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Takeaways From Last Week – 2013 NFL Draft

April 29th, 2013 2 comments
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Manti Te’o: “Star” of the Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft was held this past weekend, and as usual it was an intriguing affair. I told my brother, who did not watch one minute of the draft mainly because his wife detests football, that this year’s draft was much like recent NBA Drafts meaning that in future years the 2013 draft class won’t be particularly memorable with its star appeal. Not to say this draft won’t produce good or even great NFL players, because every draft does, at least everyone that I can recall. But as we often heard over the weekend, this was a draft in which the linemen were front and center. Try as they might, ESPN and NFL Network did their best to insert as much “star appeal” as possible by spending as much time as possible talking about this quarterback class and Manti Te’o.

The media desperately wanted to talk about those players, but ultimately I think the quarterbacks and Te’o will be largely forgotten in the NFL. Ultimately the best you’re going to hope from the group of quarterbacks drafted this year is that they produce a Matt Schaub or David Garrard-caliber passer. They may be competent to good starter, but the only time they’ll be really discussed by the media by and large is to talk about how they aren’t great.

Also, it’s not that I doubt Te’o will be a good NFL player, it’s just that his infamous catfishing incident may ultimately eclipse his NFL career. I think Te’o probably winds up playing a decade in the NFL, most of it as a starter. But I think he winds up being comparable to players like Curtis Lofton or Lofa Tatupu, capable starters that their respective team likes, but are rarely mentioned among the best in the league.

I know it’s unrealistic to think that I could turn on league’s flagship channel or the Worldwide Leader in Sports, and expect them to spend hours talking about the greatness of Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan, or any of the players at “blue collar” positions. But there were really good players in this draft and none them played quarterback or middle linebacker for Notre Dame, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the television coverage as they never went more than fifteen minutes without mentioning one of those lesser players.

My final comments on the draft before I start to discuss the Falcons picks specifically is that I do think it’s interesting that quarterbacks did not get pushed up the board. I talked about that in an earlier column this off-season. And at that time, it was difficult to fathom that there wouldn’t be any Top 10 selections at the quarterback position. I compared it to the 2011 class, where a number of lesser prospects went high in the draft and ultimately none of those teams are better for it. I still think the passers did get pushed up the board, but not as far as they normally do. So I tip my hat to NFL teams for not reaching too far on subpar passers. We’ll see if this trend continues next April.

But onto the Falcons…

I liked the Falcons draft. It’s not very sexy, nor is it one that I think people will look back and say made a huge impact on the team. But it’s a solid group of players. I think moreso than in recent drafts, the Falcons seemed more intent on looking at players that had higher ceilings. I think a hallmark of some of the Falcons post-2008 drafts has been targetting players with high floors, but relatively low ceilings. I think the opposite happened this year.

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Falcons take pair of safeties and passer in seventh round

April 27th, 2013 Comments off

Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE

Kemal Ishmael

The Falcons finished up their 2013 NFL Draft class with three selections in the seventh round. They took a pair of safeties: UCF’s Kemal Ishmael and Notre Dame’s Zeke Motta back to back with the 243rd and 244th selections in the draft. With the 249th pick, they drafted Duke quarterback Sean Renfree. All three selections were compensatory picks. The Falcons cap off their 2013 draft class with eight picks.

Ishmael was productive at Central Florida, starting 49 consecutive games at free safety. As a senior, in 14 starts he had 124 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 3 interceptions, his most productive year. He also had 7 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles. He earned 1st team All-Conference USA honors as a senior after an honorable mention nod his junior season. The 5-11, 201-pound safety had a nice workout at his pro day, running a 40 time of 4.63 seconds, with 21 bench reps, 35.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-3-inch broad jump, and a 3-cone drill of 6.75 seconds. For his career, he had 368 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 1 sack, 6 interceptions, 19 passes defended, and 6 forced fumbles.

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Zeke Motta

Motta is a tall, physical safety that drew comparisons to former teammate Harrison Smith, a first round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2012 and had a strong rookie campaign, due to his size (6-2/213) and physicality. But his stock fell when he ran a poor 40 time of 4.83 at the Combine. His 10-foot-6-inch broad jump and 6.75 second 3-cone drill were among the best at his position. He also did 11 bench reps and leapt 35.5 inches on the vertical jump. Motta was a player that was on the Falcons radar, as he visited with the team in early April. He started 29 games over his final three years at Notre Dame. He had his best season as a senior with 77 tackles, 2 for loss, and 3 pass breakups. His prior two seasons, he combined for 90 tackles, 1.5 for loss, 2 interceptions, 6 breakups, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery which he took to the house for a score.

