Posted: 8:42 am Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Falcons draft: O-line or D-line (or LB) first? 

By Mark Bradley

The Falcons will play this one close to the vest. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Falcons will play this one close to the vest. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Atlanta Falcons’ coaches are in Mobile prepping amateurs for the Senior Bowl, a weeklong exercise that can’t hurt if you’re a franchise facing a rather important draft. The Falcons, as we know, need a lot of help, and mostly they need help at the basic football stuff. Blocking, for one. Tackling, for another.

Almost any lineman chosen in Round 1 — the Falcons hold the sixth overall pick — would be seen as an immediate starter here. I’ve long been intrigued by Jadeveon Clowney, the defensive end from South Carolina, but he’ll probably be gone by the time the Falcons select. (Unless they trade up to take him, which would surprise me.)

There are two very good left tackles in this draft — Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Greg Robinson of Auburn — and one will surely be available at No. 6. (Most of the teams drafting ahead of the Falcons are in need of a quarterback, which is one position that’s covered here.) That would probably be the way to go, given that Pro Football Focus ranked the Falcons’ O-line as the NFL’s second-worst in 2013.

Still, the offense wasn’t the Falcons’ worst unit last season. It was, believe it or not, the best. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ratings, the Falcons were 14th in offense, 18th on special teams and 29th on defenseWhich leads us to ask: Would they be better served drafting a defender in Round 1?

The consensus choice as second-best defender in this draft is UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, and Mel Kiper of ESPN has the Falcons taking Barr in his first mock draft. But a linebacker isn’t quite a lineman — close, though — and pretty much everyone around here agrees that both lines are in dire need of upgrade.

Granted, the draft is only one talent-acquisition mechanism. There’s free agency and there are trades, but NFL trades are tough to work and free agency can get expensive. The easiest and cheapest way to restock a team is by choosing the right college players. But you knew that already.

So I’m asking: If you’re the Falcons, which is the Round 1 way to go — O-line, D-line or LB? I’ll hang up and listen to your answers. Thomas Dimitroff might want to do the same.

75 comments
Swatsdude
Swatsdude

The Falcons should take the best player available in the draft. I am hoping the Falcons pick up a couple of free agents one on each side of the ball O and D line allowing them to take the best player available in the draft. I think the Falcons need 2 players for O line and 2 for the D line. This draft is full of talent no need to trade up but trade down and get more draft picks if you can get the guy you want.

OH
OH

Everything being equal, the 1st round pick should be Robinson. But the question is, and only the Falcons can see this, is Barr so-o-o superior and once in 5 years player that he will have a VERY large impact on the defense. If the answer is yes, then they should take him. The Falcons don't have to draft the "best" OT or OG of the draft. Take what's available in round 2 and 3. Then draft a big, fast, good tackler to replace DeCoud.

BOR
BOR

Let's review a class called Football 101. You have an OK but very expensive QB, 2 fine WRs, and a so-called star RB (unfortunately, TE is gone). Why can't you score? Cuz your OL is worse than Nick Saban's. Geez, Dimitroff, do I need to teach you anything else?

USAF92
USAF92

Draft Mathews or Robinson if either are still available when the Falcons number comes up at 6.  If neither is available, trade the pick and ask for a king's ransom in late first and second round picks for whoever wants to move into the 6 spot.   

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Draft defense, as an admission to their OL misses go FA for Ryan's protection.Oh, and do something very different like draft players that have never been seriously injured in college.

Beau1500
Beau1500

Do you think any of the draftees could play second base?

TheBigWally
TheBigWally

Dimitroff will probably trade all our draft picks so he can move up 2 spots and draft a wide receiver.

Beau1500
Beau1500

If we don't go O-Line we may be back looking for a quarterback next year.


TheBigWally
TheBigWally

Can't wait to see who is going to be this years' Konz, Holmes, Reynolds, Sidbury, or any one of a thousand busts at DE that Dimitroff will draft.  Dimitroff didn't do anything but get Bill Belichick his coffee and donuts when he was with NE.

