Posted: 11:35 am Monday, February 24th, 2014

Falcons’ forecast: sign guard, draft pass rusher 

By Jeff Schultz

Jadeveon Clowney wowed NFL scouts at the combine by running 4.47 in the 40-yard dash.

Jadeveon Clowney would answer Falcons’ need for a pass rusher but may not be there at No. 6.

There is growing speculation about what direction the Falcons will go in the first round of the NFL draft, in part because the scouting combine is going on in Indianapolis and several media members are spasming on Twitter over Jadeveon Clowney’s 40 time. (OMG! He’s fast! Who knew?)

The problem with speculating now is the Falcons, like most teams, can’t be certain of anything in the draft until they get through free agency – which, as a reminder, happens first.

Teams can be begin negotiating with impending unrestricted free agents on March 8. The market officially opens March 11. Obviously if the Falcons were to break the bank on a pass rusher like Carolina’s Greg Hardy – and I’m not suggesting that’s going to happen – the Clowney talk quiets significantly.

The Falcons’ have two obvious needs: offensive line (almost anywhere) and edge pass rusher. Here’s the way I suspect things might play out:

OFFENSIVE LINE

ANALYSIS: There’s rampant speculation about the team signing a left tackle to replace Sam Baker. Sorry, I don’t see that happening. The Falcons gave Baker a contract extension with $10 million guaranteed last year. So regardless of what you may think of him, he’s not going anywhere. Same with left guard Justin Blalock, who’s just fine Also, the team is not going to pull the chute on center/guard Peter Konz, despite his shaky moments. Pencil him in at center or right guard (less likely). Right tackle is wide open.

FORECAST: Expect the team to sign a physical, veteran guard in free agency with the hope that he can help Konz and bring a new attitude to the line. Possibilities include either Jon Asamoah or Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City (where new assistant general manager Scott Pioli once worked), Zane Beadles from Denver, Travelle Wharton of Carolina and Richie Incognito of Miami.

Just kidding on Incognito. Wanted to see if you were paying attention.

This draft is deep at offensive tackle, so the Falcons can add a young tackle for the future at that time, not necessarily in the first round. Which leads to …

DEFENSIVE LINE

ANALYSIS: Resigning defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux should be a high priority. Peria Jerry and Corey Peters also are unsigned. If the Falcons lose/opt to not re-sign one or both, they’ll need a replacement. The primary need obviously is for a pass-rush threat, preferably an end to line up opposite Osi Umenyiora. They could try to go big in free agency with Hardy, Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson or Seattle’s Michael Bennett. But I don’t see that happening because it would prevent them financially from filling other needs: safety, potentially defensive tackle, running back, tight end.

FORECAST: It makes sense to draft a pass rusher, whether that’s Clowney from South Carolina or outside linebacker Khalil Mack from Buffalo. (If the Falcons are targeting someone else, like UCLA’s Anthony Barr, they probably could trade down and still get him.)

It’s impossible for the Falcons to know at this point what the market will be for a potential trade up to get Clowney (assuming he’s not going to fall to sixth). That depends largely on how early the quarterbacks go. But they should be able to get a pass rusher regardless at No. 6, and still come back with their next few picks to fill other needs (starting with offensive line).

So to recap, this is how I see things going for the Falcons: 1) Relatively low-cost signings at guard, safety and possibly one other spot; 2) draft a pass rusher first, follow that up with an offensive tackle.

The cyber-floor is now yours.

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111 comments
TheMonger
TheMonger

My apologies, I just looked it up and Connor Shaw did have 24 TD's and only 1 INT this past year.  I am shocked to say the least.  How is this guy not at the top of the QB class, especially his ability to run and make plays all over the field?  Seems like a more athletic version of Russell Wilson.  And don't say he is small... He is listed at 6'1, which is small for a quarterback but not that small.  Brees and Wilson come to mind right off the bat at around that height.  Seriously, does anyone know why Shaw is not the top quarterback in the draft?

TomGaff
TomGaff

I would like to see us(Atl Falcons) go after Connor Shaw(QB, South Carolina by way of Flowery Branch HS) in the 5th or 6th round. I think he could beat out our backup QB Davis? Might be good insurance if Matt goes down? Think Shaw had 25 TD's and 1 INT this past season?

TomGaff
TomGaff

@JSSN -  Who really cares about the Wells report. This is a grown man's locker room, if it offends you about words, either fight or go take up golf or tennis! The only ones who care about this report is the civil liberatards, ACLU and wussies. Be a man Martin, take up for yourself and fight the bullies. You get more respect that way, win or lose the fight doesn't matter! Next thing we know Pro Football will be turned into Touch or Tag? 

