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2011 NFL Draft Preview

This is the week. The week that I wait with anticipation once the post season of the NFL ends. This is the week of the NFL Draft.

However, this year is not like my years past. This year is marred by the NFL Lockout and labor situation. Uncertainties are in abundance and that kills the fun that is the draft. Sure, players will be selected, but the surprises will be fewer and far between because no players can be traded. I won’t be sitting in front of a TV responding with “What the crap? New England just traded pick 187 for [Amazing Player A]. How do they continue to do that?” No, this year I’ll be watching and saying “Wow, [Team A] just selected [Player A]. That could be an interesting fit.” See the difference in inflection and tone? It’s just not the same.

Regardless, I’ll still be present to find out just who my Atlanta Falcons choose to take with the 27th overall pick. In my eyes, our following needs are:

  • Defensive End – Where’s the explosive player for the Defensive Line that will play opposite to the “Predator” version of John Abraham? With Corners that can cover when given smaller windows of time, it is now time to address ways to get after the QB. Looking back on the bigger losses of last year, it was our inability to get the QB to the ground that caused us to give up so much and achieve little.
  • Offensive Line – There’s age on the line at certain positions and the line has played above its capabilities long enough. Time to improve upon it and protect Matt Ryan further. Sam Baker is not becoming the franchise lineman that was expected. With better protection, Ryan can keep his eyes up and down field for that deep pass.
  • Running Back – Michael Turner is there, but he’s not really the “Burner”. He will pound away at you during the game. Same for Jason Snelling, but where’s the speed? Norwood has been plagued by injuries and will probably be gone before the season begins. The other undrafted selections on the team and practice squad are not the solution.
  • Wide Receiver – This one is only in my eyes due to the reading I’ve been doing leading up to the draft. All the talk is on Defensive End or a Wide Receiver because the Falcons need more speed on offense. Not sure on people discussing the replacement of Michael Jenkins. Jenkins is not a speed receiver. He has a niche job (blocking WR) to perform and he performs it very well. He also is a clutch player in several situations when in previous years Roddy White was unreliable. Are we then looking to give up on the recovery of Harry Douglas? Are we willing to waste a first round pick on a potential slot receiver? Not sure I like that cost when other needs are present.
  • Cornerback – I’ve also heard grumblings on this one as well. I’m going to dismiss this one early in the draft since so much money was spent last year on Robinson. Grimes has come into his own and would excel by a better defensive line that can get to the QB and cause bad decisions. Nickelback would make sense to anyone who watched the Packers/Falcons post season game. Again, maybe in the late rounds. We have a few potentials from last year’s draft that need some time to grow.
  • Tightend – Time to name the heir to Tony Gonzalez? The talk of retirement in the next year or two has made several name this position. With this not being a big year in the TE department, I’m going to leave this one with minor priority.

I’ll focus on the 27th pick as the later rounds are a crap shoot. The biggest hurdle with this pick is “Who will be available?” Our NFC South enemies will be looking for the pass rushing specialist as well so they might be possibly targeting the same players as we. Therefore, the DE we want and need might already be off the board. Names I’ve been seeing lately for the Falcons are:

  • Justin Houston, DE, University of Georgia – A UGA player. I should be thrilled, but I’m not. Sorry UGA fans. Houston is a great player but he will be switching positions somewhat here and I question the true power and speed for the type of player we need. I just don’t want another type of DE that we already have in Biermann or Davis.
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa – This is probably my top pick if he’s available. Injuries in the senior season led to his fall on draft day, but he’s still got the other skills I covet for the position.
  • Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson – Another great DE that’s falling due to injuries. Do we take due to some potential fears or do we have faith that we will bounce back from the injuries?
  • Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland – Well, I know he’s fast on returns, but I’m not looking for a return man. I want a speed WR. Smith nails that. But I just see a composite Douglas and Jenkins in Smith. Not a bad combination by any stretch, but not the force I want/need on the field at the moment.
  • Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh – I love the previous Pitt prospects (see Larry Fitzgerald), but again not a fan of the WR selection here unless its best available pick. The highlights I’ve seen make Baldwin more of a cross between White and Jenkins. We don’t need the same players we have. We need something better.
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame – Here’s the heir to Tony G….maybe. Again, see my notes above on this pick. I’m just not feeling the “draft to fill replacement” on this team just yet. We are still drafting to build to win.

As for the other Draft expectations? Well…

  1. Who will be this year’s cryer? Part of me wants to say Nick Fairley just because I don’t like him that much and he’s fallen down the boards for various reasons (including character issues). I’m going to shoot for the stars and say Cam Newton. Everyone has the Panthers already drafting, signing, and starting him but I’m not sure if I completely believe it just yet. I don’t believe Newton is the star that a team should be built around (see Vince Young and Tim Tebow). If he drops from the Panthers, he could continue to fall and shatter his superstar view of himself.
  2. Biggest surprise? I’ll go with New England actually keeping its picks and making a selection in the first round. With no players to trade, Coach Bill might just keep what he has and make a selection.
  3. Will Oakland make another reach of a pick? I’d actually be surprised if they did as they seem to be heading in the right direction. However, the world’s oldest man is still leading Raider nation so they have that going for them.
  4. Will the NFL Lockout hurt the NFL Draft? Of course not. People will still watch and then we will hear reports about how the ratings were slightly down from last year but still about the same thus stating that we all just want football so get the deal completed today.
  5. And yes, I plan to make this two years in a row enjoying a Double Down during the draft.
Posted under Sports

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