Falcons Use Third Round Pick On Linebacker Akeem Dent

You could be forgiven if your knees buckled with all the curveballs the Falcons are throwing in the 2011 NFL Draft.

This time around, the Falcons went by running backs like Alex Green and Taiwan Jones and pass rushers like Sam Acho to grab Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent. This may not be everyone's favorite pick, but it's a damn good one.

Dent played outside until last year, when he moved inside in Georgia's newly configured 3-4 defense and racked up over 100 tackles. He's likely to kick outside for the Falcons as a replacement for Mike Peterson/Stephen Nicholas, though he could end up playing the Nicholas memorial role as a valuable backup all over the place.

The knocks on Dent are mainly that he's a little stiff, doesn't have elite speed and isn't a huge asset in coverage. You can't fix the speed and it's likely he'll never become the most fluid guy on the field, but coverage skills can and will be taught in Atlanta. He's an absolute banger in the run game, a guy who has the versatility to play multiple positions and by all accounts a hard-working, coachable guy.

This signals the team's dedication to a free agent defensive end, and it also speaks to how much of a priority linebacker really is for these Falcons. If Nicholas left and Peterson is cut, the team would suddenly be left without a starter outside opposite Sean Weatherspoon. As a guy who is already pretty far along the developmental curve, he can step in to start in 2011 if needed, though I'd prefer he got a year of seasoning.

Frankly, he's a likely starter at a position of need, and someone who reminds me of a young Mike Peterson. For a third round pick, that's pretty brilliant value. Happy to see him wearing red and black.

Weigh in on Dent.

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