Most would agree that the Falcons biggest area of need this offseason, whichever position that may be, is somewhere on defense.
If you watched a replay of Atlanta's two postseason appearances this January, it would be incredibly easy to blame the pass-rush (or the prominent lack thereof) for the team's collapse against San Francisco and near-collapse against Seattle.
Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, while talented, have yet to become elite passers in the pros. But when given five-plus seconds to stand in the pocket, a receiver is bound to get open, and the defense is bound to blow big leads.
And so we have Sam Montgomery, another player whom the mock drafters believe could wind up with the Falcons in April. But is Monty a good fit?
Projection: 1st round
Measurables: 6'4, 260 pounds
NFL Comparisons: Andre Carter, Ray Edwards
Stats (2012): 37 total tackles, 8.0 sacks, 13.0 TFL, 2 forced fumbles, 2 pass deflections
Why He'll Work:
Top-tier pass rushers are incredibly difficult to find, and in a league now dominated by passing attacks they have become even more valuable. The 2012 draft speaks for itself: six defensive ends went off the board on Day One.
Montgomery works because he is at the lower end of the elite rookie pass-rushers of 2013, and could feasibly still be there when the Falcons pick at No. 30 overall. Once you move past guys like Montgomery, Alex Okafor and Margus Hunt, you see the talent level drop considerably.
So if Atlanta wants an impact rookie to line up at defensive end this season, Monty could be the way to go.
And though he's not an elite talent like a Jarvis Jones, he has a lot of what you look for: ideal frame and size, impressive strength and is what scouts would define as a "high-motor player," the sort of guy you can rely on for all four quarters.
That strength makes him a real force when defending the run - another area of disappointment for the Falcons last season - and he has shown solid enough technique with hand placement and maintaining leverage at the college level to contribute early on as a run-stopper.
He's also speedy enough to track down quarterbacks and other ball-carriers that break outside the pocket and around the edge. His wrap-up ability as a tackler is solid, as well.
As far as his pass-rushing abilities are concerned, Montgomery has... potential (you knew there was a reason he might fall to the second round).
Why He Won't Work:
I'll preface this by saying that Montgomery is far from a poor pass-rusher. Recording 8.0 sacks in the SEC is obviously impressive, and he arguably looked even better as a sophomore when he posted a 9.0-sack season.
The problem with Montgomery was the weight he added this season - about 20 or so pounds - in order to bulk up for a future career in the NFL.
After that weight gain, he looked much less fluid on the field, as if he'd lost a step. The explosiveness was tapered down, his balance got worse and he had more difficulty maintaining a low pad level in his "new" body.
Another issue with Montgomery is where he often lined up in LSU's 4-3 formation: their defensive linemen were often bunched together very closely at the line of scrimmage.
Conversely, the Falcons often times prefer lining Abraham and Biermann up out wide so that they can use their speed to beat opposing tackles around the edge. Montgomery, on the other hand, would not have the explosiveness to make that happen consistently right away.
Montgomery is talented, and I would not complain if the Falcons drafted him. His ability to play the run is commendable, and he really does have serious potential as a pass-rusher if he can grow into his thicker frame.
But he also worries me. We've already dealt with underachieving defensive ends in Atlanta, let alone ones that have drawn comparisons to Ray Edward himself, and of course we know Edwards did not excel in the Falcons system.
It would be just as tough for the Falcons to land an impact defensive end via free agency, and again that also echoes the mistakes that were made with Edwards - namely overpaying for a veteran who was average at best.
Montgomery is not my first choice, but there's a solid chance he could be the best player available when the Falcons pick. Time will tell.