Jan 1, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11)goes up to make a catch against Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Tanard Jackson (36) during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Atlanta Falcons Must Address Wide Receiver Position in NFL Draft

The Falcons have All-Pro receiver Roddy White, a rising second year player in Julio Jones who I believe will be an elite receiver in the 2012 season, and fifth-year receiver Harry Douglas who does an excellent job in the slot and will do more going forward in a new offense. At the top of the pecking order the Falcons have extremely talented (and in Jones’ case other-worldly talent) at the wide receiver, and a solid slot guy. But after that, the cupboard in Matt Ryan’s arsenal is bare, and the Falcons need to fix that.

Granted, the Falcons use a lot of two-back one-tight end sets where the Falcons use play-action and tight end Tony Gonzalez becomes the “receiver” occupying the middle of the field. So in the order of options of whom to throw to, Harry Douglas or other receivers often fall to fourth or lower on Matt Ryan’s to-do list. But the point must be conceded that there is really nobody else to play receiver if one of the main three get injured or sit a play. Additional players on the roster are Kerry Meier, Kevin Cone, and…thats it. Nobody else is currently on the roster. Eric Weems would have been on that list, but he was lost in free-agency to the Bears.

So lets take a look at Meier and Cone. Kerry Meier was a quarterback for Kansas in his first two seasons in college, and after getting beaten out by Todd Reesing decided to switch to wide-receiver. At that position, Meier was outstanding. He has excellent size for the position, good hands, and was a good jump-ball/red-zone target. He didn’t have elite speed, but what he lacked in that department he made up with his outstanding football knowledge from his days as a starting quarterback. However in his rookie season, Meier suffered a knee injury. I heard a couple times in the last offseason that Meier could become an important cog in this Falcons offense. Meier has still never made a reception. We don’t have nearly the backstory on Kevin Cone that we have on Meier, but his impact has been exactly the same: nonexistent.

The Falcons are hoping to use a four-verticals type offense under Dirk Koetter in 2012, and it sure helps if you can run four or five receivers onto the field. Right now, the Falcons would be hard pressed to put five on the field, and actually be willing to throw to all of the eligible receivers. There are a multitude of receivers that will be available even in the 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds of the Draft.  Given that the Falcons don’t want to spend another high draft pick on the receiver position after they drafted Julio Jones last season, I would expect them to use one of those late picks on the position. Guys like Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles who is recovering from a knee injury, but had undeniable talent against good competition when he was healthy, would be worth a low round pick. A low-risk pick on a player with potential huge upside for an offense like the Falcons is a must if they expect to compete offensively in this highlight factory that is the NFL today.

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