Falcons should be active in draft

sports@macon.comApril 23, 2013 

The Atlanta Falcons are in a pretty good spot for the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday.

Wait, you say, they pick 30th. How is that a good position to help a team that has so many needs, despite the fact it’s a team expected to be a Super Bowl contender?

Well, the draft is not one that has elite players at the top of the first round. No Peyton Manning-type is going first. There’s not a Matt Ryan going at three, or an Adrian Peterson going seventh. The strength of this draft is lower, which makes the Falcons players even at the end of the first round.

Plus, some analysts believe the true strength of this draft is going to be on the second day, with the second and third rounds. Considering the Falcons’ position at 30th, that might tempt Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff to trade down and get more picks in the second round.

This team has significant needs. The Falcons need a cornerback, since both Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes are gone. They need a defensive end, one that can at the least split time with Kroy Biermann. And they need help at linebacker, where Stephen Nicholas struggled late last season.

But that’s not all. How about another offensive lineman, where the depth took a hit when Tyson Clabo was released a few weeks ago? Steven Jackson is the new running back, but he’s almost 30 years old, so a younger running back might be a good pick.

Then there is the tight end position. Tony Gonzalez is back for one more season. We’ve heard that before, but there is little doubt the team needs to think about his replacement. That’s where it gets tricky.

It’s possible that Tyler Eifert, the Notre Dame tight end, could be available at 30. Even with Atlanta’s more significant needs on defense, it should not shock us if Dimitroff picks Eifert.

How can he pass on a player who might be the best at that position at that spot in the first round? He probably won’t, and, with the second round being a bit stronger than normal, Dimitroff might be able to get good value on what he needs at defense later on.

Plus, with 11 picks, Dimitroff is going to wheel and deal. He could move up from the 60th pick and get a higher second rounder to address a defensive need.

There have been a ton of players linked to Atlanta. Obviously, Eifert and Stanford tight end Zach Ertz are two players named a lot in mock drafts. Rumors have the Falcons possibly moving up to take Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, or perhaps Florida State corner Xavier Rhodes.

Might the Falcons stay home and target Georgia’s Jarvis Jones or Alec Ogletree? They’d have to move up from 30 to get them. That rumor, however, is out there. There has even been talk this week that Dimitroff likes defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd from Florida and Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson.

I believe the Falcons should trade down and get more picks in the second round. Miami has two second round picks, at 42 and 54. What if the Falcons traded pick 30 and their own fourth-round pick (127) for those two second-rounders? Then Atlanta would have picks 42, 54 and 60 in the second round. The Falcons could address all three defensive positions in the second round, and then come back in the third round and get an offensive lineman, tight end or even a running back.

It’s that type of move that should be expected.

This is an important draft for Dimitroff. The Falcons are close, but they still need help. He believes in building his teams through the draft, so, with 11 picks, this is Dimitroff’s opportunity to keep the Falcons at the top and get the players needed to get them over the top.

The scenarios are endless, which should make the draft interesting to watch for the next couple of days. It’s hard to imagine a team picking 30th in the first round being in the catbird seat, but the Falcons might just be with the flexibility of multiple picks and a general manager who knows how to work the draft effectively.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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