2014 NFL Draft: Ranking the Atlanta Falcons’ Top 5 Needs
2014 NFL Draft: Ranking the Atlanta Falcons' Top 5 Needs
The Atlanta Falcons finished tied with the best record in all of the NFL at 13-3 in 2012. Despite losing in the NFC conference game, Atlanta had one of the most explosive offenses in the league scoring 26.2 points per game (seventh). The defense, on the other hand, didn't meet expectations. They allowed 365.6 yards (ninth) and 18.7 points (28th) per game.
Fast forward to the 2013 season and things went further south. Star wide receiver Julio Jones played in just five games before missing the rest of the season with a foot injury. Veteran Roddy White missed multiple games as well while dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries. He missed his first game in nine seasons after playing in 133 straight.
The Falcons went 2-9 in their first 11 games and finished 4-12, their worst finish since 2007. To make matters worse, the Falcons will be losing their star tight end Tony Gonzalez, who decided to retire after 17 great seasons.
However, things aren't all bad for the Falcons. They have a solid foundation on offense with Matt Ryan, Jones, White, Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. It's the defense that needs the most improvement. The defense had 10 interceptions and 32 total sacks, both good (or not good) for 29th in the league.
As a result of the 4-12 record, the Falcons have the sixth overall pick. There are a few different ways the Falcons can go, either offensive tackle, cornerback or defensive end. They could even use some help at the safety position. The Falcons need to draft players, especially on the defensive side of the ball, who can play right away. It won't do them any good to draft a player who needs two or three years of development.
Here are the Falcons' top five needs heading into the 2014 NFL Draft.
The free safety position isn't that deep in the draft this season. There are a couple of players worth a first-round pick. The value and talent will be found on the second day in rounds two and three. The Falcons will need to pick one early as there are rumors that Thomas DeCoud will be released.
With Kemal Ishmael the only other FS on the team, the Falcons will need to select a safety to play opposite of William Moore. The Falcons may also sign a couple of players from free agency to improve the defensive stats. The Falcons need a FS who can make a big impact in the secondary as a player and a leader.
Best option: Terrance Brooks (round 3), Ed Reynolds (round 3)
4. Defensive End
In case you didn't hear, the Falcons defense was very poor. They finished 29th in the league with only 32 sacks. This isn't something new, though. The Falcons were the 28th-best team with 29 sacks in the 2012 season.
The Falcons need help in the trenches and could definitely trade up with the St. Louis Rams to the No. 2 pick. There is only one player the Falcons will be drafting with that pick. Even though Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann (torn achilles) have two years left on their contracts, the Falcons need a defensive end who can break though opposing lines and get to a quarterback, something their current DEs can't do.
Best option: Jadeveon Clowney (round 1), Trevor Reilly (round 5)
3. Tight End
The Falcons had one of the most consistent tight ends in all of football. Tony Gonzalez spent five years with Atlanta, catching 33 passes for touchdowns in the red zone. After 17 seasons, Gonzalez decided to hang up the pads for good.
The only other tight ends on the roster are Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman. Toilolo caught 11 passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns in 2013. Coffman only has one catch in his two years with the Falcons. The Falcons could survive with their current choices because of the other passing options. If they wanted to add depth and security to the tight end position, there will be players available in the middle rounds.
Best option: Jace Amaro (round 4)
The Falcons wasted no time making changes to their secondary. Just days after the Super Bowl, the Falcons released cornerback Asante Samuel. The defense allowed 31 passing touchdowns in the 2013 season. They need all the improvements they can get on the defensive side of the ball
The Falcons drafted two cornerbacks with their first two picks last draft — Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Another young cornerback will allow a rotation to take place between their current options. After taking care of the top needs, adding depth to cornerback is a need.
Best option: Terrance Mitchell (round 5), Chris David (round 6)
1. Offensive Tackle
It looked like Matt Ryan spent more time on his back than on his feet. Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes failed to protect Ryan's blindside. Ryan was sacked 44 times last season, 16 more times than in 2012. His 44 times sacked were tied for third in the league.
The Falcons need a lot of help in the trenches, on both sides of the ball. Luckily for the Falcons, there are a couple of options at the No. 6 spot. One offensive lineman played all over line, while the other is fast and strong as a left tackle.
Regardless, the Falcons should be more than okay with either player protecting Ryan.
Best options: Greg Robinson (round 1), Jake Matthews (round 1)