Draft Review – Atlanta Falcons

by Tommy Lawlor –  http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

Atlanta Falcons

1 – WR Julio Jones – 6’3, 220 – Alabama
3 – LB Akeem Dent – 6’1, 242 – Georgia
5 – RB Jacquizz Rodgers – 5’6, 196 – Oregon State
6 – PK Matt Bosher – 6’1, 208 – Miami
7 – OG Andrew Jackson – 6’5, 299 – Fresno State
7 – DE Cliff Matthews – 6’4, 257 – South Carolina

Atlanta had a late 1st round pick, but made the shocking move of the whole draft by trading up into the Top 10. They got pick #6 from Cleveland and took WR Julio Jones. Let’s start by talking about the deal. The Falcons paid a steep price. They gave up:

2011 – 1st
2011 – 2nd
2011 – 4th
2012 – 1st
2012 – 4th

First thing that comes to mind is…wow. I know jaws dropped in a few war rooms around the leagues. More than a couple of teams thought the Falcons were flat out stupid for giving up that much for a WR. I have very mixed feelings. Atlanta has a lot of key pieces in place. They have a franchise QB, stud RB, and one great WR. They feel adding an elite WR prospect gives them enough firepower to seriously challenge the Packers and Eagles. I like the fact that GM Thomas Dimitroff was aggressive. He identified a player he wanted and went and got him. At the same time, that’s one hell of a price. I’m sure that economics professor would tell you the odds were better if you kept the picks and spent them all on receiver prospects.

Now to Jones. I do think he’s a special player. He certainly was great for Alabama, especially in 2010.  Jones has excellent size. He’s physical and takes advantage of his build. He made some amazing catches. He knows how to run routes. Jones wasn’t just catching WR screens left and right. He has very good hands. He’s got good RAC ability. Jones had a great workout at the Combine, but that athletic ability didn’t always show up on gameday. He was good, but never looked like a special athlete. That’s okay because of his size and style of play. Jones doesn’t need to just outrun every CB he faces. He’s able to go over DBs and catch the ball up high. He’s able to out-muscle DBs and catch the ball when tightly covered.

Jones can be a difference maker for the Falcons. Teams can’t just roll coverages to Roddy White’s side. Jones is gifted enough to beat single coverage. If teams have to keep both Safeties back, that opens up running lanes for Michael Turner. TE Tony Gonzalez will also have more room to work in the middle on his pass routes. The Falcons feel that by adding this one player the whole offense is better. Big risk, but it just might work.   The next pick was LB Akeem Dent in the 3rd round. Dent had been pretty ordinary for most of his career at Georgia, but really came alive as a Senior. He had 126 total tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 2 FFs, and a couple of Passes Defensed. He was a MLB for UGA. That’s his best fit in the NFL, but the Falcons already have Curtis Lofton in place. Dent gives them depth across the board. I didn’t think he consistently looked all that athletic on game tape, but Dent did have a good workout. He’s at his best when defending inside runs. Should be a good STer.

Atlanta had to wait for the 5th round to pick again. They made another real interesting selection. They took Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers. He seems like a real boom or bust player. Rodgers is small. He isn’t a great athlete. Rodgers is a good football player. His doubters see him as a Ken Simonton clone who will fail in the NFL. His supporters point to the game tape and his numbers. Rodgers ran for 3,877 yards and 46 TDs in 3 years. He was durable. He was tough and productive. He was clutch. He also caught 151 passes at OSU. Rodgers has good lateral explosion. He is quick. He runs hard and will go through arm tackles. Can he pass block? Can he contribute at all on STs? These are legitimate concerns. Rodgers will have a chance to learn from Turner, another small RB who made it in the NFL. I think Rodgers was great value in the 5th and fits the Falcons offense. Can’t wait to see him in the NFL.

In the 6th round the Falcons took Miami K/P Matt Bosher. Most people thought Bosher’s best chance to make it in the NFL was as a PK. The Falcons are looking at him primarily as a P. He finished 19th in the country in punting as a Senior. Bosher has a strong leg and spending most of the season in a dome will help him out. Punters love to kick inside. The Falcons expect Bosher to be their P this year.

Atlanta had a pair of 7th round picks. I loved the first one, OG Andrew Jackson from Fresno State. He is a Falcons kind of OL if there ever was one. Jackson is a smart, experienced, tough blocker that will thrive in a run-first attack. He’s a solid athlete as well. Frankly, I was surprised he fell this low. Very good college player. Very good student. He’s not going to come in and over-power defenders, but Jackson will block his tail off and knows how to handle guys that are bigger or more talented. He uses leverage and good technique. Excellent value in the 7th and a great fit.

The final pick netted DE Cliff Matthews from South Carolina. Atlanta would like to have bigger DEs. Matthews has a very good frame. He’s skinny at 257 pounds. He can easily hold 270-75 on that 6’4 frame of his. Matthews isn’t a special pass rusher. He did rack up 12.5 sacks over the last 2 years, which is a solid total. He’s a pretty physical guy, which is what you want in someone with size. Matthews can bull rush blockers. He can shed blocks. He’ll mix in speed rushes and spin moves, but isn’t a gifted athlete that is going to consistently beat NFL OTs. If he can bulk up, I think Matthews can make it in the NFL.

This draft really is Julio Jones and the 5 other guys. I like the players, but Jones makes or breaks this group. At least he’s the kind of player I’d want to take a chance on.

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