The Atlanta Falcons traded up in the 2011 NFL Draft to select a player they saw as basically the best player available. Granted, receiver was probably not the most pressing need, but adding explosiveness at the position was something the Falcons desired, and paid a lot to get. For the most part, however, teams who aren’t in the top-10 in the Draft have a decision to make: should we pick the best player who is on the draft board, even though that player may play a position we don’t necessarily need to fill a void at, or should we select a player of lesser talent compared to board position just because we have that void?
Generally if a team went with the latter route, we would say the team reached for that player. There are certainly examples of this, but they are a little more difficult to pinpoint. However, the examples of taking the best player available regardless of draft position is a little more obvious. Two examples come to mind, one from the 2010 and one from the 2011 drafts. In 2010, the New York Giants selected Jason Pierre-Paul with their 1st round pick. Defensive line was not a need for the Giants; for the past couple seasons, ever since they beat Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII, they had a outstanding defensive line. Even though they had multiple pro-bowlers on that line, they still went with Pierre-Paul. They didn’t NEED him, but boy has he sure been a monster on that line ever since. The second example is from the 2011 draft. The Detroit Lions had a very nice defensive line with Ndamukong Suh, had just signed Kyle Vanden Bosch, and already had Cliff Avril and second year player Willie Young on the roster. What did they do with their 1st round pick? They selected Auburn’s Nick Fairley to support Suh and bolster the strength on the middle of that line. They didn’t need more firepower on that line, but they drafted even more.
The question is, will the Falcons draft a position that they already have some strength in, or will they possibly reach for a player because they have a need in that area? With their first pick, which is in the 2nd round, I would expect the Falcons to take the best player available. Luckily, there are a great many players at positions of need for the 55th overall pick. Defensive end Vinny Curry of Marshall will likely be available at No.55, as well as offensive tackles Zebrie Sanders and Bobby Massie. I personally think Curry would be taken by the Falcons, and at this spot they would have the potential to draft him.
However, things may get complicated with the 3rd round pick. Do you continue to take someone with value who may not fill a positional need with that pick, or do you decide to take someone who may have normally fallen in the 4th round? Keep in mind, the Falcons do not have their 4th round pick (it was traded to the Cleveland Browns), so do you take a warm body, or do you take someone who you really believe in who has 4th round value? Two players who I think have 4th round value but would not be present in round 5 are TE Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette, and OT Matt McCants of Alabama-Birmingham. Both would be a slight reach in round 3, but not available to the Falcons when their next selection comes around in round 5.
There is no certainty as to who the Falcons will take in any round, and these are just projections. Even the players listed are listed with value given by both professional and amateur draft analysts. I know that the Falcons have a legion of experts working for them who are trying to find the best player they can get the most value out of, and I know that they probably already have the player they will take already selected. It will be interesting to see who the players taken in the 2012 NFL Draft are, and how they fit into the offensive and defensive schemes. Regardless, they need to make each and every one of these picks count.