With Tony Gonzalez undecided on retirement, the Falcons have been lobbying hard. The world outside Flowery Branch and this fanbase has moved on to the alternatives, and in the case of draft analysts, it has created an easy selection for the Falcons.
The two latest mock drafts from Todd McShay and Mel Kiper at ESPN, the two heavyweights in the field of draft prognostication, both pick a tight end for the Falcons at #30 in the first round. This is not particularly surprising, because Gonzalez is a high profile player, they're operating on the assumption that he's gone and it's a way to fill a very visible hole in the roster.
The biggest difference is that they're picking different tight ends. McShay is partial to Zach Ertz, Stanford tight end:
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: Future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez has announced he will retire, and Ertz is the top-rated tight end on our board. He doesn't have elite speed, but he is a good athlete who knows how to separate from coverage, and can make tough catches over his head and in traffic.
Meanwhile, Kiper has 'em going for Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame tight end:
If all the begging pays off, and Tony Gonzalez does in fact return in 2013, the presence of Eifert would still be valuable. If Gonzalez is back, you add a player that can contribute immediately, who can be moved all over the formation and along with Julio Jones and Roddy White, cause matchup problems for defenses in multiple ways. If Gonzalez does come back, Eifert gets a year to learn from the master, and contribute plenty in the mean time. The Falcons do need help with the pass rush, but it would be hard to pass on Eifert at this spot with the presumption that Gonzalez is headed for retirement.
If you're wondering what I think of these picks, here it is. Both players are good—the best in the draft at their position, arguably—but this isn't the need I want to fill with the team's first round pick. If it's a case of best player available, go for it. If a pass rusher is on the board, or the best player available has a chance to improve the defense, I go for that player. It's a fairly deep class at tight end, after all.
If it comes down to one or another, give me Ertz, though it's a close call. I do believe Alec Shirkey will have a couple of posts on the tight ends coming up, so stay tuned. Who would you choose?