TomGaff
TomGaff

I would like to see us(Atl Falcons) go after Connor Shaw(QB, South Carolina by way of Flowery Branch HS) in the 5th or 6th round. I think he could beat out our backup QB Davis? Might be good insurance if Matt goes down? Think Shaw had 25 TD's and 1 INT this past season?

Contractor1
Contractor1

Am I being dumb about looking into drafting Cyrus Kouandjio in a later round if he's available?  I understand the knee and the sloppy combine, but his upside is tremendous.  I don't think he simply got lucky during his time playing in the SEC.  He should have stayed at Alabama one more year, but that point is moot now.  He will be a good tackle in the NFL and I think he's worthy of the risk in the third or fourth round if he's available.  The intangibles are there, he just needs to mature a little more.

Contractor1
Contractor1

I think we go for Clowney, and then sign an offensive lineman out of free agency.  I hate it, but wait till next year to draft a running back (better class), unless you get a steal in like the fourth or fifth round, whenever we have a late pick.

DewayneDixon
DewayneDixon

If the Cowboys release D. Ware, the Falcons should go after him. The only way they get Clowney is if they trade up to the Rams spot. Houston will probably draft Johnny football!

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

Nonsense on Baker.  He's injury-prone and mediocre.  Move him to another position on the line and draft Jake Matthews.  You MUST protect Ryan.  Let Blank spend some serious money on the defensive line.  The man is not getting any younger.  He is 72.  Why just leave all that cash for his kids?   Also, why not give Antone Smith a real chance at halfback this year?

xmgq
xmgq

The need for the FALCONS in the first round if not CLOWNEY ( an an athelete with skills you cannot pass up) is DT. NIX-JERNIGAN etc.... IF no one is eating up blockers on the line, no one will be succesfull... i.e (Barr/MACK). The only other person eating up blockers out of college is CLOWNEY. THE SAME AS BASKETBALL--WORK INSIDE -OUT... AND YOU WILL WIN!!!!

LowcountryFalcon
LowcountryFalcon

Wharton was there for the taking LAST year......and we went with Trueblood....

BigHittas
BigHittas

also could be a clue here in one assessment of Robinson, found on a STL Rams board:

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - Robinson was a sensation at the combine, running the 40-yard dash in under five seconds. Personally watching Robinson work out two days before he ran, he's clearly an uncanny athlete. Robinson knows he has to get better with his handwork in pass protection, but he's pro-ready as a run blocker.

The ATL front office and coaching staff have all said thy want to get nasty on the O-Line and be ble to RUN the ball.


 

BigHittas
BigHittas

gotta say I like the idea of drafting Mack.

Imagine the LB's with Mack, Spoon and Worrilow? Add to that getting rid of the liability safety DaCoupe, and with the new CB's coming up after a full year, that would be a very nice D.

redleg24
redleg24

Falcons have the same needs they have had for over 20 years.  Offensive linemen and really good defensiive pass rushers.  What makes you think this will change.  GM and his crew destroyed what was left of a descent offensive line last year and did nothing to help the D-line either.  A truly consistent approach from day one of the falcons existence.

TomGaff
TomGaff

BigCrimson75 - So Richie Incognito is an "a$$ clown"! I bet you would not say that to his face? Go on back to your mom's basement and turn on your PC! Don't say any thing about a player, that you would not say to his face. That is the way grown men act!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"The Falcons’ have two obvious needs"

If you mean offense and defense I would agree with you. Anything more specific and I have to question your sanity - the Falcons have a boatload of obvious needs.

The wheels are fast falling off the Falcons of recent years. The premier running back is worn out and gone, his replacement worn out, the HOF tight end is gone, the stud offensive line is decimated, the defensive line might be the worst in the NFL, the star linebacker is banged up and the other two are fill-ins at best, the cornerbacks are in on-the-job-training, and the safeties are penalty and big-play prone. And the quarterback is not-so-elite, as we've seen.

slydawg
slydawg

My forecast :


Falcons sign Alex Mack, C, Paul Soliai, DT, J. Babineaux, DT, Geoff Schwartz, OG, Karlos Dansby, LB

Falcons draft: OT (2), DE, LB, RB, WR

             

slydawg
slydawg

I believe the Falcons will do the exact opposite. I think they will sign 3-4 defensive players, 2 of which will be defensive tackles (They currently have no starters at this position) and 1 linebacker. I also see a guard and a center along the offensive line. Left offensive tackles are the next most expensive position on offense after the QB. Same with defensive end. The Falcons already gave Baker $42 mil. The Falcons will probably draft Robinson at tackle and get another defensive tackle or linebacker in the second round. They could also drop down some, gain some picks, and draft Taylor Lewan. If so, expect a running back in the second or third round. The Falcons want to turn this thing around sooner rather than later, but Ryan's and Baker's contracts prevent them from competing for expensive players at premium positions. It would be cheaper to target Alex Mack at center as opposed to Branden Albert or Eugene Monroe at tackle. We'll see!!!

Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

This is a reckless approach. There are no guarantees that the Falcons can sign free agents that they need.


How many times have we heard this rhetoric where Dimitroff drafts all willy-nilly and when someone asks him why he didn't draft a certain need he says "we'll just sign someone", and never does?

The best plan is to draft like that is ALL you are getting and then go after free agents.

ElephantintheRoom
ElephantintheRoom

What is your take on getting a monster man middle linebacker to try and stop the run? We also need some depth at wide reciever. If either Roddy or Julio get hurt we're screwed. I like Chris Boyd from Vandy for a late pick.

Phillipdj
Phillipdj

I agree with this assessment. Offensive Linemen take a year or two longer than D Linemen to develop - simply because pro terminology is difficult on any Offense. Defensive Ends/pass rushers have to learn play books too, but it's easier to pin your ears back and get to the qb in year 1 than it is to learn dozens of rushing and passing blocking schemes.

First 3 picks should be a DE/OLB combo type, a middle LB run stuffer and a Tight End. Next 2-3 should be on OL and Safety to provide depth and time to learn. Let free agency be the way to acquire an immediate impact at Right Guard/Right Tackle and a RB.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I'm in the wait and see mode, keep in mind Claybo lost his job in Miami he got their quarterback killed. With all that talent in the draft and free agency, the Falcons should be able to stock their roster. Mike Smith has to step his game up, sometimes I feel he's not the best motivator. He can't seem to get the most out of his players.

tyger
tyger

Doomsday Scenario: 


Falcons attempt to rehab current OL...

i.e. same personnel, same results...


When Lovie Smith evicts you Day 1...

You ain't tough enough son...

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

We need to get Clabo back.  The O-Line went down hill when  he was let go.  It seems obvious to me that he was the heart of that line.

welikebaseball2
welikebaseball2

Konz had all season to lay claim on RG & only saw significant time there because he was slightly less awful than Reynolds. Until we resolve it in free agency, RG is actually more wide open than RT. I hate to say it but I think they'll roll with Holmes at RT. So we'll likely go RG in FA, pass rusher with 1st pick, bring in someone to push Holmes with 2nd round pick, & let Konz fight Hawley for the start at center (as Smith has already said).

TomGaff
TomGaff

BigCrimson75 - Look I tried to explain the business of Pro Football to you but you just don't get it. The meanest and baddest survive! You need to go watch some flag football or golf or tennis. Those guys are passive and civil(apparently like you) but not Pro Football types! Good Nite!!

dirtyo11
dirtyo11

I think Clowney is going to be a great player. He's going to be better than he was in college. Not too sure if he's the #1 or #2 pass rusher. That kid from Buffalo is  beast. Now let's take away the fact that he didn't put out like he was suppose to in college. I blame it all on the media, let's keep it real he was a beast until the media started saying he need to take it easy so he want get hurt...up to that point the guy was reckless.

Falcons need to stay put and hope he fall in their lap and if not pick up Mack from Buffalo. 

- we can get a nasty mean OL lineman & TE in FA.

- We can also draft a RB in the later rnds...we need playmaker in the back field. A RB that can catch & be a threat to take it all the way every time he touch the ball 

nycfalconsfan
nycfalconsfan

Agree totally.  These are the right moves and what I think will actually happen...

TomGaff
TomGaff

@BigCrimson75 - Who cares how many teams he was kicked off of? He brings a mean nasty attitude with him. Guys like him, Dahl, Clabo immediately upgrade a teams toughness at the OL! What he was involved in was just locker room talk. Don't you think if he was being serious about the N word, a bunch of black players would have jumped him and the fight would have been on? Those are grown men in the locker room and they would fight at the drop of a hat! Most grew up that way, fighting for every thing they got. It is unrealistic to think you can have choir boys in the locker room and they magically turn into gladiators on the field of combat. Yes, it is combat between the OL and DL.

Ted_Striker
Ted_Striker

"Just kidding on Incognito. Wanted to see if you were paying attention."


I laughed. 

MikeS777
MikeS777

Either way they need to sell out for the line.  Clowney raised some eyebrows.  Honestly, this guy is a freak of nature who can get after the QB.  He may be too good to pass up on.  After that, take care of O line and maybe some DT help as well.  The only position they should even be looking at past the lines this year is maybe some LB depth or a LB that can also rush the passer.


