Today we are looking at potential defensive ends Atlanta may target in the draft. Man, was this easier last year when Brian Van Gorder was here. Under Mike Nolan, the Falcons are expected to line up in the 3-4 defense much more frequently than last year. If I was Thomas Dimitroff, I would look at a number of tweener types, like the DE/OLB or DT/DE, allowing the rookies to play in both schemes. However, here we will look at the DE/OLB pass rushing players Atlanta may be looking at.
Looking for a few good pass rushers
Certainly the word "versatile" has been used so much by Dimitroff/Smitty that it has almost lost any meaning to me. In the same way Atlanta loves offensive lineman that can play at multiple spots on the line (or in the case of our recently drafted OL, nowhere on the line), I would expect to see guys who could play a few different roles on our defense. Check out some players Atlanta may target, and some others the Falcons have met with, after the jump.
How much attention should be devoted to the defensive end position? It has certainly remained on the back burner in Atlanta since Dimitroff arrived, with the biggest pass rusher acquisitions being a late 4th round pick on Lawrence Sidbury and snatching up the 2nd rated defensive end free agent last year in Ray Edwards. It may be time to really invest in the position, particularly in the 2nd or 3rd round.
Care of ProFootballTalk's meeting tracker, Atlanta has looked at Clemson defensive end Andre Branch, Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugger, and South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram.
As far as standout pass rusher Melvin Ingram, I cannot see this meeting as much more than due diligence. There is likely a snowball's chance in New Orleans that Ingram gets anywhere near Atlanta's first selection, and the shortage of draft picks making a trade up nearly impossible.
Andre Branch has an outside shot at making his way to the 55th spot. Branch has prototypical tweener size at 6'4", 260lbs. The athletic pass rusher played a lot at LDE against the bigger right tackles. That may be the spot for him in the NFL as his lack of an elite first step would hurt him against the more agile, non-Sam Baker left tackles. Still, he is a very well rounded player that is a perfect tweener type that could play DE in 4-3 and OLB in some 3-4 alignments. I would think there would be more value in a guy who could spell John Abraham and be his eventual replacement as opposed to taking reps at LDE.
Vandy DE Tim Fugger could be a late round flyer for Atlanta, who has dropped thanks to neck and foot injuries. Oh, and because no one knows who is. Fugger has recently received some NFL interest after a very good Pro Day. At 6'3" and just under 250lbs, Fugger would likely have to put on some weight or play predominately the OLB spot in the 3-4. We love 40 times right? Well, Fugger put up an impressing 4.64 at his Pro Day (some had him in the 4.5's) and showed off some nice athletic ability. He is a less popular player than most, but still managed 7 sacks and 13.5 TFL last year. Fugger would be slotted for a developmental role his first year.
A potential dark horse would be Shea McClellin of Boise State. At 6'3" and almost 260lbs, McClellin has been productive in Boise at multiple positions on their defense. Highly athletic with a great first step, and a great 4.6 in the 40, McClellin is a solid pass rusher with high character and special teams ability. Scouts say he plays with a mean streak, high motor, versatile with great speed on the field. After putting up 33 TFL and 20.5 sacks in college, I am convinced he could be a dark horse for the 55th slot in the draft, fitting in to Mike Nolan's multiple defensive fronts very well. This man is a Dimitroff-type player.
Another potential 2nd round selection is Vinny Curry from Marshall. He has nice size at 6'4", 263lbs and is coming off two great years as a defensive end. An athletic speed rusher who has a full list of pass rush skills and can play at OLB int he 3-4. Curry posted double digit sacks the past two seasons, and showed an ability to cause fumbles last season, amassing a ridiculous 7 forced fumbles. More of a RDE in my opinion, with the option to rush standing up. Seems to have fewer question marks than many other players, suggesting he may be more of a "sure thing" than other project type defensive ends. For those reasons, there may be only an outside shot of him being available when the Falcons are drafting.
Where do you hope Atlanta goes early in the draft? Should we stay away from defensive ends until later rounds? Or have I missed any players that Atlanta should consider?
