I think even the most fervent Falcons fan would admit that the current team has holes, and those holes will only become more glaring in the next two seasons. Tight end is going to need to be addressed somehow after the 2012 season as Tony Gonzalez retires. Left tackle has been dismal, and it might not be the only offensive line position that needs to be addressed. At the beginning of the 2013 season, all three of the Falcons vaunted cornerback trio will be at the age of 30 or older. Aside from John Abraham, the Falcons don’t really have any proven pass rusher, and certainly nobody who can carry the load when Abraham does retire. You can never have enough linebacker depth, and another receiver wouldn’t kill anyone. There will be a lot of holes very soon, and I didn’t even mention Michael Turner until right now. The Falcons have no other choice to fix those holes but through the draft– the NFL is set up to reward those who build through the draft.
Most general managers in the NFL go for a positional need, and try to address as many high priority needs as possible in a draft on both sides of the ball. Perhaps an elite pass-rusher in the first round, a solid offensive lineman in the second, a defensive back in the third…you get the idea.
But there is another school of thought, one this is taking hold and is absolutely apparent in two teams who are improving steadily on one side of the ball, seemingly at the expense of the other. They aren’t necessarily even using their highest round pick on one side of the ball, but they have had so much success or such high profile names on one side that you would think they don’t draft for . Those two teams are the Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions.
Look at the Lions. The drafted Calvin Johnson in 2007, Stafford & Brandon Pettigrew in 2009, Jahvid Best in 2010, and added Mikel Leshoure & Titus Yound all in the first two rounds. They went buck wild offensively in 2011. What did they do in the 2012 draft? They drafted tackle Riley Reiff in the first round and WR Ryan Broyles in the 2nd round. Did they have a need at wide receiver? No way, they had a boat load of talent there. They did need an offensive tackle, and as a Falcons fan I don’t really blame them for that. It just seems that for a team whose defense was very porous, especially in the secondary, they would have seen fit to use their 2nd round pick on a defensive back. I assume they felt comfortable with that pick because they had a huge hit on Ndamukong Suh and a guy with good potential in Nick Fairley. But based on their defensive woes, I was one of many who was surprised at the pick of a wide receiver as their second rounder.Still, the Lions are a strong team and will be very strong contenders for the NFC crown.
I would also look at the Houston Texans, a team who has the potential to steamroll opponents on both sides of the ball. They had an enormous amount of success with undrafted free-agent Arian Foster, they have a great receiver in Andre Johnson, they have a solid tight end in Owen Daniels, and a fine quarterback in Matt Schaub. Even their backups seem to workout well. Despite that, they still could use to have a little more firepower in the offense. Their defense was stifling even without Mario Williams who the let leave in free-agency. Their recent drafting of Brooks Reed, J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, and Connor Barwin have ALL been huge successes. They have a suffocating defense, and an offense that could be truly scary with another playmaker. Who did they draft with their 1st round pick in 2012? A pass rusher, Whitney Mercilus out of Illinois. I watched the Texans play the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs, and I can assure you that they can generate plenty of pass-rush even without Mercilus.
So what should the Falcons do? I’ve been giving it a lot of thought recently, and I wonder if maybe the Falcons ought to focus specifically on one side of the ball, focus on making and keeping that side of the ball elite for the next five to ten years, and slowly bringing along the other side of the ball. I posed the question a few days ago when I asked if, in the next draft, the Falcons should address the offensive line or the defensive end. I think that question is absolutely an interesting one, a very pertinent and important one. But this is something bigger, a more concerted effort. It would require a meeting of the minds between President McKay, GM Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith, and the veteran leadership of the players to accomplish.
I think focusing on just the offensive side of the ball with the next couple drafts would be beneficial for the future of the team. We have a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, and making sure he has the proper protection and enough weapons to succeed should be the #1 objective. If we didn’t have a franchise QB, I would probably suggest building the defense first, but in the NFL today, a team with very little defense can certainly win it all, or at least make it to the Super Bowl. Just look at the Packers, Patriots, and Saints, three teams who are consistent contenders and play very little defense.
I can absolutely understand an argument for focusing on defense the next three or four drafts. But what is your opinion? Vote below and let us know whether the Falcons should specialize on one side of the ball, the other, or on the entire team one season at a time.