Atlanta Falcons 2012 Draft Class May Be a Bridge Year

Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said in a press conference that “Our focus right now is all draft and we’re continuing to tweak our board as we go.”  Given the Falcons needs, as opposed to the picks they have, it may take more than some tweaking.  With no first round pick, and having to wait until the number 55 pick overall, the Falcons will have some tough decisions to make for the 2012 draft.  The question will be, do they try to fill immediate needs, or do they take the best players available regardless of position, and use this draft as a “bridge year” to get them through until next year’s draft.  If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the latter option.

The most pressing needs the Falcons have are at left tackle, cornerback, and defensive end.  And when you look down the list of potential draft candidates, there aren’t a lot of quality players who will be available in the late rounds who will be better than what we have at those positions.  Atlanta also needs to be thinking about tight ends and running backs and a center, although those positions aren’t in as much disarray as the others for this season.  Since for the most part Dimitroff has chosen to stand pat through free agency, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the same approach during the draft.  Take the best player available on the board – regardless of position – and see what kind of trade bait or even unpolished gems we can get out of it.

Take the left tackle position.  Head coach Mike Smith has already stated that Sam Baker will be back, and will most likely be starting.  Although this announcement had a lot of fans scratching their heads, the options that the Falcons had weren’t much better.  Being cash strapped and without a first round draft pick, they didn’t have the ability to grab any of the quality free agent offensive tackles – namely Jared Gaither who re-signed with the Chargers, and Demetress Bell who signed with the Eagles.  If you look at this years draft class, the top five offensive tackles – Matt Kalil (USC), Riley Reiff (Iowa), Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Mike Adams (Ohio State), and Jonathan Martin (Stanford) -  are all projected to go in the first round.  The next two tackles are projected to go early in the second round, which would leave Atlanta (at best) with the 8th rated offensive tackle in this year’s draft, Jeff Allen (Illinois).  Nothing against Allen, but the chances that he could come in and replace the tandem of Sam Baker and Will Svitek are pretty slim.

Taking the same approach to cornerback, an area where the Falcons are extremely thin, you come up with a similar picture.  The first eight cornerbacks are all projected to be first round/early second round picks.  So getting an impact corner – like Morris Claiborne (LSU), Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama), or Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina) – will be completely out of reach for Atlanta.  However, Georgia’s Brandon Boykin could possibly still be available for Atlanta’s first pick.  Although Boykin is only the 10th rated cornerback in the draft, he does possess playmaking ability and can return kicks (another area where the Falcons need help).

You pretty much come up with the same scenario when you look at any of the positions where the Falcons need to fill immediate needs, which makes me believe they wont necessarily try to fill those needs via this year’s draft.  My guess is they will go for the best player on the board, work with what we have, and plan on the new coordinators and coaches being able to get more from that group.

So let’s say the Falcons take the “best player available” approach to the draft.  Here is how I would see it happening.

2nd Round: 23rd pick (55 overall) – Brandon Boykin, CB: Georgia – or – Brandon Thompson, DT: Clemson

3rd Round: 21st pick (84 overall) – Alameda Ta’amu, DT: Washington – or – Ben Jones, C: Georgia

5th Round: 22nd pick (157 overall) – Edwin Baker, RB: Michigan State – or – Jake Bequette, DE: Arkansas

6th Round: 22nd pick (192 overall) – Brad Smelley, FB: Alabama – or – Justin Bethel, FS: Presbyterian

7th Round: 22nd pick (229 overall) – Jaymes Brooks, OG: Virginia Tech – or – Emil Igwenagu, FB: Massachusetts

7th Round: 42nd pick (249 overall, compensatory) – Cory Harkey, TE: UCLA – or – Derek Dennis, OG: Temple

Even given those picks, if any of them did actually materialize, it would give the Falcons some depth at positions where they could use a little, and it would ensure that we’d be able to possibly save some money for next year’s free agency period.   I can’t see anyone on that list who wouldn’t provide at least some help or additional depth were they need it.

In my next column, we’ll explore the draft pick possibilities if the Falcons decide to shoot for the best player at the positions they have the greatest need.  You’ll be surprised how different that list will look.


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