One of my favorite times of year is here and it's the NFL Draft. Such promise and hope is distilled within 3 short days of coverage. I've been over a thousand times Falcon needs and have balanced that with who I think is available or important role players that could contribute in their own way, even if they don't fill a position of absolute need. Let's roll below the fold...
Round 1: Brandon Graham, DE--Michigan
This is admittedly a tough one. I've vacillated a thousand times between Graham and OLB Weatherspoon and in the end I've settled with Graham based upon positional value in Round 1, we all know DE is greater than OLB, and with the fact that quality OLB prospects should be available to us in Round 3. Graham is fast, strong, and possesses fantastic character and a strong work ethic. Runs a 4.69 and bench pressed 225 lbs. 31 times! The measurables are there, the character is there, the pass rushing ability is there. The only question is with his lack of height, he's only 6-1, but I think all his other positive attributes outweigh this. Jamaal Anderson can now move to his, hopefully, natural position at DT and present us with one helluva front four...Graham, Anderson, Jerry, Abraham.
Round 3: Dekoda Watson, OLB--Florida State
Mike Peterson was great last year...for half the year. His age began to show during the latter half and we witnessed a severe dropoff in his production on the field. Our linebacking corps is admittedly pretty thin and weak, only MLB Curtis Lofton gives me any hope at this point. It is imperative that we address this issue early in the draft. If we pass on Weatherspoon in the first round to take Graham then we have to pick up an OLB in the 3rd round. My hope is that we grab OLB Dekoda Watson. He bulked up to 240 lbs. and yet was still able to run a 4.4 at his pro day. Similar strength and vertical as Weatherspoon, but what he brings to the table that Weatherspoon does not is blinding football speed at the linebacker position and would be a definite asset in pass coverage...which we all know was a problem last year, not to mention he does have a knack for getting to the QB. Heir apparent to Mike Peterson.
Round 3: Andre Roberts, WR--Citadel
Yes, I am going offense with our second pick in the 3rd round. While I understand that further depth on the defensive line, linebacker, and cornerback is a must, I don't see how we can overlook and pass up an opportunity to obtain a great WR prospect and give Matty Ice another weapon to play with. Mid 4.4 speed, fantastic route runner, great discipline for a WR and HE DOES NOT DROP THE BALL...EVER! He's like a superhero with a permanent layer of stickum on his hands. His stock is soaring right now so I hope it isn't so high that he'll be taken in Round 2. If he is available here then ATL has to grab him and plug him into a lineup where he can immediately compete with Jenkins for that second WR spot. Only 5-11 but he has a decent vertical and an ability to just plain get open.
Round 4: Matt Tennant, C--Boston College
Todd McClure is getting up there in age so it is imperative that we address his heir in this draft. Romberg is not the answer, the answer has to be found in the draft. Mid rounds are a great time to find quality starters at C and G so it would be fantastic if Matt Tennant fell into our laps at this point. I won't lie, if J.D. Walton, the C out of Baylor, is available I say pounce, but I don't think he will be so we should happily "settle" with Tennant. Though a bit smallish even for a C, he weighs in at about 296, he does have 40 consecutive starts which means he has the strength, workout regime, and experience to make it in the NFL. Not to mention he does have experience with Matt Ryan at Boston College. Ryan would easily be able to adjust to a C he is familiar with.
Round 5: Sam Young, OT--Notre Dame
Yep, OT. I have no faith in Sam Baker at this point as he seems to have morphed into Glass Joe from Mike Tyson's Punchout. His injury history is a major concern so I think it is a necessity that we provide some depth at that position to mitigate yet another injury to our starting LT. Sam Young could fill that role in Round 5. Great size, 6-8 315 lbs, with long arms. At the Senior Bowl he showed some serious talent at run blocking and was better than expected at pass protection. Never grew to be the dominant collegiate OT that was expected after being recruited out of high school, but he is sound value in the fifth round and his flaws are coachable.
Round 5: Roddrick Muckelroy, OLB--Texas
At this point I don't think we could have too much depth at OLB. MLB is set with Lofton, but I have no faith in Peterson, Wire, or Nicholas...though, Nicholas would be a serviceable backup or stopgap starter. We're not getting Weatherspoon with Muckelroy, nor are we getting Watson or Navorro Bowman or AJ Edds, what we are getting is pure potential. Big guy, 6-2 246 lbs., and a hard hitting prospect at strongside linebacker. Not great speed, but we don't need his for pass coverage, his forte would be against the run and getting into the opposing backfield...he did register nine tackles for loss last season.
Round 6: Deji Karim, RB--Southern Illinois
Now we aren't so much looking for starters or backups who can contribute on the field immediately. Rather we're looking for depth, potential, and possible roleplayers. Deji Karim fulfills all three. Decent size with fantastic speed, 4.37 on his Pro Day, with a 43 inch vertical. He has the physical gifts, not to mention he is durable...rushed for nearly 1700 yards 18 TDs with a 7.1 average last season.
Round 6: Trevard Lindley, CB--Kentucky
This is not a throwaway pick. Lindley was once a hyped player for the last few season and even entering this draft he was consider a much higher rated prospect...hell, after the 2008 season he was rated as a late 1st round or 2nd round CB. His stock has plummeted, no thanks to Mardy Gilyard, so I'm curious as to whether there is hope for redemption with him. After seeing the amends Carl Nicks is trying to make I'm willing to give the guy a chance to prove himself. Worse case scenario is we lose a late Round 6 pick...best case, we give ourselves further depth at the CB position.