OH
OH

Barr is like one of a kind in this draft. He's 6-4, big, and very fast. There's no one else like him in the draft. So take Barr in the 1st round, draft the best available OG right guard the 2nd round, the best OT the 3rd round, the best DeCoud replacement the 4th round. Use FA for the D-line. Then go for depth - CB, LB, DT, S, WR

Falcons63
Falcons63

It will always depend upon how the staff and scouts rate the players... not the talking heads and amateur draft followers.  With the Falcons already paying LT money to Baker, I will be a little surprised if the Falcons use the 6th pick on an olineman.  This is a strong oline draft.  If the Falcons have think they can get a good OT or DL prospect later on they will look to trade.  Get a good player later on and save millions in cap money and get an extra pick or two.   However, if the run on QB's happens like some are predicting, it may be hard to find a draft partner.  They may look to the oline in FA. Personally I like looking to trade down. If that doesn't happen, I think Robinson is a good pick.  He can start at RT and slide to the left side If you decide to release Baker at some point in the coming years.  As crazy as it sounds to most, I get the impression that the Falcons don't view Holmes, Konz, Reynolds and Johnson to be lost causes as the fans do.  A lot will depend upon what Tice thinks after reviewing what went wrong last year.

MikeBanning
MikeBanning

The Falcons should draft Robinson (OT) from Aubie, and then in the 2nd round draft the best OL that falls from the 1st round, every year at the top on the 2nd round there are always 1st round guys that fall to the 2nd for one reason or another.

About 50 guys get 1st round grades and there are only 32 slots, so the top of the 2nd round can provide a great player as long as someone other than TD is doing the selecting.

TD should be fired for his drafting record as the Falcon's GM.

TD has used 4 draft picks on OLs that went in the first 3 rounds; Holmes, M. Johnson, Konz, and Sam Baker, and last year all four failed miserably.

Had TD gotten it right on just 2 of those 4 guys above, then our OL would not need to be rebuilt and we probably would have been a Wildcard team last season.

FOUR OLs taken in the first 3 rounds of different drafts and all  four are busts, that right there should have led to TD's firing.

Farcas
Farcas

It would be pretty hard to pass on the kid from UCLA, Barr. Speed rusher, can cover running backs and te's. With so many needs we should havethe cap money to go after quality OL.

robo2000
robo2000

draft a coach, linebacker, OL,DB

gfw
gfw

DawgDadII had it right: trade down from the 1st round and pick up a second 2nd-round pick.  We have so many needs we need picks more than anything else.

Techmate
Techmate

I say get a franchise LT with our #6 pick and protect our franchise QB. Ryan was beat up this past season. You can't have another season like that. We were lucky Matty Ice didn't get hurt. Also, get Thomas and Scott Picoli looking high and low for additional OL and DL talent through FA and the draft. As much as Barr is liked, we need linemen.

OR does it make sense with all the "skill position" players coming out of college, to trade down, pick up another 2nd rounder, and still get a strong LT with a pick at say, #14 - 18?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

A lot depends on what the Falcons project for Baker and Johnson. If they truly expect full recoveries I expect them to turn their focus elsewhere. Keep in mind the Falcons should get a pretty good player in the second round, too. With the #6 overall pick you need to get an Orlando Pace type LT, a dominant game-changer on defense, or a game-breaking offensive talent (QB, WR, RB). I could see the Falcons drafting a running back or wide receiver, they've never replaced Turner's peak productivity and the health of Jones and age of White has to be a concern. I could also see them trading down and picking up another second round pick; this is a deep draft and that could be a good move.

GGee
GGee

Ofcourse thr stats are gonna show we were nesr the.bottom on D. We lost 2 starters in the first couple games. The obvious need is on the Oline. I say we pick an Olineman with the 1st rd. pick and get another 1 or 2 in FA. Draft a DE in rd. 2 and grab another in FA. Then look for LB depth and a replacement for Decoud in the later rounds. Id try and steal Attaochu from GT in the mid rounds. Develop him into a LB/DE hybrid and let Nolan do his thing. All our rookies get older andbetter next year. But we HAVE to get Olineman in hereand fast

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

Draft the best defender available in the 1st round whether that's Barr, Clowney, Mack, etc. 


