Seeing that the Falcons traded away quite a few picks to acquire Julio Jones in last year's draft, Atlanta only has five selections to make in 2012.
They gave away their first and fourth round picks in 2012 to Cleveland, but they can make a splash with what they have left. Atlanta is headed to the playoffs this weekend, so we won't know what exact pick they will get until a later date. However, we can go ahead and check out some plausible scenarios.
As of Week 17, we know the Falcons will get to choose their newest addition to the franchise between picks 53 and 64, depending on how far they make it in the postseason.
The Falcons have plenty of issues to attend to in the offseason, so they will have to make the most of the picks they have. Loads of notable players have been found deep in drafts, so why can't this draft still be a success for Atlanta? Michael Turner was a fifth round pick back in 2004, and Brent Grimes actually went undrafted. I'd say both of those guys have turned out pretty well.
Despite the early nature of this discussion, let's delve into the realm of who could become a Falcon this April. Feel free to comment and give some players you'd like to see Atlanta take, or tell me this is a ridiculous list and I'm way off. Now, on to the list.
The Falcons' first pick of 2012 will come in the second round, as their first pick will go to Cleveland. I'm guessing they won't trade five more picks again for another receiver, so let's just assume they're starting in Round 2.
Atlanta has several positions to address. We'll see who they decide to re-sign in the offseason, but there are a few glaring issues right off the bat.
Todd McClure will be 35 soon, and his contract is up at the end of this season. Atlanta may choose to keep him for a little longer, but if not, they're going to have to find someone to fill his important role.
Michael Turner is going to turn 30 in February. He has been great this season, but we all know this kind of success isn't going to last forever. Turner will be getting big money in the next two years, but Atlanta is going to have to find an every-down back to replace him one day. Jason Snelling is a free agent coming up, so if they choose to pass on his contract, will they find a future star in April?
Other than the linebacking corps, the Falcons honestly need help everywhere on defense. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann will be free agents soon. One can only hope they retain these guys, as Abraham has been a leading pass rusher for years now and Biermann always makes the most of his opportunities.
Atlanta's pass defense currently ranks 20th in the league. Their Monday night matchup against New Orleans was embarrassing to watch and it has become clear that their secondary is the biggest weakness.
Every team has problems to fix in April, but the Falcons will only have a few rounds to improve on those needs immediately.
You can find dozens of mock drafts out there already and none of them have anything in common as far as the Falcons go. Taking everything into consideration, here's a look at some players who could land in ATL:
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Wilson has been outstanding for the Hokies this season. He's only a junior and, after the Sugar Bowl, he said he is still undecided on leaving. Assuming he does leave for the draft, he would provide a great runner for Atlanta's future. He has plenty of speed and elusiveness, providing a different style than Turner. B/R's Matt Miller has Wilson going to the Falcons in the second round in his mock draft.
Ben Jones, C, Georgia
Jones was named to ESPN's All-American team this year, and was a vital part of UGA's offensive line for several years. Joe Hawley has been moved around on the O-line this season, so I don't see him becoming a permanent center in the future. Jones would be a big piece for years to come.
Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State
This guy is a monster, listed on Iowa State's page as 6'6", 347 lbs. He has drawn comparisons to Raven's tackle Michael Oher, probably for his sheer size and force. The Cyclones have moved Osemele around, playing him a left tackle at times, but the consensus is that Osemele belongs at guard. He still needs some coaching, but the raw talent is abundant.
Atlanta's third round selection will be contingent on their previous pick, but there are a couple guys that could make a nice fit here, assuming they linger this long:
Brandon Boykin, DB, Georgia
Did you watch the Outback Bowl this year? If you did, there's no way you missed Boykin making plays left and right. He can stick with guys in coverage, make big plays in the backfield and provide special talents for the return game. Eric Weems is going to be a free agent, and if he isn't brought back, Boykin can be their new kick/punt returner.
Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State
Brewster has been starting for the Buckeyes since he was a freshman, and he's done a solid job ever since. Coming out of high school as the No. 1 center overall, he's had a great run in Columbus, despite all the issues that have surrounded the program. If the Falcons pass on Ben Jones in the second, Brewster will be hard to pass up.
