Atlanta Falcons' Free Agency and Draft Wish List
To get back to the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons will need to make some moves in free agency and have a great draft. To do so, Atlanta will need to make sure it has its homework done on how to best attack their biggest needs this offseason.
Atlanta's biggest needs that need to be addressed are at tight end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive tackle and a pass-rushing defensive end or outside linebacker. Follow along for the best plans of attack at each spot.
1. Jimmy Graham
The premier free agent of the offseason would be Graham if the New Orleans Saints let him test the market. It's doubtful that they would. But if they do, Atlanta needs to break the bank for arguably the most explosive receiving option not named Julio Jones.
2. Dennis Pitta
While he's definitely no Graham, he's still a solid player overall. He's an average run-blocker, but he makes his money as an intermediate receiving threat. The Falcons need to be wary of his injury that sidelined him for 12 games in 2013.
3. Brandon Pettigrew
This would be a horribly mediocre consolation prize. Atlanta would be better off waiting until the draft and getting a mid-tier pick if he was the best option. Pettigrew is a solid blocker, but he's been so terrible as a receiver that he shouldn't even be considered.
Round 1: Eric Ebron
He's a Vernon Davis clone with better blocking ability. Ebron has shown the same ridiculous catching ability at North Carolina. But even more than that, he can stretch the field between the hashes, and that's something that Tony Gonzalez was unable to do late in his career.
Rounds 2 and 3: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Seferian-Jenkins has the potential to be the next Rob Gronkowski with his play on the field. Unfortunately, he might have some issues that he needs to work out off the field. The Falcons have the locker room at this point to help motivate him properly.
Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7: Arthur Lynch
If there's a sleeper in this draft at tight end, Arthur Lynch is it. He is a jack of all trades/master of none type of tight end. However, that's all Jason Witten was in his career, and he's been extremely productive. For where Atlanta could get the Georgia product, they should look into the investment.
1. Eugene Monroe
Monroe is the best tackle on the market this year. He's an ideal left tackle and would allow the Falcons to cut Sam Baker, because he's obviously better than Baker is. He would instantly upgrade the entire line by giving Atlanta the best left tackle in the NFC South the minute he signs.
2. Jared Veldheer
Veldheer is just a step back from Monroe. He's also a much more powerful and nasty guy. He might fit what Mike Tice wants on his offensive line more, but he's also coming off of an injury that sidelined him for the majority of the 2013 season.
3. Anthony Collins
The dark horse of all free-agent left tackles is Anthony Collins. While he's not the big name or proven talent that Veldheer or Monroe is, he's someone who could shock the world and be an instant Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle should he start for a team. Atlanta would love his quickness and toughness.
Round 1: Jake Matthews
Matthews is the best tackle in the draft and someone who could start today. However, he might not even make it to No. 6 with a couple teams ahead of the Falcons needing a left tackle. They are premium players in today's NFL, and Matthews' lineage and talent makes him somewhat of a can't-miss prospect.
Rounds 2 and 3: Zack Martin
Martin is everything Sam Baker was supposed to be coming out of college. He's a fleet-footed, nasty left tackle who understands intricacies in pass protection. On top of all of that, he's a monster run-blocker who could help set the edge and allow a more balanced running game.
Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7: Ja'Wuan James
While everyone focuses on Tiny Richardson, Ja'Wuan James might just be a better prospect at both tackle spots. He's a very athletic player with a bit of a mean streak. However, since he only played right tackle in college, there are questions to where he projects best in the pros.
1. Geoff Schwartz
Schwartz was surprisingly good this season in limited snaps. His massive 6'6", 340-pound frame next to Lamar Holmes' 6'6", 335-pound frame on the right side of the line would be able to dominate anyone in the run game. They would also be much more competent in pass protections than the right side was in 2013.
2. Jon Asamoah
Where Schwartz is the powerful, nasty attitude, Asamoah is more of a finesse, technically-styled player. The Falcons could use either guy, and if Schwartz gets scooped up early, the Falcons would be happy with a backup option in Asamoah.
3. John Jerry
Jerry was slightly below average for the Miami Dolphins. He's not the road-grading run-blocker that his size would suggest, but his pass blocking is similar to what Justin Blalock has been able to provide. Atlanta bringing in another Justin Blalock would still be a huge improvement from the Peter Konz-Garrett Reynolds combination.
