The Atlanta Falcons are lucky this season. It’s not often you can lose one of the top cornerbacks in the league to free agency and simply shrug your shoulders and move on, but that’s exactly what the Falcons will do. Besides having a number of talented defensive backs on the team already, this year’s draft is loaded with top quality corners.
With Dunta Robinson being released, and Brent Grimes signing his one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons will now have to consider the cornerback position as one of their priorities in the early rounds of the draft. Drafting a young corner to come in and learn won’t be a hindrance at all to Atlanta, as they had to play the entire season without Grimes (knee injury) in 2012, and fared pretty well.
Right now there are seven players considered to be top quality defensive backs entering the 2013 NFL Draft. I have them ranked as follows:
1. Dee Milliner, Alabama
2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
3. D.J. Hayden, Houston
4. Desmond Trufant, Washington
5. Jamar Taylor, Boise State
6. Robert Alford, Southeast Louisiana
7. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut
Right now the Falcons have one first round pick, sitting at the 30th pick overall. It’s certain that both Milliner and Rhodes are most likely going to be gone by that time, but if some inexplicable act of a higher deity keeps them sitting on the board by the time pick number 30 rolls around, the Falcons should pick immediately and ask questions later.
Beyond divine intervention, it’s more than likely Atlanta will be looking at either D.J. Hayden or Desmond Trufant in the first round. Trufant met with the Falcons last week, and had a very impressive Pro Day at Washington. While Hayden, who nearly lost his life in a freak practice injury last November, showed of some serious ups in his own Pro Day at Houston.
Honestly I don’t know if Atlanta loses a thing in selecting either of them. Both have impressive speeds in their respective 40-yard dashes (Trufant 4.38, Hayden 4.33). Hayden is the smaller of the two at 5’11, while Trufant is 6’1, something to consider given the leagues new found love of gargantuan wide receivers. Both have excellent cover skills and have shown fluidity in backpedaling and running tight coverage.
Both have very different downsides however.
Trufant doesn’t have the best tackling form, even with his good size. Watching tapes you can see him attempt weak shoulder tackles, or even just completely whiff on a hit. The Falcons already had see enough of that with Dunta Robinson, who was released during the off-season, and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hayden, with his smaller size and weight, could struggle against the bigger NFL receivers, and there will always be the question of the recovery from his injury–the tearing of his inferior vena cava, the main vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.
Both are top quality college corners that could develop into NFL playmakers, and by the halfway point of the 2013 season, it could be that either of them would be an upgrade to Robinson and an able replacement for Grimes.
Picking up Taylor, Alford or Wreh-Wilson in the later rounds would be valuable insurance as well, given the injury history of Atlanta’s DBs.