Atlanta Falcons: Targeting a Tight End in the First Round?

Peyton YoumansCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons drops back to pass in the NFC Wild Card Game against the Arizona Cardinals on January 3, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 30-24.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons approach the 2009 draft having lost five starters from a defense that ranked 24th in the NFL in 2008, and zero starters from a young offense that ranked 6th.  Even with the Falcons' areas for improvement seemingly obvious, some observers believe the Falcons will target a tight end with the 24th pick of the draft.

Thomas Dimitroff has apparently mastered the art of pre-draft posturing.

The masterful misdirection perpetrated by the GM this year should not come as a surprise.  Last season the Falcons entered the draft with a massive hole at the most important position on the football field, yet Dimitroff had many believing the Falcons would draft Glenn Dorsey.    

The idea of the Falcons drafting a tight end with the first pick is so insane that I am not going to waste any more of my time, or the readers’ time, debunking it. 

The Falcons will go defense in round one, and I suspect they will stay on that side of the football for rounds two and three as well.  Because the Falcons lost both Michael Boley and Keith Brooking to free agency in the offseason, many pundits have the team targeting linebackers in the first round, but there are compelling reasons to think the Falcons will look in another direction.

The Falcons thought enough of Coy Wire at the end of 2008 to give him the starting nod over a healthy Michael Boley, and the Falcons signed veteran LB Michael Peterson from the Jaguars in the offseason.  Throw promising third-year LB Stephen Nicholas into the equation, and the Falcons need at OLB appears less urgent.  The other factor is the deep draft class itself as Atlanta can acquire a similar caliber of player with the 55th pick as they would be able to draft with the 24th pick.  This is not the case at other positions of need.

The Falcons have an obvious need at safety, but there is not a safety in this draft worthy of first round consideration, so the Falcons will look elsewhere with their first pick.

The two positions the Falcons will likely target in round-one are defensive tackle and cornerback.  The Falcons have one solid young starter at each of those positions in Jonathan Babineaux and Chris Houston, with the balance of those roster positions filled by journeymen type players.  The cornerback situation is a bit more stable as Brent Grimes played well at CB for the Falcons in the first half of the 2008 season, and Von Hutchins is returning from injury.

Against this backdrop, I predict Peria Jerry is the player the Falcons will target with the 24th pick of the draft.   Jerry is an athletic player with excellent measurables to go with outstanding production in the toughest conference in college football.  He will fill a pressing need in the middle of the Falcons defensive line and be a fixture on the Falcons' defense for years to come. 

Most importantly, there is an enormous drop off in the draft class at Defensive Tackle after B.J. Raji and Jerry are gone.  This makes him the easy choice if he is on the board.

If Jerry is not available when the Falcons pick, I believe the second choice will be CB Vontae Davis from Illinois.  If both Jerry and Davis are off the board, and that would be unfortunate for the Falcons, the team might look at CB Darius Butler of Connecticut or look at trading down to the top of the second round for more draft picks.

This is how the first four rounds of the Falcons draft might play out, with alternative picks in parentheses –

1st round – pick 24 – Peria Jerry     (Vontae Davis, Darius Butler)

2ndround – pick 55 – Clint Sintim  (Ron Brace, William Moore)

3rd round – pick 90 – Chip Vaughn (Macho Harris, Sen’Derrick Marks)

4thround – pick 125 – Bradley Fletcher (Jonathan Casillas, David Bruton)

In round-five, the Falcons will finally get their Tight End when they draft John Phillips from the University of Virginia.

In 2008, the Falcons laid the foundation for the Falcons offense by drafting Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, and Harry Douglas.  This draft will be used to do the same for the defense.