We should a pass rushers in the early 5th and a solid good coverage CB in the middle of the 5th..there are still a lot of great players left I would like to see us get another rb/qb
The main thing to keep in mind about this draft ( yes, I think it is a important one ) is that you have all of your
starters ready, ( If you also include Sam Baker ?) You are drafting for open slots in the 2nd string with the ideal
one day the player will be a starter. I also believe that Thomas D. is too smart to just leave this draft with just
6 players as most arm chair GM's believe. Here is what I think will take place:
2nd Round: OT - Kelechi Osemele, 3rd Round: Center- Ben Jones . Now the POWER PLAY: Thomas D. will
work out a trade for a 4th round pick by trading our 3 round in 2013. There are 6 teams from the 98th to 106th
overall pick with more than 1 pick in the 4 round. Now the players: At #110 DT Kheeston Randall-Texas,
#112 Center Michael Brewster ( If Jones is not picked ) & #123 OT Zebrie Sander.
5th Round CB Coryell Judie-Texas A&M 6th Rounds CB Chris Greenwood-Albion
7th Rounders: Sean Richardson S, Safety-Vanderbilt & WR T.J. Graham.
I hate the 2012 schedule. Someone had one too many when he made up this one. Are you kidding me,
5 division games in the last 8 games of the season. Looking forward to my Falcon friends comments.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
A few things on the draft: I love KO in the 2nd round. Ben Jones, I'm simply just not sold that he can anchor an NFL line at center. If TD picks him then I won't mind the pick because he clearly knows more about scouting/NFL talent then I do. I wouldn't mind the trade as long as we don't lose too many spots (meaning we trade up to the top of the 4th round). I haven't heard anything good about Zebrie Sanders so I'd take Randell or Brewster there. I like the Sean Richardson and TJ Graham picks. Not sure about Judie (A&M was flat out awful on D last year) or Greenwood (small school guy I simply don't know about).
@JRS in Miami I would without a doubt LOVE that draft, but I have rarely seen Osemele mocked or projected to last until the 55th, Jones to our 3rd round, Sanders past the 3rd, or Graham until the 7th.
I think we are more or less set at starters so Dimitroff can pick up straight BPA (minus QB) and give Atlanta their best bang for their buck. I would really like to see us pick up a running back in the 5th or earlier if posible.
I really like the idea of using a 2013 3rd to move back up into the 4th. I think another possibility would be trying to move back from the 2nd and pick up an extra pick of two (like a 4th and a 7th or so) and give Dimitroff a little more ammo in the draft.
I don't mind the schedule, though. No back to back road games. The past year or two the NFL has started putting division games at the end of the season to prevent teams from pulling their starters against non-division teams. I think it was the 2009 or 2010 season where some teams had locked up a playoff spot and were playing non-division teams and it hurt TV ratings because all their stars sat on the bench. The NFL has a better shot at preventing that if you are still fighting your division opponents for slotting playoffs slots.
@CFBZ Yes sir, that is currently the popular belief. I would like to call it 50/50, but that may be overly optimistic.
Falcons have 5 DE's on the roster & John A. is on a new 3 year contract. The ATL. will draft on the O-line in
the 2nd & 3rd rounds. Also this draft should draft to fill open positions in 2013. Case in point, T. McClure has 1
more year at center and Ben Jones of Georgia should be picked at #84.
@JRS in Miami As a Georgia fan, the thought of Ben Jones starting at center in 2013 scares the hell out of me. I do agree that they will draft thinking about openings next year but I also think that they are going to be looking at the best available talents on their draft board with several of the picks and how that person might fit the team.
@JRS in Miami That is very true, if Ben Jones is available in the 3rd. Seen him projected usually at the top of the 3rd. Cliff Matthews may or may not be on the active roster, and with John Abraham on a snap count, the Falcons may look to improve the rotation in case Ray Edwards and Kroy Biermann maintain their current play of minimal pressure. Will be interesting to see what happens, though. It's hard to know exactly where Atlanta will go with two new coordinators wanting some scheme-specific players.