May 1, 2013

2013 NFL Draft Review & Season Outlook: Atlanta Falcons

#2, Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

*Click on a team's logo to go to their draft recap and season outlook page. A few will be posted each day in alphabetical order.

Atlanta Falcons
Division: NFC South | Last Season Record: 13-3

What Needed to be addressed in the Draft: Most of Atlanta's needs heading into the draft were on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons had just 29 sacks last season, which ranked 28th in the league. John Abraham counted for a third of their sacks, but has been replaced by Osi Umenyiora. One or two more pass rushers are needed.

The Falcons also lost two starting corners in Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, so they would have to attack that position early. They could also use another starting linebacker.

The offensive line will be working in a few new starters, so some competition wouldn't hurt. Spending a mid-late round pick on an offensive lineman makes sense.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

Round 1

22. Desmond Trufant, CB
Experience: Senior | School: Washington
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 192 lbs.

Analysis: They needed a corner, but they did not need to trade up. Desmond Trufant is still a solid pick, and arguably the top senior corner in the draft. However, Xavier Rhodes would have made a little more sense IMO. Also, Jamar Taylor could have been had at the 30th spot. They also passed on some good pass rushers.

Grade: B-

Round 2

60. Robert Alford, CB
Experience: Senior | School: Southeastern Louisiana
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 188 lbs.

Analysis: Once again, the Falcons passed on some good pass rushers. However, they needed another corner, and my #38 overall prospect Robert Alford was still on the board, so this is a great value pick. He projects as a slot corner early on.

Grade: B+

Round 4

127. Malliciah Goodman, DE
Experience: Senior | School: Clemson
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 273 lbs.

Analysis: This was the projected range for Goodman, but I just wish the Falcons would have addressed the defensive end position early. Still, Goodman flashed at times while at Clemson, and could become a starter at defensive end.

Grade: B+

133. Levine Toilolo*, TE
Experience: Junior | School: Stanford
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 259 lbs.

Analysis: Levine Toilolo was a reach here. He can be a big redzone target while learning from Tony Gonzalez, but I'm just not a huge fan of this pick.

Grade: C-

Round 5

153. Stansly Maponga*, DE
Experience: Junior | School: Texas Christian
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 251 lbs.

Analysis: Guys like Cornellius Washington and Michael Buchanan were still on the board when Atlanta reached for Stansly Maponga. He's an undersized defensive end with upside, but I didn't like this pick too much.

Grade: C-

Round 7

243. Kemal Ishmal, SS
Experience: Senior | School: Central Florida
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 201 lbs.

Analysis: Who? I'm kidding. To be honest, Ishmal wasn't on my radar, but he sure was on Atlanta's. They could use some depth at safety so it's not a horrible pick.

Grade: C

244. Zeke Motta, FS
Experience: Senior | School: Notre Dame
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 213 lbs.

Analysis: Another safety? This late in the draft it doesn't matter much. I had a 5th round grade on Motta, so it's good value. He should be a good special teams contributor.

Grade: B

249. Sean Renfree, QB
Experience: Senior | School: Duke
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 219 lbs.

Analysis: Good pick by the Falcons. They currently don't have a reliable backup quarterback, and Sean Renfree is a great late-round pick.

Grade: A-

2013 NFL Draft Overall Review:

Analysis: The Falcons had a solid draft. It wasn't great, but it definitely wasn't bad either. They filled some needs and had some nice value picks as well.

Desmond Trufant will replace Brent Grimes on the outside while Robert Alford will replace Dunta Robinson in the slot. Malliciah Goodman could become a really good pass rusher at the next level, but the Falcons may regret passing on Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner.

Unfortunately, the Falcons did not address the offensive line, not even for depth purposes. That's disappointing, considering they have Matt Ryan back there at quarterback. Either the Falcons didn't see the value with some of the offensive linemen on the board when they were picking, or they're fine with their projected starters.

Overall Grade: B-

Undrafted Free Agent Signings:

Most Notable

Ryan Schraeder, OT
Experience: Senior | School: Valdosta State
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 300 lbs.

Analysis: Ryan Schraeder is an intriguing prospect who I believe can make the roster. He was a borderline draftable prospect, but he projects as a solid backup tackle. Keep an eye on him.

Other Free Agent Signings

Casey Barth, K, North Carolina
Joplo Bartu, LB, Texas State
Nick Clancy, LB, Boston College
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
Rashad Evans, WR, Fresno State
Dan Googins, DL, Syracuse
Corey Howard, C, Central Arkansas
Donald Russell, RB, Georgia State
Alex Savoie, OT, McNeese State
Adam Replogle, DT, Indiana
Matt Smith, C, Kentucky
Sean Sellwood, P, Utah
Momo Thomas, CB, Colorado State
Brandon Thurmond, OLB, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Ronnie Wingo, RB, Arkansas
Paul Worrilow, ILB, Delaware

2013 Season Outlook:

Analysis: After a solid draft, the Falcons should not miss a beat this season. Matt Ryan certainly has the weapons to throw to. Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez are all back, and will make the Falcons a dangerous passing team once again.

However, does Matt Ryan have the proper protection? That remains to be seen. Sam Baker had his best season last year protecting Ryan's blindside, but the rest of the offensive line is questionable. Left Guard Justin Blalock is inconsistent, Peter Konz struggled in year one (but should be better at center), and the right side of the line is in even worse shape. Lamar Holmes seems to be penciled in as the starting right tackle, but is he ready?

The Falcons upgraded over Michael Turner by adding Steven Jackson, who is a more complete back, not to mention he has much more left in the tank. Jacquizz Rodgers will return in his usual role. I would have liked to see Atlanta add another back in the middle rounds, but they're not in bad shape.

The top pass rusher on the team is Osi Umenyiora, who had just six sacks in his final season as a Giant. Don't expect much improvement. Unless Malliciah Goodman can be counted on early, I'm not sure the Falcons will have a dangerous pass rush, just like last year.

Atlanta has one of the top 4-3 outside linebackers in football, and Akeem Dent is a solid player. However, they probably should have tried to add an outside linebacker via the draft, but Stephen Nicholas wasn't too bad.

The secondary was probably the strongest unit last year. Replacing two corners like Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson is a hard thing to do, but GM Thomas Dimitroff made it look so easy. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford should be immediate starter. Plus, Atlanta still have two young, talented safeties in William Moore and Thomas DeCoud.

2013 Season Projection:

Analysis: Atlanta is currently picking 27th overall in my 2014 NFL Mock Draft. They chose 30th this year's draft. The NFC South will be as competitive as ever, but I still believe the Falcons are the top dogs in the division. The Falcons may not have gotten much better, but they definitely did not get worse.

Projected Record: 11-5 (Worst Case) | 13-3 (Best Case)

Projected Finish: 1st in the NFC South; Result: Lose in the Divisional Round