You can still get a top notch O lineman at the position we'll be picking in the 2nd round. And also throughout  Free Agency. 


 OR we could draft a top notch tackle like Robinson or Matthews (I prefer Matthews because he is just a great pass protector...if you watch his film, defensive ends that go against him rarely get off his blocks...he just stands there and the defenders never get off him)....Robinson is more of a road grader at LT...he is a mauler in the run game. I wish you could combine both Robinson and Matthews. Plus Matthews' dad is a HOF O-lineman and it's in his genes to be great. And after we do that we could trade BACK into the 1st round to nab a guy like Louis Nix III to be our true NG in the 3-4. Or a guy like Kyle Van Noy at OLB or Ryan Shazier. 


So much we can do in this draft. But Dimitroff better work his magic to get Atlanta back to the playoffs. With Seattle and San Fran looking as strong as they do, and Carolina looking to get stronger on D, it'll be tough to get through those guys in the NFC. Better restock the lines!

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

If the Falcons draft an O-lineman,which they will at some point in the draft,in the first round,I think they will also decide to draft a running back in the middle rounds. Especially if they select Greg Robinson who is dominant as a run blocker.

If we do go defense,give me Barr over Clowney,who will be gone anyway. Barr's work ethic is much better than Clowney's.

For me,the Falcons first round selection comes down to Matthews,Robinson,or Barr. One of those three.

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

Draft Greg Robinson (Auburn),who I have slightly ahead of Jake Matthews (Texas A&M).

I love Matthews' NFL bloodlines,consistency, and versatility. But I think Robinson has the higher upside. I would be very happy with Jake Matthews though.

I would not be disappointed at all with Anthony Barr (UCLA). A.B. is a pass rusher and run stopper. He could be a Clay Matthews' (there is that last name again) type. He actually reminds me of Jason Taylor,a former NFL defensive POY.

RBI
RBI

Since the Falcons have such huge needs along both lines, I say take the best player available at either O-line or D-line.  But, make sure you get impact players, not more NFL backup types like the roster is already filled with.

Camaro-Bob
Camaro-Bob

I thing they shuold trade up 2 the fist pix and draft Jhonny Fottball

Tybalt
Tybalt

You've given away the moon for a quarterback and an oft injured wide receiver.  If your quarterback is worth so much, shouldn't you try to find some way to protect him?  In 1966, Randy Johnson was one of the best quarterback prospects of all time; but, after being battered for two years due to an inept offensive line, he became a shell of what he could have been.  Do you want the same thing to happen to Ryan?  Hey, Dimitroff!  Quit mooning over the fantasy players and acquire players who actually do the work!  Offensive and Defensive linemen!

slydawg
slydawg

Defense, Defense, Defense, RB, Oline, Defense, Defense, Defense

slydawg
slydawg

If Louis Nix grades out, then drop down and select him. If not, then select the top rated LB. Sign FA offensive linemen. It's harder to find good value in the free agent market with defense. If you go DT in the first, go LB in the second. Hopefully by dropping, there is a second 2nd round pick; Pick a RB. 3rd round: LB or safety.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

Draft a new general manager...TD has failed.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I don't like Seattle or Pete Carroll. I don' think all of their players are like Sherman but the team attitude doesn't seem to be very professional. I think they will go after Manning and try to hurt him and knock him out of the game with cheap shots. That's the type of team I believe Carroll has put together at Seattle. That's the type coach I think Carroll is. Win at all costs and by any means!


This is one man's opinion....mine!! I don't have much to present as facts but it's what I believe based on what I've seen of Carroll's years at USC and Seattle.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

Both lines are in need of talent but if you can't protect the QB and you lose him to injury, it really doesn't matter how good your defense is if they're on the field too much because the offense cannot make first downs. It also will not matter if the defense is outstanding but your offense hasn't scored. Furthermore, if your OL can't  run block so the offense is not one dimensional, then the defense will eventually be sacking the QB if they don't have to defend against the run. Draft some monsters for the OL.

