The NFL Draft is regarded amongst the league as the single biggest offseason event that the NFL has to offer. Rookies make impacts every year that affect the overall outlook on each team, conference and eventually the Super Bowl.
General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and the rest of the Falcons front office will have their hands full in trying to have a successful draft with only five picks to their name. They felt the Falcons were one pick away from a Super Bowl last year, but the results did not suggest this as they have some big holes to fill.
Here is a projected (slightly optimistic) mock draft for the Atlanta Falcons 2012 draft.
This year the Falcons do not have a first-round draft pick, which they gave up in the trade acquiring Julio Jones. They say hindsight is 20/20, and it may be too early to tell, but Julio Jones looks to have all of the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler and premier No. 1 receiver.
The Falcons felt they were one guy away from taking the "next step" and obviously getting bounced out of the playoffs in the first round is not what the front office was hoping, but in my opinion Jones is going to be worth all of the draft picks they gave up for him.
2012 First-Round Pick: Julio Jones
The secondary for Atlanta will be and has to be the top priority this offseason. Brandon Boykin, one of the most versatile players in the draft, would provide the Falcons with an explosive returner and a solid man cover corner that will easily improve the Falcons pass defense.
Look for the Falcons to go with Boykin, any other defensive back or possible a tight end in the second round.
Projected 2012 Second-Round Pick: CB Brandon Boykin, University of Georgia
Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez has booked a first class ticket to the hall of fame, but is not getting any younger. Look for the Falcons to use this pick to get a tight end in preparation for the day that Gonzalez "hangs it up."
Orson Charles would be a great fit for the Falcons and may be off the board in the late second, early third round. It never hurts to be optimistic though, and unless he runs a sub 4.6 forty, there is a chance that he will be ready for the taking at the end of the third round.
Projected 2012 Third-Round Pick: TE Orson Charles, UGA
The Falcons do not have a fourth-round draft pick in this upcoming draft due to the trade for Julio Jones.
The needs in the secondary are huge, and the Falcons could easily spend two of their first three "real picks" on defensive backs. Cliff Harris is a logical pick here because the guy can flat out run and is a decent cover corner with fair size.
Some of the field issues will have him drop in the 2012 draft, but no one is exactly sure how far. If he is on the board, the Falcons should swipe him.
Projected 2012 Fifth-Round Draft Pick: CB Cliff Harris, Oregon
With these later picks, I see the Falcons wanting to add some depth at the offensive line positions, specifically guard. At 6'6", Stephen Good out of Oklahoma would be a great option for the Falcons here in the sixth round. He is an extremely versatile lineman and has found a home at guard.
His run-blocking may need to improve a little bit before he ever becomes a starter, but he will add much-needed depth to the offensive line.
Projected 2012 Sixth-Round Pick: OG Stephen Good, Oklahoma
The Falcons punter situation was one of the worst in the NFL. After losing Michael Koenen to free agency, rookie Matt Bosher stepped in and struggled. He barely managed to have a punting average over 35 yards and had countless "bad" punts.
The top punter in the draft is Shaun Powell out of Florida State, who has managed to average 46 yards a punt throughout his career as a Seminole. Taking kickers in the draft may not be something to be proud of, but it may be what is needed to be done.
Projected 2012 Seventh-Round Pick: P Shaun Powell, Florida State