The Atlanta Falcons finish a fantastically productive 2011 NFL Draft by picking up South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews.
Matthews could have gone as early as the fifth round, so to get him late in the seventh round is a characteristically shrewd value pick from the Comrade. Though not the most productive player in college--he had just 4.5 sacks in 2010--Matthews is a lanky end with explosive ability as an end. He's more athletic and hard-working than most of the defensive ends picked in front of them, so you can see why the Falcons are attracted to him.
A lack of massive strength and a suite of pass-rushing moves means he's got to be viewed as a project for the team, but with Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis, Jamaal Anderson and Lawrence Sidbury on the depth chart ahead of him at the moment, there's not a lot of need to rush him along. That will allow him to bulk up a little bit and learn the playbook.
I don't want to be too bold in my predictions, but I like Matthews enough to believe that he could be a fixture in the rotation by 2013. That's fantastic for a seventh round pick, and it's a testament once more to how well this team drafts.
So that's our 2011 NFL Draft. We'll have draft grades and more discussion in the days and weeks ahead, but for now, talk about Matthews!