers I was looking for from Thomas Dimitroff's selections. I assume the Falcons master plan includes a new Matt Ryan contract and then plugging in the remaining missing pieces via free agency with the freed up cap space. Priority one for Atlanta was the secondary. Desmond Trufant looks to be a a no risk pick, he can play man to man, has good hops, 4.38 speed and an NFL family pedigree. After speaking with Desmond on Friday he sure seems like a mature player who knows what's expected of him. That said you wish he had more INT's at Washington, but as Dave Archer pointed out, maybe Trufant was so good, teams didn't throw his way as much. I have no problem with the selection, I just hated losing a 3rd and a 6th round pick to jump 8 spots to get him. There were a bunch of big name defensive studs taken in the 2nd and 3rd round.
Man, was it frustrating as a Falcon fan knowing how much we need pass rush seeing those guys come off the board. Not having the ability to make moves for linebackers and defensive ends while our arch rivals gobbled them up had me reaching for the brown liquor. The Vikes would have taken Trufant so I understand the move, but was FSU's Xavier Rhodes that much lower on the Falcons draft board? And Trufant had better be a rock star since you passed on Alec Ogletree who has the potential to be a bigger play maker than any linebacker currently on the roster. Not to mention Sharrif Floyd an expected top 5 pick sitting there at 22. Couldn't an athletic defensive tackle have helped what ever veteran defensive end the Falcons will now have to pick up opposite Osi?
It comes down to defensive philosophy, do ya start with the big dogs up front or with what you hope are shut down corners in the back? Many NFL teams believe it all start with defensive line. A good front 4 makes up for the deficiencies in the backfield. But with all the star QB's emerging in the NFC, the Falcons continue to ignore pass rush.
I couldn't help but be envious of the 49ers draft class. Their picks sound like my pre-draft wish list: FSU's Tank Carradine, the comeback story of Marcus Lattimore, LB Corey Lemonier from Auburn. They had extra picks to burn to move up and and they used them. As the the draft moved into rounds 2 and 3 it just seemed like all the Falcons rivals in the NFC were grabbing pieces you couldn't help but be envious of. The Packers landing Eddie Lacy and UCLA's pass rusher Datone Jones. The Giants got DaMontre Moore from Texas A&M, the Saints picking up Jonathan Jenkins. Half these dudes could be busts and unless the experts at ESPN or SI have a direct line to Nostradamus giving out grades for teams is a study in futility...but San Francisco sure grabbed the names we all recognize.
After Trufant the Falcons went with a guy Mike Mayock knows a lot about, but left most Falcons fans saying who? Southeastern Louisiana's Robert Alford impressed NFL scouts at The Senior Bowl. He fills the need for a big play kick returner. He busted a kickoff for an 88 yard TD at The Senior Bowl and is described as a burner who also likes contact. How many times did Falcons fans head for the bathroom or concession stand last season when the opposing team went into punt formation? Alford seems like a good pick that will pay dividends immediately for Atlanta
Back to the Falcons and the big issues, will the new look offensive line hold up? Will there be a true pass rusher opposite Osi Umenyiora? Can the linebackers cover anyone? I've just had the feeling from the day John Abraham was cut, that he would be back as a Falcon in 2013. Arch says Abe's return is less than a 50-50 shot so if not Abraham would you bring in Dwight Freeney?
Malliciah Goodman the Falcons 4th round pick was a beast in The Chick-Fil-A Bowl, recording 3 sacks on LSU's Zach Mettenberger, and many pre-draft evaluations describe him as having the ability to drop back into coverage which suits Mike Nolan's scheme. He supposedly has difficulty shedding run blockers and is not considered a speed rusher. There's a reason Goodman was there late in the 4th round, he is not considered someone you could plug in as a starter in 2013.
Thomas Dimitroff moved up 10 spots for Stansly Maponga a defensive end from TCU described as "a project" by some draft publications and the Falcons also grabbed a big tight end from Stanford...Really big, also described as another "project" 6'8" TE Levine Toilolo did more blocking than receiving for The Cardinal. But if Dimitroff and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter were looking for a replacement for Tony Gonzalez, many draft experts think there is some potential for Toilolo to give the Falcons a variety of play making skills to utilize...in time.
Strong Safety Zeke Motta from Notre Dame and CB Kemal will contribute on special teams, but don't expect much more. The surprise final Falcon pick is a big time upgrade for the backup quarterback position. Duke's 6'5" QB Sean Renfree
Call me crazy but I thought we had to address immediate needs to get to the next level, I didn't know we were so established that we could afford "projects" but after losing the ability to be a bigger player in the 2nd and 3rd rounds after losing our 3rd and 6th rounders for the Trufant trade up with St. Louis, maybe projects were all that was available.
So it sure sounds like after Matt Ryan gets his new deal, the Falcons will be calling some free veteran free agents.