Rant Sports 2013 NFL Mock Draft: Atlanta Falcons Select Johnthan Banks at No. 30

By Michael Collins
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

During the Rant Sports 2013 NFL Mock Draft, our staff of writers went through an entire round of picks, and just like in the real NFL Draft, we were on the clock and had our picks subject to change based on what those ahead of us did. The only difference was that we were not able to trade picks, much to my dismay.

As Rant’s primary Atlanta Falcons columnist, I was given the distinct honor of picking at No. 30, the same spot the Falcons currently hold in the first round of this year’s draft. My concern, as I believe is the Falcons’ as well, is in the defensive secondary, primarily at the cornerback position.

The loss of Dunta Robinson (released) and Brent Grimes (free agency) have caused a bit of a scramble at the corner position for Atlanta, although not as bad as some might make it seem. Grimes was out for the entirety of the 2012 season with a knee injury, so technically the Falcons are only one man down from last year’s group.

However, Robinson–as frustrating as he was at times–was a big part of the secondary, and the defense did suffer when he was unable to take the field, so finding an ample replacement has to be one of the top priorities. But drafting a solid corner who can come in as a rookie and start while learning on the job is tough. Very few are able to make the leap right from college ball to the pros and not struggle in coverage.

On my big board for defensive backs, I had them rated:

1. Dee Milliner (Alabama)

2. Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)

3. Jamar Taylor (Boise State)

4. Desmond Trufant (Washington)

5. Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State)

6. D.J. Hayden (Houston)

My true target was Trufant, who I thought would fit best in the system the Falcons run. I knew that Milliner and Rhodes would be a stretch to expect to have hanging around by the thirtieth pick, and Taylor could have gone either way.

Unfortunately, my colleague and friend Ben Grimaldi took Trufant, much earlier than I expected him to go, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers No. 13 pick, so I was left to decide between Taylor and Banks.

My initial study of Taylor had me thinking he was a better cover corner than both Trufant and Banks, but as my pick time rolled around and I knew what my definitive options were, I dug a little deeper and found that Banks had actually posted as good as or better numbers as Taylor, while facing better competition.

Between Banks advantage in height (6’2 to Taylor’s 5’11), and the better competition that he faced in the SEC, I bumped him up and grabbed him while I could.

Most of the knocks on Banks have been about minor technique errors–opening hips too early, too upright at snap–which are all things that can be easily corrected. His speed and size should make him a natural fit, and with the experience of Asante Samuel to draw from, it’s a good bet he could start very early in his rookie season.

At No. 31, the San Francisco 49ers select…


Michael Collins is a Rant Sports Senior Writer, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook

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