Using much of what I wrote in the Finding the Fit series of articles, I’ll now try to mock out a Falcons draft with players I think they could take in each of the seven rounds.
The draft order has not been finalized, and compensatory picks have not been awarded. But I included some, based off the information compiled by blogger AdamJT13, who in past years has been more than 80% accurate with predicting who/where compensatory picks will go to. My assessment are just conservative guesses at the approximate order based on the idea that he identifies the Falcons as likely getting at least a fourth, fifth, and seventh in that process.
You’ll also notice that many of the players I’ve selected for the Falcons have been chosen with an eye that they will contribute in 2011 and not this year. I think that will be the case in a lot of drafts moving forward. I think Dimitroff and Smith have done such an excellent job building up this team in their first two years that players that aren’t selected in the first two rounds shouldn’t be expected to have huge impacts as rookies. Simply because the caliber of players that are typically drafted in the third round and later just aren’t good/polished enough to compete with above average to good NFL starters which comprises the majority of our starting 22.
Now understanding Dimitroff and Smith knows that they aren’t going to select projects. Almost every one of these picks can contribute in some fashion this year, on special teams, pushing a veteran in camp, or filling a possible depth role, so I kept that in mind.
Rnd/Pick. Pos. Player, School
1/19. CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
I know many think the Falcons will take a pass rusher with this pick, and I do indeed believe the Falcons will want to take a pass rusher with this pick. But I do not believe that any of the defensive ends I identified as good fits in Atlanta will be available with this pick. I think Derrick Morgan and Brandon Graham will be off the board. And while I don’t think he’ll be a great fit in Atlanta, I don’t think Jason Pierre-Paul will be there either. And Everson Griffen and Carlos Dunlap, the other two top-rated ends just IMO aren’t good fits in Atlanta at all because of the so-called Falcons Filter. If the team drafted either of those players, it would really be a slap in the face of how Dimitroff & Smith have built their team to date. On the other hand, a cornerback like Kareem Jackson (or Kyle Wilson) fits right in line with how/who the Falcons draft. Two high character, highly productive players, at an area of need. As I explained earlier, I consider them probably to be 1A and 1B on the Falcons draft board in terms of cornerback options with the No. 1 pick. I give Jackson only a slight edge because he played at an SEC school, and I think in the event of a tie, that would give him a bit of a nod.
3/83. LB Roddrick Muckleroy, Texas
This to me is going to be an interesting pick. I’d like to believe that perhaps one of the two ends I identified (Wootton or Lane) could fall to this spot, but I don’t think there will. The dropoff from the first round guys mentioned above to the next tier is too big, and that void is going to have to be filled by someone. I think the Combine is going to be critical for the DE position, as identifying someone else that is good enough to move up into that 2nd/3rd round range. So I think it means the Falcons likely address their next biggest need, which is outside linebacker. Muckleroy is a solid player that is fast, rangy, and likes to hit. He plays ILB in Texas hybrid 3-4 scheme, but he is a natural fit as a WILL in a 4-3 in the NFL and Atlanta. I think he would be a very good fit to sit behind Mike Peterson for a year and then be ready to impact as a starter in 2011.
4/116. TE Tony Moeaki, Iowa
I said before that there is a lot about Moeaki that reminds me of Tony Gonzalez, besides them sharing the same first name. I think the Falcons would be smart to plan ahead for the future at this position in this year’s draft. Who knows if Gonzalez comes back after this season. If not, then you have a solid young receiving tight end in place to take over in 2011. If he does come back, then you have a player in Moeaki that can also be used as a No. 2 tight end blocker, that can also be a factor in the passing game, making him a better option than Justin Peelle.
4/130. OG Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
I think this is a perfect point in the draft to address the offensive line. Render is a good depth pick that can fill in at either guard spot. I don’t think he’d be a significant challenge to Blalock or Dahl off the bat, but should be able to compete in 2011. Render is a player that reminds me a lot of Duke Robinson (5th round pick for Panthers in 2009), in terms that he’s not great in pass protection because his footwork can get sloppy at times. But he has great strength and potential to really push the pile as a run blocker.
5/148. RB Javarris James, Miami
I went with James here because I think with his size, speed, and ability to contribute on third downs, he’s a good challenger to Jerious Norwood. He proabbly wouldn’t play a lot as a rookie if Norwood, Turner, and Snelling all stay healthy, but he makes a nice option for 2011 and beyond.
5/165. DE Jammie Kirlew, Indiana
Yeah, this is kind of late for a defensive end. But I think once you get past the 2nd-3rd round range, the difference between the remainder of the prospects really isn’t that significant. He’s a high motor player with some quickness off the edge. Kirlew is really a rotation guy, and frankly after the Top 100 or so picks, that’s really all you can really expect to find at defensive end in any draft.
6/187. LB Bear Woods, Troy
He fits well in Atlanta, because he’s a hard-nosed, tough linebacker. I think he’ll be drafted to help out special teams as well as to add depth behind Lofton at middle linebacker. He plays SAM at Troy, but his lack of ideal speed, range, and size means I think most teams will use him in the middle.
7/246. WR Rich Gunnell, Boston College
Gunnell has good hands, good body control, and has an overall fairly polished game for a college receiver. His problem isn’t that he isn’t very big or fast, and will have issues separating against NFL corners. But he was a favored target of Matt Ryan when he played at BC, and I think he’ll be targeted by the Falcons as a depth guy and eventual successor to Finneran as the 4th guy down the road.