The Value of Difference Makers and the Cost of Trading Up: Coming to Terms With Clowney

This years draft is less than two weeks away and, in what's becoming a tradition, the rumors surrounding the Falcons are really kicking into high gear. For most other NFL teams these rumors may be easily dismissed as smokescreens but I'm not sure that is a tactic Dimitroff mastered during his time in New England. Dave's post this morning pointed out several interesting tweets from Ian Rapoport that indicate the Falcons could potentially move in any direction on draft day. Anyone who has followed the Falcons during Dimitroff's tenure knows that is a sign that something is coming.

As a fan who has his heart set on staying at six and taking Jake Matthews I didn't necessarily welcome this news but I've decided to see if I can talk myself into supporting a potential trade of the sixth pick. If they trade up it will presumably be for Clowney or Mack. If they trade down they could still snag a tackle but Barr or Clinton-Dix seem to be the more likely candidates. Somehow a trade down just doesn't seem very likely to me. Dimitroff loves making a splash and what would be a bigger splash than trading up for Clowney. That conclusion left me in a bit of a malaise until I came across a a piece by ESPN's Vaughn McClure and specifically a quote in his article from former NFL exec Bill Polian. When asked his opinion on those who may question the Falcons decision to trade up for Julio Jones he had this to say.

``Difference-makers win championships. You have to have difference-makers,'' Polian said. ``What would you rather have, a difference-maker or three backups? People who criticize it want you to get difference-makers and also have depth and also stay within the salary cap and also pay the quarterback. That's Fantasyland.''

That got me to thinkin'...

If difference makers win championships then I'd say the Falcons are a few short of a possible Lombardi. If the team's biggest need is more difference makers then why not shoot for the biggest potential difference maker in the draft?

After last season it is hard not to worry about the depth on the Falcons roster but depth wasn't the only issue. There were (and still are) no difference makers along either of the Falcons lines. They have impact players in Ryan, Julio and Roddy on offense. Desmond Trufant has shown he has the potential to make a big impact on defense but aside from William Moore there aren't many other names to add to the list. There are plenty of solid role players on the roster. Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai should pay big dividends in stopping the run. Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters are both very capable tackle/end hybrids in Nolan's scheme. Sean Weatherspoon occasionally flirts with being more than adequate and Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu showed some promise last season but they aren't true difference makers. That gives me reason to pause and consider what the defense would look like with the kind of player that forces other offenses to scheme around him and allows some of the hard working role players to over achieve. Clowney and Mack are both players that fit that description.

Given the option I'd still prefer to take our franchise left tackle in this draft and reconcile the mistake that was made by re-signing Sam Baker but I'm slowly coming around to the idea of trading up. Going into training camp with essentially the same group of tackles from last year's disastrous season is questionable at best and terrifying at worst but the team needs a difference maker on both sides of the line and they likely won't be able to find both in one draft. Adding Clowney or Mack could give the Falcons defense a chance to step out of the basement and into the top half of the defenses in the league.

I despise the idea of trading away future picks but if Clowney is a once in a generation type player maybe it's not so ridiculous to invest the extra resources. Should a trade materialize the Falcons will surely be praying (to the old gods and new) that one of the young tackles steps up or they find a veteran among the June 1st cuts to help avoid the pass protection issues that plagued them last season but a bolstered pass rush should presumably take some of the pressure off Ryan and the offense. There is still the nagging questions about the free safety and tight end positions to address but the Falcons should have enough picks left after a trade to address both issues on some level.

Trading up may not be a perfect solution but it could be a viable one. It makes me nervous to invest so much in a player so "enigmatic" (to put it politely) but it's a gamble that could pay off. It has taken me weeks to finally be able to admit that but I'm working at it. Despite all the storms bearing down on Georgia today it doesn't appear that the sky is falling. Hopefully I'll be able to carry that positivity over to draft day.

What do you guys think? I know there are plenty of people that question the effect the Julio trade had on the teams ability to field a team with good depth. Do you think they'd be setting themselves up for a similar failure with a trade-up this year? On the flip side are there any Julio fans that think the trade was worth it and wouldn't hesitate to make a similar move?

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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