Both Ishmael and Motta are likely to compete for reserve spots with the Falcons and on special teams. Motta’s size has some projecting him to possibly be converted to a linebacker down the road a la former Falcon player Coy Wire.

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Sean Renfree

Renfree did not win a lot of games, but showed leadership as he helped lead Duke to their first bowl appearance since 1994 in his final year there. He started 35 games over his career, leading the Blue Devils to a 11-24 record. Despite the lack of talent around him, he managed to be productive completing nearly 65-percent of 1,389 pass attempts during his career. He also passed for 9,465 yards, 51 touchdowns, and 40 interceptions during his Blue Devil career. He saved his best for last, completing 67.3% of 441 attempts for 3,113 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions as a senior. In his final game of his Duke career against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Belk Bowl, he injured his throwing shoulder which affected his draft stock. He was unable to work out at Duke’s pro day at the end of March The 6-3, 219-pound quarterback has a live arm and was a 3-time Academic All-ACC selection. His college coach David Cutcliffe is considered a good developer of quarterbacks, having coached four former 1st round picks in college in Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Brady Quinn, and Heath Shuler.

Renfree will push Dominique Davis for the Falcons top backup position behind Matt Ryan.

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Falcons move up to get Maponga

April 27th, 2013 Comments off

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Stansly Maponga

The Falcons parted ways with their lone tradeable asset, a non-compensatory seventh round pick, to move up ten spots in the fifth round to select TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga with the 153rd overall pick. Maponga was a productive player at Texas Christian, having a strong sophomore season in 2011. A leg injury nagged him as a junior, forcing him to miss a pair of games and his production dropped. But he made the decision to declare early for the draft regardless.

The Zimbabwe-native was asked to step in to replace Jerry Hughes as a redshirt freshman in 2010, starting 12 games and recording 32 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. He broke out as a sophomore, starting 13 games and tallying 55 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 9 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. His production dipped to 26 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 4 sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles as a junior. But he still managed to earn 1st team All-Big 12 conference honors. Maponga stands 6-2, 251 pounds with 34-inch arms. He did 30 bench reps at the Combine, and ran a 4.81 40 at his pro day.

Maponga is an edge player that could potentially be developed to play either end or linebacker in Mike Nolan’s hybrid scheme.

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Falcons nab Goodman and Toilolo in Fourth

April 27th, 2013 Comments off

Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

Malliciah Goodman

The Falcons held two picks at the end of the fourth round, using the 127th overall selection on Clemson defensive Malliciah Goodman, and the 133rd overall pick on Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo.

Goodman has intriguing size and athleticism, measuring at 6-4, 276 pounds at the Combine. He has lanky 36-inch arms with large powerful 11-inch hands. Goodman clocked a 40 time of 4.87 seconds and did 26 bench reps of 225 pounds while at Indianapolis. He is coming off his best season at Clemson, tallying 7 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 4 forced fumbles this past fall. He saved his best performance for last, recording 3 sacks in a bowl game vs. LSU. He earned a starting spot as a junior, tallying 49 tackles, 4 for loss, and 2 sacks. Like the Falcons previous two picks Trufant and Alford, Goodman shined at the Senior Bowl practices this past January. Goodman will bolster the Falcons defensive line rotation with the ability to play inside and outside with the versatility to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3. That gives him added versatility for Mike Nolan’s scheme, which mixes principles of both schemes.

Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

Levine Toilolo

Toilolo another physical specimen, measuring in at 6-8, 260 pounds. Expected to break out this past year alongside Zach Ertz, Toilolo’s production didn’t make a huge jump despite increased production without Coby Fleener on the roster. As a junior, Toilolo caught 25 passes for 343 yards (13.7 avg) and 6 touchdowns. As a senior, his production hovered with 24 catches, 393 yards (16.4 avg) and 4 touchdowns. He possesses a long frame and speed (4.86 second 40 time) with upside to improve as a blocker and receiver. His potential in the redzone is off the charts. He’ll be tutored by Tony Gonzalez, who is expected to retire after this upcoming season.

