4th and Long: The Atlanta Falcons Get Politcally Correct

Pro Football NYCSenior Writer IApril 30, 2008

Matt Ryan - Falcons Get Politically Correct

The one thing the Atlanta Falcons needed to do before they hit the field in 2008, was get a new face—and new image—for their franchise. They needed to put all the bad of 2007 behind them: the Michael Vick mess, the Bobby Petrino bailout and the sad visage of the tired, beaten and deceived owner, Arthur Blank.

So when they selected Boston College QB Matt Ryan with the first pick, I understood it completely.

Most draft pundits went wild. "He's not what they need!". "They need defense". "How can you take Ryan over Dorsey, or Ellis?"

Very easily, I say. What the Falcons needed most was to get a fresh face for their franchise. That face, and I dare say it, had to be a white one.

Ryan is the perfect fit for the Atlanta Falcons. A clean-cut, suburban, good-looking white kid with a huge smile.

Can he help the Falcons out of the NFL (no pun intended) doghouse? No question.

Can he re-engage the Falcon fans, and can he help them win? Probably.

This pick, to me, was a practical one. If the Falcons had chosen another, young African-American with their first choice, fans would have accepted him, just like they accepted Michael Vick and DeAngelo Hall, but they would be left wondering if anything has really changed.

By taking Ryan, they literally change the complexion of their franchise. Not to say white is better than black, but they needed to step away from their most recent franchise imagery. Ryan may not have been the best player for the Falcons, but he is certainly the one that helps them put the past behind them and move forward.

NFL Draft - After the Smoke Has Cleared

I'm tired reading about draft winners and losers. Anyone that tells you that a team won or a team lost this week in the NFL Draft is a loser themselves. Just by adding some young players with talent to your roster, you are inherently a winner.

The fact is, these are rookies we are talking about—unproven variables in a much more complicated equation. What pundits like to do is tell you the best and worst case scenarios for each team. But what gets lost is the effect some of these players may or may not have in that equation.

Most of the time these pundits' picks are about as accurate as your dentist's, or barber's.

And let me add another tid bit - these guys are all biased.

Mel Kiper, Jr., the pompous pompadour himself, pumps up his favorite prospects and when teams pass on them, he lambastes them to the point where the feeble of mind think that team made a bad selection.

I don't want to tell Kiper his business, because he's very knowledgeable but he's very biased. I hope the football populace sees through him. He's been pumping Delaware QB Joe Flacco all week and when the Ravens selected Flacco he made it sound like they just won the Super Bowl.

Quick reality check—how many first round QB's have won the Super Bowl recently? Well, two in the last thrree years, but who's counting. Kiper may be on to something. Don't get your hopes up, Baltimore, because Flacco is only the beginning of your turnaround.

Did I mention that Mel Kiper, Jr. is from Baltimore?

Backfields in Commotion

The Oakland Raiders did it. They drafted Darren McFadden. Was this the right move?  I'll tell you this, it won't hurt them.

McFadden is a gamebreaker, but what the Raiders really need is a consistent every-down back. They cut Dominick Rhodes, but they still have Lamont Jordan, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. Even with McFadden, one or more of these guys has to still carry a good portion of the load. DMac can't do it alone.

Same thing in Dallas where they drafted RB Felix Jones... the Cowboys have Marion Barber to do the heavy lifting, so what will Felix Jones do that Julius Jones couldn't?  We shall see.

The Rich Get Richer

The New England Patriots were undefeated last season until the last minute of the last game. They lost some players, but managed to retain Randy Moss. They went into the draft looking to bolster their aging LB corps.

They did just that by taking possibly the best LB in the draft, Jerrod Mayo. He is versatile, intelligent and he is now under the tutelage of Mr. Belichick. They also grabbed CB Terence Wheatley of Colorado, an Asante Samuel-like talent in round two. I know they are only rookies, but they come in hitting the ground running and are going to be schooled by the best defensive coach in the NFL.

So if you are waiting for the demise of the Patriots, you might be waiting awhile.

The New York Giants are tired of watching the Dallas Cowboys wreak havoc in their secondary. Terrell Owens and Jason Witten have killed Big Blue the past two seasons. With Gibril Wilson gone, the Giants needed a big safety (enter Kenny Phillips of Miami) and a physical CB (Terrell Thomas of USC), which they got in the first two rounds of the draft. They should get quick counsel from DC Steve Spagnuolo and help out right away.

Getting back to Kiper, he graded the Giants' draft a C+. What? Perhaps he didn't pay close enough attention. This Giant-hater had his blinders on again.

GM Jerry Reese not only addressed the secondary needs, he also addressed the LB depth needs and grabbed WR Mario Manningham and QB Andre Woodson in the process. What other team—that did not have many open roster spots— could say they drafted this well?

As James Brown (the singer) would say - "please, please, please!" Enough.

By the way, Kiper liked the Bears' and Panthers' drafts this year, meaning they are probably in for hard times. He also revealed his early top selection for the 2009 NFL Draft: Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis. If I were Laurinaitis, I'd wear a string of garlic cloves around my neck, carry a rabbit's foot and avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalks.

Unheralded Story of the Week

Caleb Campbell, a senior linebacker at The United States Military Academy at West Point, was drafted by the Detroit Lions. I like this story because the Army has a new initiative that allows 'individuals with exceptional skills' to defer their military obligations to pursue professional careers.

Judy Battista of the NY Times covered this story in more detail. Click here to read more.