Round 1: Greg Robinson
Everyone is looking at Robinson as a potential tackle prospect, and he should be good there. However, if a team wanted him to step in on day one and play right guard, he could be the best one in the NFL right away. The Falcons could easily combine a pick of him at No. 6 with a signing of Monroe or Veldheer for a nasty offensive line.
Rounds 2 and 3: David Yankey
Yankey is the best natural guard in this class. If he falls to the early second round, Atlanta needs to sprint to the podium. He can easily step right in at right guard and provide some exceptional pass blocking. He also provides the nasty attitude that Harvey Dahl took with him when he left in 2011.
Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7: Jon Halapio
If Atlanta wants to wait until the mid-rounds to fill the right guard role, they could take Jon Halapio and have the ideal guy for Mike Tice to work with. Halapio is very experienced and is the ideal Falcon off the field, so he should be somewhere on the Falcons' big board.
1. Linval Joseph
Joseph is a massive body who can collapse the pocket and eat double-teams. He would push Corey Peters over to the 3-technique role that Peria Jerry played in 2013. Because of that, the Falcons would get much bigger on the interior and also much better against the run on the inside.
2. Lamarr Houston
Houston is essentially a rich man's Jonathan Babineaux. He does everything Babineaux does, but can also play a traditional 6-technique defensive end or a 1-technique defensive tackle. Because he can play pretty much anywhere on the line, the Falcons could use his pass-rush abilities to help push the interior of the pocket.
3. B.J. Raji
Raji is another massive body that the Falcons could bring in. He's going to be ridiculously expensive because he's a big-name guy and not a truly good performance guy. Raji could be better if utilized in the 3-technique or 1-technique as opposed to the 5-technique he's been playing.
Round 1: Ra'Shede Hageman
Hageman can be the next Richard Seymour with proper coaching. Despite his experience, he's raw technically and has relied on his athleticism for too long. Unlike Seymour, though, he could play the 1-technique role for the Falcons on top of the 3- and 5- technique roles he would instantly fit.
Rounds 2 and 3: Stephon Tuitt
If Hageman is the next Seymour with proper coaching, Stephon Tuitt is the next Marcus Stroud. He's got some quickness and strength but is very linear as an athlete. His best fit is probably in the 3-technique where he can move forward and penetrate versus the run or collapse the pocket in pass rush.
Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7: Daniel McCullers
When it comes to massive guys for the defensive tackle rotation, there's none bigger than the 6'8", 351-pound McCullers. He's still very unrefined as a defensive tackle, but at just 21 years old, he's still an unfinished product who could turn into the next Sam Adams or Ted Washington with proper coaching.
Pass-Rushing Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
1. Brian Orakpo
If the Falcons want the most versatile pass-rusher on the free-agent market, they need to look no further than Orakpo. He's a guy who can fill what Kroy Biermann's role was. The only difference is that he could do it way better, is more athletic and has better pass-rush production.
2. Greg Hardy
Hardy is someone who can line up at defensive end and the 3-technique defensive tackle role. He'd basically play what Jonathan Babineaux did in 2012 and 2013, only he's a top-level player in the role and plays with nastiness and anger. He's just going to be priced at the top of the market.
3. Michael Johnson
Johnson is a typical base end from a 4-3 defense. However, he has the athletic ability to do damage in the same role John Abraham played in 2012, where he stood up, aligned himself on both sides of the defense and even dropped into coverage on some plays.
Round 1: Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney could be dominant for the Falcons. His motivation issues that show up on film could be easily corrected with a coach like Bryan Cox who would continually get the best out of him. With Clowney showing the fire and determination at his best every play, Atlanta's pass rush could be the best in the NFL.
Rounds 2 and 3: Jeremiah Attaochu
If they can't get Clowney in Round 1, Attaochu would be the perfect fit for them in Round 2. He's a top-tier athlete who can play the Kroy Biermann role in the defense. His experience in both the 3-4 and the 4-3 would only help him, as his versatility would be adored by Mike Nolan.
Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7: Shaquil Barrett
In any other year, Barrett would be a third-round pick and in the Senior Bowl. This year, he's not even a combine invitee. The Falcons could take advantage of the versatile pass-rusher who compares favorably to Wallace Gilberry.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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