The NFL draft starts Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, and the storm of speculation is only getting stronger.
On the other hand, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who will be tasked with making decisions on 11 draft picks this year, is calm, cool and collected.
Here's where Atlanta is slated to make selections:
- First round: pick No. 30
- Second round: pick No. 60
- Third round: pick No. 92
- Fourth round: pick No. 127
- Fourth round: pick No. 133
- Fifth round: pick No. 163 (compensatory)
- Sixth round: pick No. 198
- Seventh round: pick No. 236
- Seventh round: pick No. 243 (compensatory)
- Seventh round: pick No. 244 (compensatory)
- Seventh round: pick No. 249 (compensatory)
Here's a rundown of who I have the Falcons selecting.
- Pick No. 30: Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington), Cornellius 'Tank' Carradine (DE, Florida State)
- Pick No. 60: Margus Hunt (DE, Southern Methodist), David Amerson (CB, North Carolina State)
- Pick No. 92: Corey Lemonier (RE, Auburn)
- Pick No. 127: Jordan Reed (TE, Florida), Zach Sudfeld (TE, Nevada)
- Pick No. 133: T.J. Barnes (NT, Georgia Tech)
- Pick No. 163: Sanders Commings (CB/S, Georgia), Xavier Nixon (OT, Florida)
- Pick No. 198: Ace Sanders (WR/PR, South Carolina)
- Pick No. 236: Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State)
- Pick No. 243: John Boyett (S, Oregon), Branden Smith (CB, Georgia)
- Pick No. 244: John Youboty (DE, Temple)
- Pick No. 249: Patrick Ward (OT, Northwestern), Omoregie Uzzi (IL, Georgia Tech)
As for other experts out there, here's who a hand full of writers have the Falcons selecting in the first round, according to the latest update from AtlantaFalcons.com blogger Jay Adams' Mock Monitor.
Scott Carasik, B/R and ScarDraft.com: Desmond Trufant
Al Bruce, B/R: Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Matt Miller, B/R: D.J. Hayden, Houston
Dave Choate, The Falcoholic: Cornellius 'Tank Carradine'
D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN.com: Zach Ertz
Todd McShay, ESPN.com: Justin Pugh (IL, Syracuse)
Gill Brandt, NFL.com: Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
For some perspective, here's every major transaction the Falcons have made since the season ended, as well as an updated look at the current depth heading into draft day.
Released/Wavied: Tyson Clabo (OT), Michael Turner (RB), John Abraham (DE), Dunta Robinson (CB), Kerry Meier (WR)
Re-signed/Extended: Antone Smith (RB), Garrett Reynolds (IL), William Moore (S), Sam Baker (LT)
Additions: Steven Jackson (TB), Osi Umenyiora (DE), Brian Banks (LB)
**Tony Gonzalez has also agreed to terms to sign a two-year deal, but will reportedly only play for one more season.
Pre-draft depth chart (speculative):
QB: Matt Ryan, Dominique Davis
TB: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers
FB: Bradie Ewing
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Chase Coffman
WR: Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
WR: Roddy White, Drew Davis
LT: Sam Baker
LG: Justin Blalock, Jacques McClendon
C: Peter Konz, Joe Hawley
RG: Garrett Reynolds, Phillipkeith Manley
RT: Lamar Holmes, Mike Johnson
DE: Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann
DT: Jonathan Babineaux, Travian Robertson
DT: Corey Peters, Peria Jerry
RE: Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews
LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Robert James
LB: Stephen Nicholas, Brian Banks
MLB: Akeem Dent, Pat Schiller
CB: Asante Samuel, Terrence Johnson
CB: Dominique Franks, Peyton Thompson
NB: Robert McClain
S: Thomas DeCoud, Charles Mitchell
S: William Moore, Shann Schillinger
The Falcons most glaring needs are at defensive end, linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle.
Osi Umenyiora was signed as the big name on defense, but fans should remember the Falcons needed a defensive end presence when John Abraham was still on the roster. Umenyiora does not fix the problem entirely; he simply fills Abe's spot with a more youthful, versatile option.
Linebacker could use some help, but it may not be because of what fans think.
Stephen Nicholas was the scapegoat of what was a poorly schemed defense against the spread-option, which took the NFL by storm last year. Mike Smith and the Falcons even met with Clemson coaches this offseason to discuss how to defend the system.
Even the Baltimore Ravens had trouble stopping Vernon Davis in the Super Bowl.
Nicholas led the team in tackles last year and is a very solid linebacker. He deserves credit where credit is due.
However, Atlanta can still use more linebackers even though it played in a base nickel formation most of last year (two backers). Mike Nolan will want to use this offseason as an opportunity to continue to hybridize the defense into a 4-3/3-4 combo.
Right now, the Falcons don't have the most versatile personnel when it comes to rush ends.
Kroy Biermann was used at the ''amoeba'' position for much of last year, but Nolan can now drop some hints towards Dimitroff that he wants more versatile linebackers who can put their hands in the ground when they have to.
Jonathan Massaquoi will be a fun development there, but the draft will offer a chance to mold the product more.
Cornerback is a major concern with the departure of Brent Grimes.
After the release of Dunta Robinson, which was mainly to clear cap room, many believed that meant Grimes was a done deal to re-sign. Without him, Atlanta currently would be most advised to move their star nickel corner, Robert McClain, to the outside.
Getting a starting corner through the draft seems to be the most likely option at this point, although a free agency move could still be made to sure up the position.
As far as tackle and tight end go, there really seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why some experts see Atlanta drafting a tackle or tight end in the first round.
With Tony Gonzalez returning, Atlanta does not have an immediate need at tight end. Dimitroff would be advised to get a tight end for the future in the front-half of his draft, but using a first-round pick on one when defense is obviously the bigger concern is absurd.
Also, there's no way Dimitroff would have released Clabo if he wasn't confident that Lamar Holmes or Mike Johnson could play the position.
Yes, there needs to be a tackle added behind the right or left starter, depending on where Johnson may end up.
And yes, depending on some more shuffling, guard could end up being a need as well.
But, again, first-round selections should be used on more immediate needs.
The Falcons could also use a bigger body at defensive tackle.
Aside from Jonathan Babineaux, the other position in the rotation has been platooned for a while. And Corey Peters isn't an impact player. With the 3-4 in mind, a big body like T.J. Barnes of Georgia Tech or Kwame Geathers of Georgia could be a nice value in a later round.
And drafting a punt returner in a late round wouldn't hurt. Harry Douglas was the last guy to really make an impact at that position, but giving him some new competition won't hurt.
Remember that the kickoff return is pretty much moot in today's NFL.
Fans should be reminded that Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported that the Falcons likely could trade up, which would not be a rare move for Dimitroff.
If the Falcons do trade up, expect cornerback, defensive end or linebacker to be the target position.
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