2010 NFL Mock Draft: Atlanta Falcons Select Safety Earl Thomas of Texas

James WilliamsonSenior Writer IApril 6, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 2: Defensive back Earl Thomas of Texas jumps in the air to catch the football in drills during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

The Falcons are an organization that has a really morbid history to it. It has been as consistent as a Vegas slot machine when it comes to the team’s records.

In fact, when head coach Mike Smith and the 2009 Falcons finished with a 9-7 record this year after an 11-5 record the year before, it marked the first time that the Falcons had ever had back-to-back winning seasons before.

The Falcons fan base has got to be given a lot of credit for sticking with their team despite all the problems they’ve had. They are going to be tried even harder now because the Falcons are good now, but the division they are in, the NFC South, now holds the current world champions, the 2009 New Orleans Saints.

To get to the playoffs, you have to fight for the division, and when you have a team like the Saints in your division, you know that you are going to need a lot of improvement in order to take it away.

In 2009, the Falcons defense was ranked 14th in points allowed and 21st in total yards allowed.

That means that either both your run and pass defenses either struggle a lot, or one is really suffering at times while the other tries its hardest to keep the team afloat.

In this case, it is the pass defense of the Falcons that is the weak link. Pass defense was 19th in attempts thrown at, 28th in yards allowed, 20th in touchdowns allowed, and 16th in interceptions totaled.

That’s a weak passing defense especially in yards allowed. For a team to be 9-7 with that kind of pass defense in this day in age, where football is now predominantly a passing game, is amazing.

Thankfully, the offense was pretty good. This is a balanced team that on any day can win a ball game, but I feel that they are inconsistent and no one knows when that day is.

They had injuries to some secondary members, and they have just picked up Dunta Robinson, a very good cornerback, from the Houston Texans, but they also traded another decent cornerback, Chris Houston, to the Lions.

Dunta Robinson is just one guy. There are four secondary members in a standard defense, so the acquisition of Robinson is a great addition, but not the entire solution.

After review of the Falcons’ rankings, statistics, and what players have been drafted, the best course of action, in my mind, is to draft strong safety, Earl Thomas, out of the University of Texas.

Earl Thomas is a sophomore coming into the draft, so he’s not as highly rated as Tennessee’s Eric Berry.  However, I believe that this young man will be a terror for teams that like to pass the ball and every team in the NFC South has either an elite passing game or new young quarterbacks being groomed.

He picked off 10 passes in two years with the Longhorns and eight came this year with 149 return yards and two touchdowns. This guy is a ball hawk who can help get those interceptions that’ll make the Falcons go from 16th in the league in interceptions gained to the top 10.

Earl Thomas also can play the run as evidenced by his 63 tackles (44 solo, 19 assists) this year. He was a key factor in a great defense of Texas that went to the national championship.

He’s just a solid pick at 5’10'' and 197 pounds. He runs a 4.44 40 time (actually .03 seconds faster than Eric Berry), had 21 bench presses at the combine, and if he had stayed at Texas for another year or two, he would have probably gotten all those collegiate awards given to defensive backs like the Jim Thorpe award or the Jack Tatum award. He has that kind of potential.

No question in my mind, with Kyle Wilson, Eric Berry, and Joe Haden off the board, according to my previous mocks, that Earl Thomas should wear black and red for the Falcons.