Atlanta Falcons Draft Review

by Tommy Lawlor  –


1 – LB Sean Weatherspoon – Missouri
3 – DT Corey Peters – Kentucky
3 – OG Mike Johnson – Alabama
4 – OC Mike Hawley – UNLV
5 – CB Dominique Franks – Oklahoma
5 – WR Kerry Meier – Kansas
6 – S Shann Schillinger – Montana

Atlanta had any number of ways to go with their 1st round pick.  CB?  Center?  DE?  The Falcons decided to go with Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon.  The defense finished 21st in yards allowed and definitely needed help.  Weatherspoon will play OLB in Atlanta.  It isn’t set right now whether that is WIL or SAM.  The Falcons may try Sean at both spots and see where he looks more natural.  Weatherspoon (6’1, 239) would seem to be a more natural fit on the weakside, but you never know in today’s NFL where the passing game is taking over.

Weatherspoon is a good coverage LB.  He picked off 4 passes in his career.  He broke up 17.  He had a very impressive pick at the Senior Bowl.  He moves well and also shows a good feel for coverage.  Sean knows how to get in the passing lanes and to anticipate throws.  He could play in the Nickel defense as a rookie if he’s able to show he can handle the role in Training Camp.  Weatherspoon is a natural leader.  He’s a very vocal player.  That might ruffle some feathers, but some players and coaches prefer players like that.  I expect Sean to be a good Special Teams player as a rookie, at the very least.  Down the road he should become a good starter.    

The 2nd round pick was used in a trade for TE Tony Gonzalez.  The next selection came in the 3rd round when the Falcons took DT Corey Peters from Kentucky.  Atlanta needed help at DT.  Frankly, I wondered if they would consider spending as high as a 1st rounder there.  The problem is that they used a 1st on DT Peria Jerry in 2009.  He got hurt and missed the year.  Jerry should be a good pro, but all young players make you nervous until they’ve proven they can play and now he’s got to come off an injury as well.  Peters was a good addition in the 3rd round.  He’s talented enough to be a starter, but the investment isn’t so much that you feel bad if he’s relegated to the #3 DT role for a few years.  Jonathan Babineaux is the other starting DT and isn’t going anywhere.

Peters has a good frame at 6’3, 300.  He’s quick and disruptive.  He can fly off the ball when he times his get-off just right.  He did that in a game vs Georgia and knocked the ball away from the QB.  Peters had 27 TFLs in his career.  He is a good up-the-field guy, but also is a solid run defender.  He had a good workout at the Combine.  Some critics think Corey didn’t always play up to his potential.  Being around high-motor guys like Babineaux and Perry should be a good influence on him.

Atlanta had another 3rd round pick and decided to take an SEC offensive lineman, Guard Mike Johnson from Alabama.  He is a big blocker (6’5, 312) with lots of experience.  Johnson is at his best firing off the ball and mashing on defenders on run plays.  That makes him a perfect fit for the Falcons run-heavy offense.  Johnson spent time at RT, RG, and LG in his career.  He even got a couple of starts at LT when Andre Smith was suspended.  He belongs on the inside, but could fill in at OT if needed.  Johnson is more of an effort guy than a talented player, but that’s okay on the O-line.  He’s the kind of tough, smart blocker the Falcons seem to like.

In the 4th round Atlanta stuck with the interior line.  They nabbed UNLV Center Joe Hawley.  I knew some teams were somewhat high on him, but this was definitely an early pick for me.  I had Hawley rated lower.  He never stood out to me as anything special.  Hawley (6’3, 297) is experienced and versatile, but I just never saw anything on game tape that made me think of him as worthy of a mid-4th rounder.  Hawley is a good run blocker.  The Falcons may have loved his personality and smarts.  Those can be important factors when drafting a Center.  I only know what I saw on tape. Coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff have established a track record in the last couple of years of going for a specific type of player that they like.  So far the results are pretty good.  We’ll see if Hawley pans out.

In the 5th round the Falcons took Oklahoma CB Dominique Franks.  Weird player.  Here’s what I wrote prior to the draft:  “Looks like a 2nd/3rd round player on tape, but those agility drill times have to affect his value.”  His 3-cone time of 7.32 is awful for a CB.  That might be an anomaly, but his Short Shuttle time was equally bad, 4.32.  Does he have the quickness, burst, and COD ability to make it in the NFL?  The Falcons bet a 5th round pick that he can.  Franks did show some playmaking potential and has RS ability.  He needs to work on his run defense to help his cause.
Atlanta had another 5th round pick and went for WR Kerry Meier, the converted QB from Kansas.  Meier was a QB back in 2006.  He got moved to WR the next season and spent the year learning his new position (26 catches).  Over the last 2 seasons Meier put up huge numbers.  He totaled 199 receptions and 16 TDs.  You could say he got the hang of playing receiver.  Meier has good size at 6’2, 224.  He’s a solid athlete and has very good hands.  I don’t know if he has the suddenness to ever start in the NFL, but could be an excellent #3/#4 WR and STer.  The Falcons really missed Harry Douglas in the slot last year after he got hurt.  Meier is an insurance policy and gives them a big wideout to be creative with.

The final pick was Safety Shann Schillinger from Montana.  He has good size at 6’0, 199.  He was a good playmaker for the Grizzlies.  He totaled 90 tackles and 4 picks in 2009.  He had 10 career INTs.  The Falcons pass defense was a major weakness last year.  They need all the help they can get.  Schillinger offers depth and STs help, if he’s able to make the team.  I just hope Beecher doesn’t do anything to get him in trouble with the warden and ruin his shot at the NFL.

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