Best Case Scenario: Falcons’ Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon


Part One: Shann Schillinger
Part Two: Kerry Meier
Part Three: Dominique Franks
Part Four: Joe Hawley
Part Five: Mike Johnson
Part Six: Corey Peters

The last chapter in our seven-part series detailing the best case scenarios for the Atlanta Falcons’ 2010 draft picks finishes up with the Falcons’ first round draft pick: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

Using data from the last 10 NFL drafts (2000-2009), I focused on linebackers drafted in the first round to give us an idea of what Weatherspoon’s ideal rookie season might look like. What have players, who play his position and were drafted in the same round, done in the last 10 years?

Hit the jump for the comparison.

Top rookie campaigns for first round Linebackers since 2000.

Patrick Willis49ers2007Voted to Pro Bowl. Named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Selected as First-Team All-NFL by the AP, Pro Football Writers, and the Sporting News. Started 16 games for a 5-11 team. Recorded four sacks, five pass defenses, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 137 tackles.
Brian CushingTexans2009Voted to Pro Bowl. Selected as Second-Team All-NFL by the AP and Pro Football Writers. Started 16 games for a 9-7 team. Recorded four sacks, four interceptions, 10 pass defenses, two forced fumbles, 86 tackles and one safety.
Clay MatthewsPackers2009Voted to Pro Bowl. Started 13 games for an 11-5 team and the #2 defense in the NFL. Recorded 10 sacks, seven pass defenses, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, two touchdowns and 36 tackles.
Brian OrakpoRedskins2009Voted to Pro Bowl. Finished seventh in the NFL in sacks. Started 16 games for a 4-12 team and the #10 defense in the league. Recorded 11 sacks, two pass defenses, one forced fumble and 38 tackles.
Brian UrlacherBears2000Voted to Pro Bowl. Named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Started 14 games for a 5-11 team. Recorded eight sacks, two interceptions, one fumble recovery and 101 tackles.

Now that the expectations for Weatherspoon have been set extremely high, let’s talk about what we can reasonably expect from the Mizzou alum.

The recent success of first round linebackers will no doubt have may fans expecting the rookie of the year trophy to be coming to Atlanta. Three of the five linebackers drafted in the first round in 2009 made the Pro Bowl. That’s a great return on investment.

Willis, Matthews and Orakpo have all been best case scenarios for their teams. Cushing’s year was great but he wasn’t exactly playing by the rules and Urlacher has tailed off in later seasons but his rookie campaign was one of the best.

What do you think the net result will be for Weatherspoon at seasons end? Will he start from week one – as I’ve suggested – or will he be a contributor on a much improved defense? What do you hope to see from the Falcons’ first rounder?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or continue the conversation on Twitter.

More on Blogging Dirty

Mike Smith talks about Spoon.

My plea to have Weatherspoon start in week 1

Not everyone is convinced

Related Links

Courtesy of the AJC:
Weather hopes to rule the jungle

Weatherspoon’s Minicamp Recap

The selection of Weatherspoon on draft day