Continuing our look at position groups that the Falcons will look to upgrade at in the 2012 NFL Draft, we’ll take a look at the defensive linemen that could legitimately fall to the Falcons.
Vinny Curry-Defensive End-Marshall. Vinny Curry is a very good defensive end who plays the run about average for the position, but excels at rushing the passer. He isn’t the fastest defensive end in the world, but whatever he lacks in straight-line speed, he makes up for with a high motor, great hands, and an assortment of moves to get the opposing linemen off balance. Vinny Curry is slotted to go right in the 2nd round, and the Falcons could use a player like him. He could end up becoming an dominant pass rushing in the NFL, but he would certainly be a role player and provide the rush in a platoon with Abraham, Edwards and Biermann rather than by his lonesome.
Andre Branch-Defensive End-Clemson. Branch is a tremendous talent, and to be completely honest he will probably get drafted late in the 1st round, making it impossible for the Falcons to draft him. However there are some reports that teams around the league are cooling on him, and that he could slide a little in the draft. If he were to slide a lot, the Falcons would have themselves a great pass-rusher from this years draft. Branch has great speed, was productive against solid competition in the ACC, and will no doubt be a solid pick for whatever team takes him. The Falcons have already invited both Branch and the next man on our list, Brandon Thompson, in for workouts. If he was available for the Falcons taking, they couldn’t pass on this guy.
Brandon Thompson-Defensive Tackle-Clemson. Thompson is a fine defensive tackle coming out of Clemson, and while he did not overwhelm people with numbers like sacks or tackles, he does certainly make an impact through his presence on the field. Thompson could be a beast tackle in a 4-3 scheme, but he could be just as good ad a nose-tackle in a 3-4 where he willingly takes on the double team, freeing up his teammates to make the plays that need to be made. Thompson is projected to go in the 2nd round, and given that Mike Nolan is the new D-coordinator here in Atlanta, it would make sense to draft a versatile, scheme friendly tackle for depth along a defensive line that needs help.
Olivier Vernon-Defensive End-Miami. It seems that this draft is all about versatility, and there is certainly truth to that. Vernon is the type of player who can play with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 DE, but can also rush the passer from a two-point stance from outside linebacker in a 3-4. Another thing that is key here is that he is described as a pass-rusher. The strength of his game is getting after the passer, which is the Falcons weakness. A third round pick would be a good value for this player.
Cam Johnson-Defensive End-Virginia. A defensive end who didn’t have terrific stats in 2011, but plays with a great motor, has tremendous size/strength combination, and works hard to get better. He is limited in his pass rushing repertoire, but he is a solid player. He is projected to go in the 2nd round, but I think he would be better if he were to be drafted in the 3rd round. A 2nd round pick, especially with how valuable draft picks are for the Falcons this year, would be too much for a guy like him, but if he slid a bit, perhaps he could be a valuable piece.
There are countless other players who the Falcons will and should target. What do you think of this list of players?