Offense – Was Julio Jones worth the draft picks?
Atlanta entered the 2011 NFL Draft with one objective on its mind: get playmakers.
The Falcons wanted playmakers to add to their already effective trio of Michael Turner, Roddy White and Matt Ryan. Atlanta craved a big, physical wide receiver to play on the other side of White. So when the draft came along, Cleveland was on the clock, looking to trade, and Alabama's Julio Jones was on the board.
The Falcons traded their 2011 first (27th overall), second (59th), and fourth- (124th) round picks, as well as their 2012 first and fourth-round picks.
Admittedly, yes, a high price to pay for a single player. But Julio Jones is a special player.
Jones is a 6'3", 220-pound wideout with almost 10-inch hands to catch the football. In his three years in Alabama's pro-style offense, Jones caught 179 passes for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Atlanta also has a need for a player like Jones. Falcons wide receivers not named Roddy White caught 98 balls for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns combined. Those seem like pretty gaudy numbers, but when it is considered that those stats are spread out over five different players, they don't seem nearly as impressive. Atlanta also prefers its wideouts to be very capable blockers, and Jones fits the bill, having to block for Mark Ingram in college.
Jones may not put up quite the statistics Falcons fans are looking for in his first year, but don't fret. Jones will be a stud wide receiver in the NFL.
Defense – Will Dunta Robinson prove he's worth the money?
In 2009, the Atlanta Falcons finished 21st in total defense by yards allowed. The worst part of this was defending the pass.
The cornerback with the most starts for the Falcons in 2009 was Chris Houston with 10.
Houston, a former second-round pick, was traded to the Detroit Lions during the 2010 NFL draft for a sixth-round pick and a swap of fifth-round picks.
To quell the problem, Atlanta went out in March of 2010 planning to break the bank on a top-flight cover corner. The free-agent cornerbacks were a weak group in 2010 and Dunta Robinson was the best of the bunch.
Robinson was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2004 and had made himself into a valuable commodity for teams as a strong corner before becoming a free agent.
The Falcons set their sights on Robinson in order to shore up their secondary. Shortly after free agency opened, Adam Schefter reported Atlanta and Robinson had agreed on a contract.
Robinson's deal was a six-year, $57 million deal with $27 million guaranteed. Certainly not chump change, as he became the second-highest paid cornerback at the time, behind only Nnamdi Asomugha.
Robinson shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as Asomugha (except this one).
Besides simply watching the two play, the statistics also back me up.
According to Football Outsiders, Asomugha had a 55 percent success rate in coverage during the last three years, while Robinson's was less than 44 percent.
He has 14 career interceptions, but hasn't picked off more than two in a season since his rookie year.
Robinson had an unspectacular year in his first season in Atlanta. He is a solid, above-average cover corner, and definitely not worth the $8.5 million he will make this year alone.
Next Team: The Baltimore Ravens