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Scouting Report: Robert Alford

April 27th, 2013 Comments off

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Alford at the Senior Bowl

After the Falcons selected him, I went back and took a look at Alford for the first time by watching some archived games on WatchESPN.com.

Height: 5-10 1/8
Weight: 188
School: Southeastern Louisiana
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.39 (Combine)

Alford is a small school corner prospect hailing from the FCS subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). He earned a bunch of accolades during his final season, being named a Buck Buchanan Award (given to top defender in FCS) finalist, 2nd team FCS All-American, and 1st team All-Southland Conference performer. That production earned him a Senior Bowl invite, where he was among several corners that impressed observers. He had a standout performance in the actual game, returning a kickoff 88 yards and also picking off a 2-point conversion attempt. He was able to show that he could match up with some of the top athletes around the nation from larger programs. He then transitioned easily to the Combine, where he was among the elite performers this year at the cornerback position. His speed, vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press were all among the Top 4 guys in Indianapolis. Alford was so explosive that he even got some reps on offense as a scenario, working on reverses (2 carries) and being a vertical threat on occasion (4 catches for 52 yards). His older brother Fred Booker was journeyman corner out of LSU in 2001 that bounced around the Arena League and NFL Europe before finally landing with the New Orleans Saints in 2005 where he played in 12 games as a reserve and special teams player.
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Falcons take Alford with second selection

April 26th, 2013 Comments off

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Alford at the Senior Bowl

The Falcons took Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford with their second round pick, the 60th overall selection. Alford is a fairly raw corner that is still developing the mental aspects of the game according to his former coaches. But his athletic upside attracted the Falcons, possibly as well as his return skills. Alford was one of the stars of the Combine, ranking among the best with his 40 time (4.39 seconds), bench press (17 reps), vertical jump (40 inches), and broad jump (11 feet). He stands 5-11, 188, and shined in the 400-meters during his high school career.

Alford will be a 25-year old rookie this year for the Falcons. He first played as a sophomore in 2009, started 9 of 10 games that year with 46 tackles, 1 interception, 6 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries. He missed the following season with a shoulder injury, and got a medical redshirt. He came back in 2011 as a junior to earn 2nd team All-Southland Conference honors with 52 tackles, 5 interceptions, 2 breakups, a forced fumble and a recovery. As a senior, he had 39 tackles, 5 for loss, 4 interceptions, and 8 breakups to earn first team All-conference honors. During his career, he returned 9 punts for 104 yards (11.6 avg) with a 75-yard touchdown as a senior. He also had 4 career kickoffs for an average of 15.3 yards, all of which came as a senior.

Alford’s older brother, cornerback Fred Booker played briefly with the New Orleans Saints in 2005. He joins first round pick Desmond Trufant as the second Falcons pick with NFL bloodlines. He was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which has afflicted past NFL players like Matt Light and David Garrard. Likely the second day of the draft is done for the Falcons, as they parted with their third round pick to move up to get Trufant.

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Scouting Report: Desmond Trufant

April 26th, 2013 Comments off
Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Desmond Trufant

Most years I will break down anywhere between three and six games during the course of the year for scouting draft prospects. This year, I did not do that much. In recent weeks I did go back and watch a pair of games that Trufant played this past season, and also did scout him in three games as a junior. But here’s my take on Trufant as a player:

Height: 5-11 5/8
Weight: 190
School: Washington
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.38 (Combine)

Trufant was a productive, high-character, four-year starter at Washington. He comes from an NFL family, as his oldest brother Marcus played a decade with the Seattle Seahawks (2003-12), earning a Pro Bowl bid in 2007. He has another brother Isaiah, who has spent the past three season as a reserve and special teams player with the New York Jets. Trufant had a solid senior year, but probably entered the off-season considered to be a second day pick. But after a strong week of Senior Bowl practices, where he showed he was comfortable against top competition, his stock began to rise. He coupled that with a strong performance at the Combine, and ultimately was able to push his stock up into the latter part of the first round, earning consensus first round grades from most experts. He earned the starting job within the first month of his true freshman season. He started 45 straight games until missing 1 game late in his senior year with a hamstring injury. Finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in pass deflections with 38.

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Falcons trade up for Trufant

April 25th, 2013 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant

As many have reported, the Falcons made a trade up the board with the St. Louis Rams to select Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant with the 22nd overall pick. The Falcons dealt their first round pick (30th) overall, third round pick (92nd), and sixth round picks (198th overall) to swap with the Rams for their first round pick (22nd) and acquired a seventh round pick in 2015.

