The Falcons are undergoing a retooling of the defense that looks like it is starting at the cornerback and defensive end spots based on the draft and the fact they released John Abraham and Dunta Robinson.
Combine that with losing Brent Grimes to the Miami Dolphins and the Falcons have a lot of work to do on defense. Luckily, their six defensive draft picks and multitude of other undrafted free agents look to compete for roles on the team.
Follow along as we run down who the rookies are:
College: University of Washington
Draft Status: First Round
Height: 5'11-5/8" Weight: 190 pounds
Arm Length: 31-1/4" Hand Measurement: 8-5/8"
40-yard dash: 4.38 sec. 10-yard split: 1.50 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 3.85 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.67 sec. Bench Reps: 16 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.5" Broad Jump: 10'5"
2012: 12 Games Played, 36 Tackles, 4.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 8 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick
2011: 13 Games Played, 64 Tackles, 0.5 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 2 Interceptions, 2 Fumbles Forced, 14 Pass Deflections
2010: 13 Games Played, 48 Tackles, 1.5 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 1 Interception, 4 Pass Deflections
2009: 12 Games Played, 47 Tackles, 2.0 Tackles for Loss, 1 QB Hurry, 2 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Recovered, 6 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown
Desmond Trufant was drafted to be the starting cornerback for the Falcons. The team needed someone who could play both man and zone coverages. Trufant has a ton of athletic ability, and his overall potential is that of a Champ Bailey clone.
Trufant will compete right away to be the starting right corner. Should he win the job, he'll get thrown right into the fire against good offenses of New Orleans, St. Louis, Miami and New England. It will be sink or swim early, and he has the ability to swim.
College: Southeastern Louisiana University
Draft Status: Second Round
Height: 5'10-1/8" Weight: 188 pounds
Arm Length: 32" Hand Measurement: 9-1/2"
40-yard dash: 4.34 sec. 10-yard split: 1.55 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.23 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.89 sec. Bench Reps: 17 reps
Vertical Jump: 40.0" Broad Jump: 11'0”
2012: 11 Games Played, 39 Tackles, 5.0 Tackles for Loss, 4 Interceptions, 8 Pass Deflections, 7 Punt Returns, 99 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 4 Kick Returns, 61 Yards
2011: 11 Games Played, 52 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss, 5 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Recovered, 7 Pass Deflections
2010: Granted medical redshirt due to an injury
2009: 10 Games Played, 46 Tackles, 1 Interception, 5 Pass Deflections, 1 Punt Return, 7 Punt Return Yards
2008: Didn't play in any games
Robert Alford is a top-notch athlete who has excellent instincts in coverage. He's very reminiscent of an early Brent Grimes with return ability. The Falcons needed someone who could give a spark to the return game and have long-term potential to replace Asante Samuel.
Alford's best comparison is Samuel with respect to the ability to return the ball. His only real drawback was playing at a small school. But that didn't seem to be an issue for Brent Grimes or Cortez Allen. It will just take some time for him to adjust to the game.
College: Clemson University
Draft Status: Fourth Round
Height: 6'3-5/8" Weight: 276 pounds
Arm Length: 36-3/8" Hand Measurement: 11"
40 yard dash: 4.87 sec. 10 yard split: 1.65 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.48 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.10 sec. Bench Reps: 26
Vertical Jump: 33.0" Broad Jump: 9'9"
2012: 13 Games Played, 20 Tackles, 9.5 Tackles for Loss, 7.0 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 4 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2011: 14 Games Played, 50 Tackles, 4.5 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 8 QB Hurries,1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2010: 13 Games Played, 32 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack, 1 QB Hurry, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2009: 14 Games Played, 26 Tackles, 6.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry
On draft day, I said this was going to be a steal. Malliciah Goodman has all of the qualities you look for in a diamond in the rough. He's strong, fast and has the prototypical body for the position. On top of that, he's also one of the more intelligent players the Falcons have brought in recently.
One thing that was noticable when watching film on him this season was just how good he is against the run. However, he also significantly improved as a pass-rusher once he started to refine his rip move. If he can develop some more pass-rush moves, he could be a truly talented pass-rusher in a Justin Tuck-style mold.
College: Stanford University
Draft Status: Fourth Round
Height: 6'8-1/8" Weight: 260 pounds
Arm Length: 34-1/2" Hand Measurement: 10-1/4"
40 yard dash: 4.79 sec. 10 yard split: 1.68 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.57 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.09 sec. Bench Reps: 19 reps
Vertical Jump: 33.5" Broad Jump: 9'9"
2012: 14 Games Played, 24 Catches, 393 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
2011: 12 Games Played, 25 Catches, 343 Yards, 6 Touchdowns
2010: 1 Game Played, 1 Catches, 27 Yards. Sustained injury first catch and was lost for the season.
2009: Redshirted during his freshman year
When it comes to the ideal player to learn from Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo has all the tools to be a great one. While his 40 time isn't the fastest, he does have good lateral agility and blocking ability. He's also one of the smartest players from this past year's draft at tight end.
The Falcons will need him to pick the brain of the greatest tight end to ever play the game and retain the information quickly. But if there's anyone who can teach him how to find the soft spots in zone coverage and how to use his body the right way, it's Gonzalez.