I can't stress enough how much this offseason needs to be a complete sellout to securing both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Really666
Really666

Would rather cut Osi and sign Michael Joshnson
and also get Clowney then we we would have two young DE
Why keep an old man around?

I would rather fill TE and RB in the draft so that money that you have
allocated for those spots and Osi money would pay for Michael Johnson

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Sick of the Incognito talk fans............please stop asking to have your eyes pulled out with a pair of rusty pliers!

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Btw, Incognito is an a$$ clown.

Firing the N-Word at one of your teammates as a form of "motivation" doesn't make you a Tough Guy.

Incognito was shown the door at Nebraska, by Bill Callahan of all people -- the same Nebraska that allowed Tool-Bags like Lawrence Phillips, the Peters Bros, Terrell Farley and countless others act like hooligans with little to no repercussions.

Nebraska....bounced

Oregon....bounced

St Louis...bounced

Miami...bounced

Yea that the missing piece for a Falcons SB run.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Draft a football player - draft Mack - keep the 2nd rounder and use that on a guard or tackle. It is pretty obvious that Clowney has problems in the old head. The current thinking is he didn't want to play his last year of college ball due to fear of injury and that is understandable. That is akin to the pro player that only plays in the last year of his contract. Beware, beware, beware..

syrupmaker
syrupmaker

Say what you will, but I do not trst Peter Konz at ceter or right guard.  Same goes fo Joe "Rag Doll" Hawley.  Two 300lb weaklings if you ask me. 

I would go after Alex Mack in free agency.  Then draft a plug and play right guard or right tackle in the second round followed by a space eating NT in the third. 

If Mack and Clowney are gone at #6, we should trade down, pick up another 2nd round pick and fix the pass rush (Dee Ford), right guard (Gabe Jackson), right tackle (Zack Martin), and DT with our first four picks. In no particular order.

gfw
gfw

Nice analysis Jeff, but why should Konz be such a lock?  TD's ego?  Is there one defensive lineman we played against last year who did not whip Konz?  I mean that man looked sick weak, and was often pushed straight back into Ryan.  If TD weren't so tied to that pick, or if, say, there were an objective new GM on board, Konz would be gone. 

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

My God at the love for Greg Robinson. Careful what you wish for ladies.

The last time the Falcons took a 1 year wonder outta the SEC.....His name was Jamaal Anderson. :(

Not saying he can't be a good player, simply saying 1 year ago y'all had NO idea who the guy was & now he's the next Jackie Slater.

TheMonger
TheMonger

@TomGaff LOL!  Bro, do you have a question mark fetish or something?  That is how you legitimately ask a question, and hence have a need for a question mark.  You can end those sentences with periods.  It's okay.  Are you asking or telling us that you "think Shaw had 25 TD's and 1 INT this past season?"?  That doesn't even sound right by the way, or he would be the top pick in the draft, most likely.  Anyways, all three of those sentences with question marks sound like statements to me and need a period. 

JSSN
JSSN

@Contractor1  

Cincinnati will take him before Atlanta gets a shot at him.

JSSN
JSSN

@BigHittas  

Only problem with your scenario is that you're still imagining that Weatherspoon is going to suddenly morph into a healthy super productive player who has über cover skills.

JSSN
JSSN

@TomGaff

Dang, let's see, a player who is already under suspicion of not having any impulse control and barely hanging on to a career in the NFL is gonna let his testosterone rage get the best of him and attack a regular citizen for calling him: "clown?" Where do you folks get your common sense training? Please let me know (and the rest of rational society) so we can make how not to live your life tapes for the youth of Nation!

ElephantintheRoom
ElephantintheRoom

The O line went downhill when we lost Harvey Dahl, not Claybo.

JSSN
JSSN

@TomGaff  

"Passive and Civil?" How long have you been on the AJC blogs? 

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Hahaha.....

Another worshiper at the Church of Incognito!!

Ahhh yes, white boy fires insult after insult at black player(educated at Stanford, no less with Harvard educated parents) & suddenly he's a hero!! :(

Simple question & I'll leave it alone:

How many winning teams has this great Incognito played for?

He's been at his craft 9 full seasons now, 3 different Pro Teams(I forgot the cup the coffee w/ Buffalo -- 3 games were enough for them).

9 years -- that's a full career. How many teams were winners he played on?

----

Sorry if I don't consider this idiot the Franchise savior.

BigHittas
BigHittas

Weatherspoon when healthy is a good quality LB. Worrilow showed last year as a rookie that he could get back in coverage much better than most any LB the Falcons have had in a while. I still think that lineup at LB could rank with the best given no injuries and be at least as solid as Carolina's LB corps.