The Atlanta Falcons have 11—count ‘em—11 selections in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft. Having a slew of picks is a situation any team would love to be in, now the front-office brain trust led by general manager Thomas Dimitroff has to find a way to make good use of the abundance of draft choices.
Expect the Falcons to look for defensive help in the draft. But how early will they look in that direction? Atlanta needs help in the pass rush and at cornerback, but which one will be addressed first?
With Dimitroff’s move up in 2011 draft to grab wide receiver Julio Jones, does Atlanta have enough picks to make a similar draft-day trade? Would the Falcons consider it?
Only the people in Atlanta’s war room have that information and they definitely aren’t telling anyone. But that’s not going to stop me from giving you access to all the latest news, rumors and reports surrounding the Falcons pre-draft preparation.
April 11: Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter had a private workout with the Atlanta Falcons, according to Scout.com.
April 9: Offensive lineman Edmund Kugbila of Valdosta State took part in Atlanta local prospect workout Wednesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
April 8: Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta visited the Falcons recently, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com.
April 7: Three West Coast players visited the Falcons on Sunday, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net. Tight end Levine Toilolo and running back Stepfan Taylor from Stanford and center Brian Schwenke from the University of California all had workouts.
April 6: UCLA cornerback Johnathan Franklin worked out for the Falcons on Saturday, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.
April 5: With the Falcons move to shed some cap space by cutting right tackle Tyson Clabo, Fox Sports South writer John Manasso believes Atlanta could look at bolstering the offensive line in the upcoming draft, but likely not in the first few rounds.
April 3: Georgia pass-rush specialist Cornelius Washington visited the Falcons on April 3, according to ProFootballTalk.
April 13: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution speculates that by studying general manager Thomas Dimitroff's draft tendencies one could guess that the Falcons may be looking to trade up in the first round to take a cornerback like Dee Milliner from Alabama or Xavier Rhodes from Florida State.
As soon as the 2012 football season ended for the Atlanta Falcons thoughts to the NFL draft moved to center stage. There have been tons of trade rumors, scouting combine news and mock drafts galore and now everyone wants to know who the team will pick in the first round with their pick at No. 30.
The answer, well at least the best guess, to that question has changed as the 2013 roster has evolved over the offseason. When everyone thought tight end Tony Gonzalez was retiring, most fans wanted Atlanta to select a tight end with their first pick.
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert or Stanford’s Zach Ertz were both frequent mentions in mock drafts to the Falcons, but when Gonzalez signed to come back to Atlanta, the tight end position wasn’t the biggest need any more.
Atlanta still has a whole at defensive end or outside linebacker for a pass-rush specialist and at cornerback? But which is more important?
Atlanta won 13 games last season and advanced to the NFC Championship Game with John Abraham at defensive end and just 29 sacks from the defense. The Falcons started the season with three starting cornerbacks in Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel. Grimes was injured in Week 1, but Atlanta still had two starters at corner.
The Falcons no longer have that luxury. Both Grimes and Robinson are with other teams and Samuel is the lone starter remaining. Robert McClain shined as the nickel back, but I bet Atlanta would like a more seasoned option or a big-name rookie to stand opposite of Samuel.
Since Osi Umenyioura was signed to fill Abraham’s shoes, cornerback seems to be the Falcons’ biggest need right now, but the team could go either and I wouldn’t be surprised.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff rocked the NFL in 2011 by trading five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns in order to move up 21 spots in the draft to pick wide receiver Julio Jones.
The Falcons traded two first-round picks (2011 and 2012), a second-rounder (2011) and two fourth-round picks (2011 and 2012) and handed quarterback Matt Ryan two wideouts to target.
The move worked beautifully for Atlanta’s offense and now the Falcons have 11 draft picks in 2013 to work with. Atlanta is in big-time “win now” mode. That could mean the team would be better off dealing some of those picks to move up and grab a player in the first round that could make an impact immediately.
Dimitroff took some lumps with the fan base and the media by giving up too much for Jones, but two years later his move appears mad scientist smart. If he chose to do something similar in this year’s draft, he wouldn’t take nearly as much heat.
Tony Gonzalez is back for another season with the Atlanta Falcons after contemplating retirement throughout the entire 2012 season. But he told me in a phone interview Friday that the 2013 season was definitely “a one-and-done” situation.
Gonzalez won’t play after 2013 even though he signed a two-year contract recently. “That was more for cap reasons,” said Gonzalez. “I was trying to make it cap friendly. If we can’t get it done this year, I’ll gladly enter the next chapter of my life.”
Atlanta’s offense is uniquely potent because no team can cover Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White at the same time. When Gonzalez rides off into the sunset, wouldn’t it be nice if the Falcons had his replacement already on the roster?
Not only would that make sense for continuity reasons, bringing in Gonzalez’s replacement now so the rookie could spend a season learning from the best tight end ever to put on cleats would be massively beneficial.
Atlanta is likely going defense with its first pick, putting Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz out of reach for the Falcons because they are likely first-round picks.
Florida tight end Jordan Reed led the Southeastern Conference in receptions last year and has decent wide receiver skills. He needs to add bulk, but could be a good option in the third round.
Dion Sims from Michigan State looks like a lineman but can move like an agile tight end. He’s had some injury setbacks during his career, but if he can convince the Falcons he’s on the path to an injury free career, he might make sense in the fourth round.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.