We've covered a lot of ground here in our ruminations of who the Atlanta Falcons will take in the first round, but when this sponsored post forced me to make a prediction at last, there was one clear choice.
That choice is Georgia linebacker/defensive end Justin Houston, who has been linked to the Falcons by everyone from Draft Countdown to Scardraft to ESPN. He is not the consensus choice, as Sean Weatherspoon was a year ago, but he's gained enough momentum that I feel comfortable risking my flimsy reputation on the team picking him.
Why Houston? The feeling is that he has a lot of upside as a pass rusher, and that he could fit well into a 4-3. The Falcons desperately need a long-term solution at the position, and no matter how many experts predict the team will go for a cornerback (?) or somehow get Ryan Kerrigan, Houston remains the likeliest choice to still be available. That does assume the Falcons don't trade down, which I wouldn't stake anything valuable on.
I'm less worried about the team's short-term prospects than most, as far as pass rushers go. Houston should be able to contribute on passing downs immediately with his blend of speed and strength, and if he's only a part-time player initially, so be it. Kroy Biermann had quick a few pressures last year that he didn't manage to close out for sacks, and I'd suggest he's a stout enough run defender that he's still valuable in a rotation.
The downside to Houston? While I think he's got considerable upside, he probably won't be John Abraham II in terms of production. I wouldn't put double digit sacks past him, but questions about his motor have dogged him for a little while now, so that's something the team would have to address.
With a good frame, good football intelligence and above average measurables, Houston could well be a great starter for a long time. He may need a year of seasoning, but I think he's a terrific fit for the Falcons. Even more than that, I think he's the likeliest pick at #27.
After the jump, our sponsored message. Discuss who you think the Falcons first round pick will be.