A year ago the Atlanta Falcons traded a boat load of 2011 draft picks (1st, 2nd, 4th) and a pair of 2012 picks (a 1st and a 4th) for the opportunity to draft Juilo Jones. The front office is standing by its decision, and rightfully so, as Jones is a fantastic talent and will help the Falcons and Matt Ryan win for years. But the fact remains that the Falcons will not have a spot to draft in the 1st or 4th round in April. That means that every single pick must is even more important and crucial this year. Here are my thoughts on who the Falcons will select with each of their picks in 2012 with a multitude of positions to address, and not all of them can be answered through free-agency.
Round 2 – Vinny Curry, Marshal. I’ll be the first to admit that I want the Falcons to take a TE. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that there are other positions of DESPERATE need that need to be addressed first. Defensive End is certainly one of those positions. Curry had a decent showing at the combine, although his 40-yd dash time wasn’t anything special. He might be gone by the time the Falcons spot comes up, but if he is, Atlanta takes him.
Rd. 3 – Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette. TE is still certainly an issue, one which Atlanta needs to address sooner, rather than later. Signing free agents can be very expensive, and limits teams to those players who actually hit the market. Green is very raw, not much of a blocker, and there are some questions that pop up about his durability, but his competitiveness and pass catching ability are outstanding. He is a good talent, and would be a good fit with the Falcons, and more importantly a good value in the 3rd round. He will almost certainly be here in round 3, but probably not by round 5, when the Falcons have their next pick.
Rd. 5 – Jeff Allen, Illinois. I think that it is a distinct possibility that if a certain interior linemen aren’t on the board, the Falcons may use their 2nd round pick on a center or guard. But if they don’t, taking Allen in the 5th would be a good move. Allen is projected based on his size and body type to be a guard in the NFL, and that depth is something Atlanta would like. However, he did play tackle in college. Allen is not an elite talent, but he could be another project player for the line. As we all know, games are won and lost in the trenches, and you can never have enough depth along BOTH lines.
Rd. 6 – Terrance Ganaway, Baylor. Sure, the Falcons just drafted Jacquizz Rodgers last year, but it would appear that Jason Snelling may not return unless he can be re-signed at a significant discount, and depth will be a HUGE issue for this team. Lots of faith is placed on Rodgers durability, but he is still a pretty small guy and can’t take a massive workload. A solid third option in the backfield is a must. Ganaway showed at Baylor that he has a nose for the endzone, and the Falcons could use a player like that.
Rd. 7 – Cliff Harris, Oregon. The cornerback from Oregon has some character issues, dealing with a police altercation, but his play on the field stands for itself. He may have run a 4.59 at the combine, which is far from elite speed, but there is no doubt he has played good coverage in college and could play well in the NFL. He would certainly be worthy of a 7th round pick. The corner position is not particularly strong, and with Brent Grimes still a question mark regarding the franchise tag or no tag, drafting for depth would be wise.
The first two rounds are players that could legitimately be taken; the final three rounds are absolute shots in the dark, and anyone who says they can accurately project picks in those rounds is lying. However, based on need, players on the board, and positional depth, I think these are reasonable picks, although they may be replaced by different players of the same position and similar talent. The Falcons really need to make this draft count. Hopefully they will.