The Atlanta Falcons will be looking at all options in this April’s draft, and the team will look to add depth and upgrades at nearly every position. The safety position is no different, especially with the departure of James Sanders to Arizona in free-agency.
A player the Falcons could bring in through the draft to supplement the secondary and the Free Safety position more specifically is George Iloka. Even though the Falcons did re-sign Thomas DeCoud to a new contract extension, there is no certainty among fans (I’ll admit I’m one of them) the DeCoud is truly good enough to be the starting FS for the Falcons. All too often I saw him get beat in coverage. Perhaps such is life in the NFL as a safety, but I felt like he got beat more often than is usual and acceptable.
However, Iloka is a player who could compete at the FS position and at the very least provide depth at both safety spots. Iloka is two inches taller, twenty pounds heavier, a harder hitter from the secondary, and has ability to press the receiver at the line. Iloka spent some time at corner in nickel situations while at Boise State, showing his speed and ability to cover wide receivers.
Perhaps his best attribute is to cover tight ends, and match-up fairly well against them. Granted he will still be outweighed by about thirty pounds by the tight ends he covers, but he is certainly a better option from a size standpoint than Grimes or DeCoud. He is significantly faster than linebackers, so he is the ideal individual to cover the TE for the Falcons defense. With the great TEs on opposing teams throughout the league and especially in the NFC South (Graham from New Orleans, Winslow from Tampa, and Olsen from Carolina) the ability to cover those matchup nightmares is just as important as having the TE that forces other teams to matchup.
Every player has a little downside, and Iloka is not above reproach. While his coverage skills are good, and his ability to separate the ball from the receiver, he rarely comes down with interceptions. So Falcons fans would be right to expect a lot of deflected passes, but not many interceptions. Also, he has a tendency to get in position and have great form on his tackles, but to not finish the tackle, often depending on teammates to come in and help with the tackle. He certainly has the size and athleticism, it is just a matter of focus and determination to individually take the ballcarrier down.
Like I said earlier, Iloka would provide depth at a position where the Falcons have little to none. Shann Schilinger is currently the backup at the safety position; if that doesn’t scare the living daylights out of Falcons fans everywhere, I don’t know what will. Iloka would provide depth, possibly start, and help the Falcons pass defense. I think that Atlanta would be right to select Iloka if they were given the opportunity.