This is my second go round with off-season projections for Atlanta. The biggest changes come with our FA additions. I did a bit of flip flopping in the draft based on FA. I also added a "key departures" section which may be controversial to some. I also kept the Turner trade from my last mock but added a new potential trade partner.***Trade***: If Turner remains in ATL in 2012, I’d be a happy man-but from a business perspective this could be ATL’s last chance to get draft picks for a guy on the wrong side of 30. I’m boldly predicting Michael Turner to be traded to the Redskins for a 4th rounder. Washington has two 4th round picks and will need some thunder to go with Roy Helu’s lightening. Washington has not been relevant for a while but they will be big players in FA this year. They will win the Matt Flynn sweepstakes and will want to surround him with a strong running game. Washington has no problem acquiring aging players so this could be a trade made in heaven. Cleveland could also be in play as they have two 4th round picks and could be parting ways with Peyton Hillis.
1. Marcus McNeill LT: Svitek filled in admirably at LT and Sam Baker is a dead man walking at this point. McNeill will be a big time upgrade at the position. I initially had ATL taking Gaither but it looks like San Diego will try to lock him up to a deal. Demetrius Bell is another option but like McNeill, he has missed significant playing time in his career due to injuries. You’d basically be picking your poison with these two. McNeill is a Pro Bowl LT who could come at a reduced price due to injury concerns.
2. Jeremy Mincey DE: The Jacksonville love affair continues but Mincey is the real deal. He’s a Georgia native who was one of the few bright spots on a bad JAX team. He piled up 8.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles so he has the ability to cause havoc from the DE position. If you watched the defensive masterpiece against Baltimore last year (where Mincey was a big ole stankin‘ boss) then you have to be giddy about having him in ATL. He’s 28 yrs old and deserves a bigger salary after a standout season in 2011. If he comes with a reasonable price tag ATL will have a good shot at him.
3. Channing Crowder LB: Say what you want about his loud mouth but bringing in a young, veteran LB
with experience in Nolan’s defense is a good move. We won’t be bringing Mike Peterson back and
Crowder should be dirt cheap to sign. It’s the very definition of a low risk-high reward signing. He’d be especially valuable if Nolan incorporates some 3-4 schemes. At worst we’d get some hilarious sound bytes.
1. Harry Douglas: I’m a bit torn on this because I think HD will get some good offers from other teams like
New Orleans who could lose Meachem, New England who has no deep threat, and JAX who has no
WR’s. I believe ATL will convince him that he’ll get a bigger role in 2012 and he stays.
2. Curtis Lofton: The rumors of a reduced role could play a role here but until that has been verified I have
ATL re-signing their MLB.
3. Thomas DeCoud: DeCoud still has room to grow and has been solid for us. I think ATL keeps him and
Nolan will work wonders with him.
4. Kelvin Hayden: Was a solid CB when healthy. He should come cheap so I’m guessing he gets re-signed.
5. Jason Snelling: ATL will keep him after the Turner trade. He hits the holes much harder than Turner and
can catch the ball.
6. Chris Redman: I can see ATL making a push for Garrard or someone else but Redman has what it takes
to win a game or two if his number is called.
John Abraham, Brent Grimes, Mike Peterson, Todd McClure, Kroy Biermann, James Sanders, Eric Weems, Sam Baker (cut), Ovie Mughelli (cut)
Mike Johnson will seize the RG spot with an animal’s rage and make us forget about the struggles we had there last year.
2012 NFL Draft
2nd round Orson Charles TE Georgia: I have a serious man crush on Ladarius Green and I don’t get those too often. Atlanta may decide to go with the best player available in the 2nd round and Charles would be that guy. Charles has the hands and speed to be a difference maker at the TE position. He’s not a good blocker but his receiving skills and athleticism cannot be ignored. He could step in from day one in two TE sets with Gonzo and cause nightmares for opposing defenses. (previously had Brandon Thompson DT in this spot)
3rd round Cyrus Gray RB Texas A&M: There are 4 RB’s who I can envision in ATL: Cyrus Gray, Isaiah Pead, Robert Turbin, and Chris Rainey. I like Pead a bit more but his MVP performance at the Senior Bowl may have raised his stock. Cyrus is my next favorite guy. He is a homerun hitter with excellent speed and agility. He hits the holes with authority and would be the most complete RB we’ve had in ATL in a long time. And by the way, this guy has amazing hands. A backfield of Gray, Snelling, and Quizz would almost be like cheating. (previously had Vinny Curry DE in this spot)
4th round Akiem Hicks DT Regina (Canada): Big boys like this don’t grow on trees. Standing at 6’5 and pushing 330 lbs with a reported 84 inch wingspan, Hicks could be our answer at DT as Atlanta’s interior pass rush was incredibly anemic in 2011. Babs is getting old, Peters is more of a run stopper, and Jerry has been a huge disappointment. Hicks was a star H.S. recruit who signed on with LSU but lost his D-1 scholarship in LSU’s recruiting scandal. He didn’t give up and instead went to Canada to play collegiate football. Its easy to root for Hicks just on that alone but if you watch his film you will see how beastly this guy is. He can play 4-3 DT, DE, and 3-4 NT. I’ve watched his highlights numerous times now and ATL would be lucky to get a guy this talented. He’s projected as a 4th to 5th rounder.
5th round Quinton Saulsberry C Mississippi State: We will need to bring in a guy to compete with Hawley. Saulsberry has a high motor and plays with a lot of aggression. He’s been described as fiery and tenacious on the field. We haven’t had a guy like that on the O-line since Dahl left. He played in the SEC and has held his own against some great defenders. He’s a solid pass protector whose also extremely versatile having played many games at LG, RG, and RT. Sounds like a Smitty guy to me. (previously had Ladarius Green TE in this spot)
6th round Damien Jackson FS Mississippi: He is a big time hitter and can tackle well. He’s not the strongest in coverage but his ability to play both safety positions make him a good pick here. His height (6’2) should be an asset against shorter WR’s (previously had Kellen Moore QB in this spot)
7th round Kellen Moore QB Boise State: John Parker Wilson should be nowhere near an NFL roster, We need a young QB to develop and Moore should be available here. He is incredibly smart and can decipher defenses with ease. With his smarts, he can run the no huddle ATL loves to run. He has laser accuracy and all he does is win. His biggest knocks are his height and lack of arm strength. Short QB’s like Brees and Vick have had success in this league and with proper coaching, Moore could be serviceable. ATL has not drafted a QB in a while and they can do much worse than Moore. (previously had Damien Jackson FS in this spot)