Trufant was a productive four-year starter at Washington, tallying 195 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 6 interceptions, and 38 pass breakups during his stint there. As a freshman, he also returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Trufant has good NFL bloodlines, with two older brothers in the NFL, both corners: Marcus and Isaiah. Marcus is currently a free agent that has spent the past 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks. Isaiah has played the past three seasons with the New York Jets. Trufant earned 1st team All-Pac 12 honors as a senior, after honorable mention honors as a freshman and junior.

Trufant will be expected to fill the starting right cornerback position for the Falcons, vacated by Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes this off-season.

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2013 First Round Mock Draft (Final)

April 25th, 2013 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant

Earlier, I posted a mock that featured several trades. Here is my final projection for how the first round will unfold tonight without trades. No need for explanations or justifications at this point, just the picks…

 

1. Chiefs – OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
2. Jaguars – OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
3. Raiders – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
4. Eagles – OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
5. Lions – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
6. Browns – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
7. Cardinals – OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
8. Bills – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
9. Jets – OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
10. Titans – OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
11. Chargers – OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
12. Dolphins – DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
13. Jets (from Bucs) – TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
14. Panthers – DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
15. Saints – OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
16. Rams – S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
17. Steelers – WR Cordarelle Patterson, Tennessee
18. Cowboys – S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
19. Giants – DE Tank Carradine, Florida State
20. Bears – OG Justin Pugh, Syracuse
21. Bengals – S Eric Reid, LSU
22. Rams (from Redskins) – OG Kyle Long, Oregon
23. Vikings – CB D.J. Hayden, Houston
24. Colts – DE Datone Jones, UCLA
25. Vikings (from Seahawks) – DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
26. Packers – OT Menelik Watson, Florida State
27. Texans – WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
28. Broncos – CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
29. Patriots – CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State
30. Falcons – CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
31. 49ers – S Matt Elam, Florida
32. Ravens – ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

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2013 First Round Mock (with trades)

April 25th, 2013 Comments off
Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE

Jamar Taylor

One of the most difficult things about mock drafts is that there are inevitably trades that completely throw things out of whack. Here’s my meager attempt to project what the first round might look like with some of the projected movement that could occur tonight.

1. Chiefs – OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
I see Joeckel as the Chiefs pick simply because Andy Reid and John Dorsey were in Green Bay at the same time that Mike Sherman, who recruited Joeckel to A&M, was there.
2. Jaguars – OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The Jags have a lot of holes, but they need to also bolster their offensive line, which is among the league’s weakest if they intend to try and salvage the skittish Blaine Gabbert as their starting quarterback.
3. Lions (from Raiders) (trade*) – OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
The Lions don’t see Johnson lasting to five, and they want to make sure they get their bookend tackle. So they send the Raiders their 3rd round pick (65th overall) to jump up two spots. And since the Raiders currently lack a third round pick, they are happy to oblige.
4. Browns (from Eagles) (trade*) – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Browns want to get Jordan to bookend with Kruger and will probably try and find a trade partner for Sheard later on to try and get back into the second round. They swap with the Eagles, giving up their 4th round pick (105th) to move up two spots.
5. Raiders (from Lions) (trade*) – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
The Raiders know they can move down pretty much anywhere within the Top 10 and still probably wind up with Floyd, who adds a good player on a defensive line that sorely needs it.
6. Eagles (from Browns) (trade*) – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Eagles don’t have a pressing need that they must address, and thus will settle for Milliner to bolster a revamped secondary.
7. Cardinals – OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Cards choose Cooper over Warmack just because he offers a bit more potential as a pass protector, and Arians is a guy that has always leaned heavily on throwing the ball.
8. Steelers (from Bills) (trade*) – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Steelers make the night’s first really bold move by jumping up 9 spots to get Austin, a kid from their own backyard. Austin adds the explosive element to their offense that they lost with Mike Wallace, and also should be a much more reliable return option than Chris Rainey. The Steelers deal their second round pick (48th overall) to jump up here.
9. Jets – OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Medical issues aside, the Jets go with Jones over Mingo and Ansah based purely off production.
10. Titans – OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
With the Cards taking Cooper, the Titans are happy to settle for Warmack. He’s a better fit anyway since the Titans want to be able to clear lanes for Chris Johnson.
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