The Falcons' won't have a fourth-rounder this time around, so we move onto the fifth:
Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee
Jackson was voted to the All-SEC second team this season for the Volunteers. A former USC Trojan, Jackson transferred in the wake of all the controversy and infractions in Southern Cal. He has plenty of size and a good build, but seems to rely too often on his upper body strength. The Falcons need more pass rushers, so if they can fix this kid up a little, he could help out right away.
Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
Before you call me crazy for thinking they will draft another wide out, consider the potential implications of free agency. Harry Douglas will be a free agent along with Weems. Douglas has dealt with injuries in the past, and although he's been good at times this season, they may choose to let him go. Ultimately I see them in need of another WR, and Joe Adams could be that guy.
Adams has blazing speed and versatility. You've probably heard more about his return skills, as he had one of the plays of the year against Tennessee (featured above). He might not fall this far in the fifth round, but if he does, Atlanta can pounce on that opportunity.
Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
The man they call "Boom" had a huge season in 2010, scoring 16 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. He missed half of this year due to suspension from selling personal items, which was unfortunate due to his huge impact on their offense. He's a tough runner, but is labeled undersized for his power style. All reports have indicated that he was a great leader for the Buckeyes, so there's another plus going forward. He's projected as a fourth-to-fifth-round pick, so we'll see if Atlanta even has a shot at him.
Round 6 has produced some gems in the pass. Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh was taken in the sixth in 2010, look how he's turned out now. And in case you didn't know, Tom Brady was drafted by New England at No. 199 overall back in 2000. Just saying.
Who might the Falcons take deep in the draft?
Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan
People are starting to call this guy underrated, which doesn't bode well for the Falcons' chances of getting him this late, but I figured he should be mentioned. Koger has great hands, but needs to work on his blocking. Tony Gonzalez will probably call it quits after 2012, so they need someone else to take over. Michael Palmer is a restricted free agent soon, and Reggie Kelly looks like he doesn't enjoy moving much anymore. Let's hope Koger falls this far.
Robert Blanton, DB, Notre Dame
The senior cornerback for the Fighting Irish has been one of their best defenders this season. He has great ball skills with his ability to defend in 1-on-1 coverage, but there are obvious flaws that come with him. Listed as 6'0" and sometimes 6'1", Blanton is a long defender. He's said to have great upside, so the Falcons will have to hope for that if they choose to take him.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston
How long was he in college? Six years? I hope that was enough time to prepare for the NFL. Keenum has set several FBS passing records during his tenure, but there's still no telling how he will pan out in the pros. The Falcons have Chris Redman coming off the books, and I don't really see his $2.8 million salary as a necessity to bring back. The probability of Atlanta taking Keenum is slim, but you never know.
Marques Colston was drafted in the seventh round by the New Orleans Saints back in 2006, and look what he's done for them. The Falcons have their own seventh-round wonder as well in Todd McClure, who was taken late in 1999. If they haven't taken a center by this point in April, maybe we could see a repeat? I feel like I've been stretching for a lot of these predictions...but nevertheless, here are a couple guys who could see their dreams of becoming a pro finally come true right at the end:
William Vlachos, C, Alabama
Now I really like Jones and Brewster, but the Falcons may choose to take different routes in the earlier rounds. If they do, Vlachos could become their best seventh-rounder in a long time. Did I mention they drafted McClure in the seventh?
Vlachos has been at the helm of Bama's O-line for years now, and has seen plenty of success along the way. From everything I've read/seen, he is a hard worker with a great football IQ. He may not be the most athletic guy, but neither was Todd McClure, right? Have I drawn enough parallels?
Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
He's on the shorter side, so he could make a great slot receiver for Atlanta. Martin is excellent at making plays with the ball in his hands. His explosiveness could bring another dynamic factor to their offense. Obviously, he still has some thing to work on, like route running, but for now he wouldn't be a bad choice to end the Falcons' draft.