As soon as the 2012 season ended, the only thing for fans of teams who didn’t win the Super Bowl to do is to look ahead to the upcoming Draft. Unfortunately, such is the case this season. But there’s still a bunch of questions as to who will be drafted, even what position the Falcons will target with their first round pick, something they didn’t have in 2012 due to the Julio Jones trade. I’ll make a case for the three positions that need the most attention, in no particular order.
Defensive end/pass rusher: The playoff games against Seattle and San Francisco highlighted this. The Falcons were very solid in coverage, and were able to stop the run in obvious situations. But the fact of the matter is that when the quarterback has infinite time to throw passes, he will always find an open receiver. We saw that highlighted in the intermediate game, when Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick constantly found their tight ends in the middle of the field. How can you prevent that, especially when your coverage really isn’t bad? Improve your pass rush, especially against the mobile quarterback.
It isn’t just that the Falcons pass-rush is poor; the clock is ticking. John Abraham is still solid as a rock, but he’s older and we’ve seen what the Falcons rush looks like without Abraham. When he decided to hang it up, they will be left with Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews, and a cast of non-impact type players. They’re not bad players, and they certainly are critical to setting the edge and filling out the rotation, but they need an additional/replacement impact player at defensive end, or a general pass-rusher.
Offensive line: This is my personal preference for what the Falcons should do with their first round pick. The line was much better in 2012 than it was in the 2011 season, but it still wasn’t spectacular. The main reason it improved was due to the improve play of left tackle Sam Baker. But geez, this unit is far from outstanding.
Will the Falcons re-sign Sam Baker? Great question, and it will be one of the first orders of business for the Falcons. Let’s assume they do. Well, there are still issues at center and guard. Let’s also assume that veteran center Todd McClure retires, and 2012 rookie Peter Konz fills in at center. That will still leave a huge void at right guard, a position where the Falcons have struggled in the past couple seasons. The key to winning football games is winning in the trenches, and the Falcons need to invest serious picks in improving the offensive line. It’s a key to getting the ball in the hands of the play-makers.
Tight end: Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end in the history of the NFL, is likely retiring after this season. The Falcons will need to upgrade talent there. Currently they have Chase Coffman, who is a solid, but not a tremendous playmaker, Tommy Gallarda, mostly a blocking tight end, and….that’s about it. They need a pass-catching threat.
Tony Gonzalez, in his time in Atlanta, has been great at moving the chains and playing in the red-zone. That’s mostly what the Falcons have needed out of him, but he rarely stretches the field. The Falcons need to find a new tight end with a skill set similar to that of Gonzalez, but who can also stretch the field to a higher degree. I wouldn’t personally invest a 1st round pick in a tight end, especially when there are such pressing needs on the offensive and defensive lines, but it is a position of need.
So what will it be? Will the Falcons look to crush quarterbacks, build to play in the trenches, or look for another weapon for Matt Ryan? I’d like to hear from you, so vote below, and speak your mind on what you think the Falcons should do in the 2013 NFL Draft.