Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Bleacher Report is here to give you wall-to-wall analysis of the 2011 NFL Draft. We're not here to discuss labor agreements or any other issues that may potentially impact the upcoming season, only to talk about the future of the NFC South Champions.
Coming off of January's divisional playoff defeat at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, it's easy to assume that Atlanta should draft all cornerbacks after being picked apart by Aaron Rodgers, but I'm sure that GM Thomas Dmitroff will not go that route. The Falcons are on the verge of joining the NFL elite, but need just a few impact players to go along with their talented core. In addition, they will be looking to replace veteran stars in the twilight of their careers (TE Tony Gonzalez and DE John Abraham among the few).
We're going to break this first mock draft to whom I believe Atlanta should draft from first round to seventh round, and an alternate choice in case things don't go their way. We'll look at how each potential rookie can impact this team, whether it's filling out the depth chart, or being a starter from day one. Send us your comments, questions, or anything else you'd like to add, and most importantly, enjoy!
The Wisconsin anchor is 6’7, 314, and possesses amazing agility and quickness. He will be able to start immediately, especially given some of the age on the Falcons offensive line. He could be moved to right tackle if he struggles, particularly against speed rushers. Since Atlanta tends to be more of a running team, he will definitely move the pile and give RBs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling room to operate. Also, in a draft that is weak on offensive tackles, Carimi may be a premium pickup at the 27th pick in the draft.
Alternative first round pick: DE Cameron Heyward
He may actually be a first round pick with the way he's been performing at the combines. Foster has excellent size (6’1, 245) and has speed for days. He led the Huskies with 343 total tackles in his career and an eye-popping 163 in his senior year alone. Foster is also a good blitzer where he made 14 tackles for a loss (44 career) and 6.5 sacks (12.5 career). He is also known for being very good in pass coverage as well, displaying great versatility.
Will Atlanta start essentially two rookies at LB alongside Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon, who was MIA for most of his rookie year? Highly doubtful, but on a team that desperately needs speed on the pass rush, he would be an excellent pickup.
Alternate: Sam Acho - LB/DE
Gates is 5'11 and has speed for days. Atlanta desperately needs to be quicker when it comes to their wideouts, and he would fit the bill perfectly. Gates tallied 66 catches and 13 touchdowns last year with an 18.3 per yard average/catch, so he can stretch the field in ways other Falcons receivers cannot. He is from a small school so he may not be used to going up against elite competition.
This is where the Falcons should get a player that will enable them to go 3 or 4-WR sets and spread the field, which is the norm in today's pass-happy NFL. They need a player that can keep defensive secondaries honest and not focus on Pro Bowler Roddy White ever time. Gates is what Atlanta needs at this point in the draft.
Alternate Pick: Aldon Smith - DE
Speaking of speed, did anyone miss Jerious Norwood when he went down yet again? Ok, once you stop laughing, realize that his loss made Atlanta a very slow and prodding team, which might have worked 10 years ago but not today, and especially on a fast track like the Georgia Dome. Rumors have it that they may want to re-sign Jerious, but is that really worth the risk?
Atlanta got some speed for their wideouts and now can get some speed in the backfield with the selection of Rodgers in the 4th round. He had over 3700 rushing yards in his career and he might be diminuitive, but then again so was Warrick Dunn. When it comes to 3rd downs he is exactly what Atlanta needs due to his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Even as a rookie he would be able to get significant playing time on special teams as well.
Alternative Pick: Marcus Gilchrist, Safety
Allen played cornerback at the Citadel. He is 6'1 197 pounds and runs a 4.46 in the 40. Although he didn't play against top level competition, he would be a good choice here as he can provide size and speed in the secondary. He registered two INTs his senior year but didn't have the ball thrown much in his direction. Also, keep in mind that last year's draft choice Dominique Franks may get more playing time, especially with the release of Brian Williams in the off-season. As a result, this choice would be all about establishing depth.
Alternative Pick: Ryan Kerrigan – DE
What he lacks in size for a defensive end (6'3 257 lbs), this former South Carolina Gamecock more than compensates in results. He comprised more than 15 sacks and 8.5 tackles while playing in the very tough Southeastern Conference. Now that Atlanta has to begin looking for a replacement for the aging John Abraham, they can slowly bring along Matthews which would allow him time to gain the weight needed to play on the d-line in the NFL.
Alternative Pick: TJ Yates – QB
Dejon Gomes played on at Nebraska and helped engineer their defense as one of the best in the country. He has good speed (4.48 forty) to pair with a prototypical strong safety size (5’11 ½ , 208) and had almost 100 tackles as a senior. Gomes will bring toughness and physicality to the Falcons secondary, even as a backup. Even though we are in the last round of the draft, a player of his talent is considered an upgrade.
Da’Rell Scott – RB - Maryland
Atlanta is eventually going to need a Tight End to replace Tony Gonzalez, and this would be a good time to select a dark horse in the seventh round with Oordt.
He is 6'6 261 lbs and runs a nice 4.67 in the 40 yard dash. He had a 17.7 ypg playing at Northern Iowa. Even if he comes into Atlanta as a third string TE, eventually he could help current TE Justin Peele, who is a solid run blocker. As for now he will be better served providing Atlanta with depth and learning from a future Hall of Famer in TG.
Alternative Pick: Byron Maxwell – CB
Not really much to say at this point with Atlanta's 9th pick in the 2011 draft, but Jasper did make up to 72% of his field goals at LSU. He could potentially stick around in case of injury, or be placed on the practice squad, but don't expect to see his presence on Sundays in the beginning. That said, I do believe that Jasper has the leg (he did make a couple of 50 yarders in college) to succeed in the NFL.
Alternative Pick: Da'Norris Searcy, Safety