96JB
96JB

Interesting how coach's think. Mark Richt and Mike Smith both believe in loading the roster up with top notch skill players and average to bad lineman. Some would think all world talent on both lines would make average skill players look good. The real good coach's do both.

keendaddy
keendaddy

Address Oline in FA&later rounds. Draft Defense first. Remove Baker from Oline all together! Play him @ DT to plug middle. Maybe he can turn some of those offensive holding penalties into a freaking tackle or two, lol. He's worthless as an OT ! We need a pass rush. GeezeLouise, we need sooooo much! How did we get so bad, so fast?

Dman
Dman

Our top priority has to be the Offensive line but not in the draft. We need to get two quality veteran Offensive lineman in free agentcy. There are a lot of them out there. We don't have to get the top two, just two decent lineman will be an upgrade. Cognito will be a bargain and will give us some much needed meanness that left with Harvey Dahl. In the draft we can concentrate on Defense. Take the best Defensive guy available at 6 and address the line at 35 in the second round. Pick a QB in the 3rd if a decent one is left.

BulldawgRick
BulldawgRick

Bottom line in all this that the Falcons had this season that they avoided in '12....

Injuries  

MikeJay
MikeJay

Need Vet's on the Oline.  Especially at center.  Get tha tin FA, wasted too many picks on trying to develop olineman.  I like the Barr pick.  Will provide immediate help on the pass rush and enable them to shed Nicholas high cap hit this year.  Barr, Spoon, Bartu and Woorliow would make a nice corps of young LB's!  Got to get a big nose guard if they are serious about running a 3-4.  Grab him in the second then depth at oline later.  A saftey, WR and RB need to be added as well. 

USAF92
USAF92

@TheBigWally Sammy Watkins will likely be available at 6 but if the Falcons use that pick for a WR they may find half of their fan base standing on their doorstep holding torches and the other half holding pitchforks.  

@TheBigWally Man you are too much but you are right on....I am down with you on that.

@Falcons63 look if I have to watch another down of Knoz or Reynolds coming out of their stance then getting push back 3 yards before Ryan can hand off the ball.


I am going to drive off a bridge.

UGA76
UGA76

Excellent point.  And may I add that we used a 4th round pick last year on a TE so keep drafting linemen until the draft is over and then sign some more as free agents from college.

UGA76
UGA76

If Dimitroff tries to use an early pick on a RB or WR then he should be fired before the card gets to the commissioner. 

JoeDirte
JoeDirte

@DoubleEE I wouldnt mind if the Falcons traded back and got Trent Murphy

JoeDirte
JoeDirte

@DoubleEE exactamundo Robinson every day of the week cause that guy is a mauler

Falcons73
Falcons73

@TideDawg You are absolutely correct. Carroll is a proven cheater and left USC at a very convenient time (right before the hammer was dropped on them). He has taken his "win at all cost" approach to the Seahawks, as several players have been caught with PEDs.  

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

@JoeDirte....Murphy is a god one too. But is he "elite",a game changer,on defense like Barr? I have not seen him play that much. I don't know.

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

@JoeDirte......Yes! G.R. is very dominant. He was the second best player on the field in the BCS title game behind FSU QB J. Winston. He is also great on pulls (run plays) and screens.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

@Falcons73@traderjoe9 That's true Falcons 73 "dude" but if you're trying to win it all, and this is the stated goal of all pro teams, then you have to have success in drafting talent beyond a few talented starters. Belichick finishes high every year and is penalized for his success in the draft yet his bench almost always comes through. One can also argue that a few of Atlanta's good years were due to a soft schedule.

JoeDirte
JoeDirte

@DoubleEE Yes and would actually move the D-Line back unlike Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz

Falcons73
Falcons73

@traderjoe9 @Falcons73 Agreed and it's clearly time for TD to start producing some talented starters on both sides of the ball. I'm just not willing to completely bag on him, as he has proven that he is capable of getting this team to an NFC championship (even with deplorable lines).