By: John Wickham

Barring Matt Ryan’s extension coming soon I do not see the Falcons making anymore free agent moves until after the draft and then with June 1st cuts.

Right now I see the Falcons needs as: DE, CB, LB, DT, TE, OG, OT, RB, WR

As you see I almost put every position available up there. Because there is really no position they have that I feel comfortable with either because of the starter or lack of depth. For example I could have put QB because we have an unknown quantity at backup QB in Dominique Davis. But I do not see the Falcons drafting a young QB when we already have one. I do see us signing a veteran sometime after the draft.

We do need a starting CB/nickel back depending on where we want to have Robert McClain line up. I feel that the free agent market is very thin for a starting quality CB so I think a high draft pick (round 1-2) is a strong likelihood. I really only seeing us getting one CB. We have Robert McClain and Asante Samuel manning two of the top three spots. For the dime position we have Peyton Thompson, Terrance Johnson, and Dominique Franks. So to me we really only need a guy to be either the outside corner or slot.

We do need a pass rushing DE. At pick 30 I am not sure if there will be one available that is worth the spot so we could get a CB or LB and wait for a pass rusher till later. I am not sure if there is going to be a guy available that will be able to beat out Kroy Biermann for the starting role. So I believe that the Falcons could be looking to get a guy that is a strong pass rusher but either is undersized or not a good run stopper at a mid round pick. A possibility could be resigning John Abraham to fill that void of another pass rusher after the draft.

At LB we need a guy that can cover. It was definitely exposed in the playoffs by both Seattle and San Francisco. Stephen Nicholas and Akeem Dent are role players. I think both players can be replaced; I am not sure if we do it in this draft but I expect at least one LB either OLB or MLB drafted for depth. To me the guy that needs to be replaced most is Stephen Nicholas. Dent is on his rookie contract and is fine as a run stuffer and is not on the field much anyway. We need a guy to cover TEs and RBs.

At DT we need a guy that is big and can play NT. That to me is what is missing most from this position. We have lot of guys that are more built for the “3 tech” position and shooting gaps than for the “0 or 1 tech” position and clogging gaps. Before you say that Mike Smith prefers these quick penetrators, he might, but he also has had some big guys playing in the middle like Grady Jackson (6’2” 340 lbs), John Henderson (6’7” 335 lbs) and Marcus Stroud (6’6” 310 lbs). And if we want to play this hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme I think it is missing a big guy in the middle. We have been bad at stopping the run and I think a big guy clogging up the gaps in the middle would help the whole defense out. I think this is a position that could be filled by a mid-to-late pick and then also either another late pick or UDFA or veteran free agent because as a big guy, you cannot expect them to last the entire game so a rotation is needed and a veteran like Casey Hampton or Sione Pouha or Richard Seymour or Maake Kemoeatu could take a young guy under the wing and teach him the tricks of the trade while playing 20-30 snaps a game.

At OL I could see a pick and then I could also see us rolling with what we got. I think the spots that we are looking at are RG, RT. And no it is not good when we are looking at 2/5 of the OL for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. I think we are set at C with Peter Konz and Joe Hawley. On the left side we have Sam Baker and Justin Blalock starting. At backup for the G position we have Phillipkeith Manley and Harland Gunn with Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson cross-trained there as well. At backup LT right now it is Lamar Holmes but with Tyson Clabo’s release he will be fighting with Mike Johnson for the starting RT spot. This is a position that I could see the Falcons drafting. At RG we have last year’s opening starter back with Garrett Reynolds but he has only been average and only signed a two year deal so I do not think the Falcons have too much faith in him.

At TE we need to find a replacement. Depending on how the Falcons feel about Harry Douglas that could make this position less valuable. Right now we have Tony Gonzalez for his probably final season with Michael Palmer, Tommy Gallarda, and Chase Coffman as the backups. To me Palmer and Gallarda are nothing more than backups. Both are good blockers who have decent hands with Palmer being a better receiver and Gallarda the better blocker. Chase Coffman is more of a receiver than blocker. His biggest problem is staying healthy. We could select a TE in about any round depending on what we are looking for. If the Falcons believe their slot receiver, either Harry Douglas or someone else can take Tony Gonzalez’s looks after he retires and then TE becomes the 4th option and pretty much gets what HD has been doing for the past couple of years than we either look next year or draft a guy late.

I talked about this in the above section a little bit but the WR position could become more important starting next year after Tony retires. We have Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas as the top 3 receivers. Roddy is 31 and is entering the final stages of his career. Yes he can still play for 5 years but his cap number is getting to be extremely high and has Julio overtaking the no. 1 WR role and his contract will be coming up soon so this could be the draft that we take a guy that could slide in and be the slot guy now and take over opposite of Julio when either Roddy retires or we release him or whatever happens. I am still high on Harry Douglas. I know he had the horrible and inexcusable stumble against the 49ers in the playoffs late in the 4th quarter that could have been a touchdown if he did not do that. And also his numbers are not all that good. But to me that has to do with him being the 4th option. We have Julio, Tony and Roddy in front of him and also the OL is not the best so in the rare cases that one of those guys has not gotten open by the time Ryan gets to looking at HD he is getting pressured and needs to dump it off to the RB. We have decent depth with Drew Davis there but I think a guy that could take over for Roddy in a couple years could be taken and/or a guy that can return kicks would be a solid choice in the mid-to-late rounds.

At RB we have a solid group of backs for at least now. Jacquizz Rodgers is solid but I do not think he is more than a backup. Jason Snelling is another solid backup. A guy that is a Swiss Army Knife; he can line up as a RB or FB, can catch passes, block, run and can play special teams. For now our starter is Steven Jackson. I do not know how much longer he can continue playing at a high level but I do not see the Falcons investing a high pick at this position at all. Maybe a mid-to-late pick or wait till next year.

I think for a lot of this positions I think the Falcons could hold off and either draft late or wait until next year’s draft to fix it. Most of the positions that I think need an immediate fix are on the defensive side of the ball. While I do think that having a better front 4 will make our defense better at both stopping the run and rushing the passer, I am not sure if I see good enough value for me to take a D-lineman with our 1st pick. So I think we could find a DE and NT at a good value later on and would be better served to select a OLB or CB in the early portion of the draft. But as always “In Dimitroff I Trust”