The Falcons have priorities. They need a secondary help, help along the defensive and offensive fronts, and they need to find Tony Gonzalez's replacement. Those are the most oft-cited needs the Falcons are expected to address in this week's draft. But make no mistake, if they know what's good for them, they will also draft a returner.
The current returning corps isn't spectacular. With Dominique Franks returning punts, we averaged just 9.3 yard per punt return in 2012's regular season, the 19th best average in the league. Franks also fair caught the ball 23 times, 8th most in the league. With Jacquizz Rodgers returning the majority of our kickoffs, we averaged just 22.2 yards per kickoff return in 2012's regular season, the 25th best average in the league.
Let's be honest, returning punts and kickoffs in the modern NFL isn't an exact science. It isn't easy, and it's not always the returner himself who's to blame when things don't go right. Franks is decidedly mediocre, there's no denying that. He absolutely worthless in the secondary. Rodgers isn't bad, but he lacks straight line speed, and his returning abilities aren't good enough to risk injury. In other words, we need Rodgers to stay healthy, and it's not like he's kicking butt and taking names in the return game.
Admittedly, there are internal options. But if there's a quality returner/wide receiver available in the later rounds, the team will regret not pulling the trigger.