When looking at the Falcons current roster, it's hard to find many bright spots on the defense. But the young corners drafted in 2012 - Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford - are arguably two of those. Trufant, in particular, has played at a very high level from day one and is easily a top-10 corner in the league. While Alford has been somewhat inconsistent in his first two years, it's easy to see that the talent is there and with a little more experience, he could be a top-tier corner as well.
But those guys were drafted under another head coach and brought up by a different defensive coordinator. With Dan Quinn coming over from the vaulted "Legion of Boom" defense in Seattle, it's fair to wonder what the team will look like at the cornerback position not only this year, but into the future.
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First, unless something dramatic happens this year and Trufant forgets how to play, I can't imagine the Falcons not locking up this great corner for the long-haul. It's hard to find great cover corners and Trufant has more than proven he can play at the highest of levels in this league. He's going to be a Falcon for a long time.
As for Alford, I absolutely love his potential. But he's been inconsistent, which is not abnormal for young corners coming into the NFL. That said, this will be his third year in the league - which is the year when most teams want to see "the leap." It will be important for Alford to show he can take another step in his development to ensure he's in the long-term plans for the team as well. I'm optimistic that he will.
The only other corner worth mentioning is the draft pick from last year: Ricardo Allen. As a fifth round pick, he doesn't have the draft value that would prevent him from being cut. Heck, he started last year on the practice squad. The biggest thing working against Allen is his size. At just 5'9" and a little under 190 pounds, Allen doesn't fit the mold of what Quinn used in Seattle. While he's a feisty competitor, Allen may be the odd man out under the new coaching staff.
This is where things get interesting. In Seattle, the Legion of Boom typically featured tall corners with decent-to-good speed. Richard Sherman ran a 4.53 40 and is 6'3" tall. Brandon Browner is 6'4" and ran a 4.63 in the 40. Byron Maxwell is 6'1" and ran a 4.43 in the 40.
The other interesting thing with all three guys: none were taken any earlier than the 5th round. Sherman was a fifth round pick, Browner was undrafted and Maxwell was taken in the 6th. I don't think this is necessarily a criteria the Falcons will be looking for, but it does speak to the fact that in Seattle they believed in developing their corners.
So what might this mean for a Falcons team being lead by Quinn? If history holds, don't be surprised if the Falcons use a 4th - 7th round pick on a corner. And not just any corner, but one that is tall and athletic.
Some names to pay attention to in the later rounds of the draft: Eric Rowe (6'1", 4.45/40), Damian Swann (6'0", 4.5/40), Nick Marshall (6'1", 4.54/40) and Tony Lippett (6'2", 4.61/40). In the case of Marshall and Lippett, both guys didn't play CB predominantly in college. Let's not forget that Richard Sherman started off as a WR at Stanford, so it's possible Quinn will like the idea of going after an athlete who may not have extensive cornerback experience.
With the Falcons current lack of depth at the CB position, it's highly likely that the team will look to grab a player somewhere in the draft. The aforementioned players should all be available somewhere between the 3rd and 7th round.
With all of that said, while the Falcons have some young talent starting for the team, we could still be in store for some turnover at this position, especially if Quinn's history with the Seahawks is a template for what he'll want to do in Atlanta. While I'd consider Trufant to be a roster-lock and Alford to get another year to shore up his status, all other bets are off. This will be an interesting position to watch during the draft and going into the season.