College: Texas Christian University
Draft Status: Fifth Round
Height: 6'1-7/8" Weight: 256 pounds
Arm Length: 34-1/8" Hand Measurement: 10"
40 yard dash: 4.83 sec. 10 yard split: 1.67 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.37 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.37 sec. Bench Reps: 30 reps
Vertical Jump: 29.5." Broad Jump: 9'6"
2012: 11 Games Played, 26 Tackles, 6.5 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2011: 13 Games Played, 55 Tackles, 13.5 Tackles for Loss, 9.0 Sacks, 5 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections
2010: 12 Games Played, 32 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflections
When it comes to unheralded pass-rushers, Thomas Dimitroff seems to be stacking them up. Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman, Cliff Matthews, and now, Stansly Maponga make a quartet of young, high-potential pass-rushers.
Maponga could be the true dark horse to start once Osi Umenyiora is out of the picture. He's got long arms and quick, strong hands that allow him to shed blocks easily. He's also got one of the quickest bursts off the line of any end in this past year's draft.
College: University of Central Florida
Draft Status: Seventh Round
Height: 5'10-3/4" Weight: 201 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.63 sec. 10-yard split: 1.53 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.28 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.75 sec. Bench Reps: 21 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5" Broad Jump: 10'3”
2012: 14 Games Played, 124 Tackles, 5.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 3 Interceptions, 3 Fumbles Forced, 4 Pass Deflections
2011: 12 Games Played, 81 Tackles, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Fumble Forced, 3 Pass Deflections
2010: 14 Games Played, 93 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss, 2 Interceptions, 2 Fumbles Forced, 5 Pass Deflections
2009: 13 Games Played, 71 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
Kemal Ishmael is an excellent case of the Falcons bringing in a college playmaker just to see what he can provide at the pro level. Ishmael is one of the surest tacklers the Falcons have drafted under Thomas Dimitroff.
He's one of those guys who just flies around the field and can be used in many different packages as a big nickel, a free safety, a strong safety or even an undersized linebacker. The only real issue with Ishmael is that he is only 5'10".
College: University of Notre Dame
Draft Status: Seventh Round
Height: 6'2-1/4" Weight: 213 pounds
Arm Length: 31-5/8" Hand Measurement: 9-1/4"
40-yard dash: 4.75 sec. 10-yard split: 1.62 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.16 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.72 sec. Bench Reps: 11 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5" Broad Jump: 10'6”
2012: 13 Games Played, 77 Tackles, 2.0 Tackles for Loss, 3 Pass Deflections
2011: 13 Games Played, 40 Tackles, 0.5 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception, 1 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumbles Recovered, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown
2010: 13 Games Played, 50 Tackles, 1.5 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interceptions, 2 Pass Deflections
2009: 12 Games Played, 12 Tackles, 0.5 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry
Zeke Motta is best known for being a defensive leader for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Unfortunately, an unimpressive showing in the national championship game this past season didn't help his case to be drafted much higher than he was.
He does have excellent agility and quickness and a knack for being in the right place at the right time in the running game. However, his best option to make the roster could be as a linebacker. So a position switch could be in the cards for the former Irish safety.
Original image courtesy BlueDevilNation.net
College: Duke University
Draft Status: Seventh round
Height: 6'3-1/8" Weight: 219 pounds
Arm Length: 32" Hand Measurement: 9"
*No combine drills due to a shoulder injury.
2012: 12 Games Played, 297-of-442 (67.2 percent), 3,113 Yards, 19 Touchdowns, 10 Interceptions, 38 Carries, -50 Yards, 1 Touchdown
2011: 12 Games Played, 281-of-433 (64.9 percent), 2,882 Yards, 14 Touchdowns, 11 Interceptions, 59 Carries, -60 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
2010: 12 Games Played, 285-of-464 (61.4 percent), 3,131 Yards, 14 Touchdowns, 17 Interceptions, 51 Carries, -47 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
2009: 6 Games Played, 34-of-50 (68.0 percent), 330 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions, 6 Carries, -12 Yards
Sean Renfree is arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in Duke football history. That doesn't say too much about Duke football as he was a fringe draftable player. However, he does have potential to be a very effective long-term backup in Atlanta.
His best comparison is T.J. Yates. Just a smart, hard-working player who will grasp the playbook quickly and not sink the ship if he has to come in. He also has expert clipboard holding skills that will be on display all season.
Undrafted Free-Agent List (courtesy Atlanta Falcons.com):
QB Seth Doege, RB Donald Russell, RB Ronnie Wingo, FB DeVonte Campbell, WR Rashad Evans, WR Darius Johnson, WR Martel Moore, OT Terren Jones, OT Alex Savoie, OT Ryan Schraeder, OG Theo Goins, C Matt Smith, DT Neal Huynh, DT Adam Replogle, DE Cam Henderson, DE Brandon Thurmond, LB Brian Banks, LB Joplo Bartu, LB Nick Clancy, LB Paul Worrilow, CB Saeed Lee, S Troy Sanders, K Jeremy Shelley, P Sean Sellwood
The most recognizable names on this list would be linebacker Brian Banks and quarterback Seth Doege. That's pretty standard for a Comrade class of undrafted players.
In the backfield, he's provided some competition for the running backs in Ronnie Wingo—a former Arkansas standout at both running back and receiver.
On the offensive line, he may have also brought in a couple of guys who could easily compete for roster spots in Ryan Schraeder and Terren Jones.
On the defensive line, there's nothing more than camp fodder. But at linebacker, the Falcons had quite the haul. Nick Clancy, Paul Worrilow and Brian Banks all have long-term ability to contribute on both special teams and possibly even start.
To round it out, the pair of kickers will likely be gone by the time the preseason ends, and Troy Sanders stands the best chance at possibly making the roster in a competition between him and Saeed Lee.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.