Highlighting Atlanta Falcons' Biggest Needs in 2014 NFL Draft
The Atlanta Falcons are 2-7 because they have some holes; however, they will need a great haul in the 2014 NFL Draft before they can truly compete for a Super Bowl, especially if they end up with the top-three pick that they are currently projected to have.
Where, though, are these holes exactly?
What do the Falcons need to do to get close to a Super Bowl again?
Follow along for the Falcons' biggest holes and weaknesses that are keeping them from the Super Bowl.
No. 8: Fullback
Bradie Ewing has played two games for the Falcons in his two seasons on the roster. At this point, there's a ton of question as to whether he will ever even truly contribute to the team, so fullback is definitely a tough situation to look at, but it is a need.
The Falcons should bring in someone who can actually compete with him for the starting role or at worst back up him and either the running backs or a tight end as an H-back. Ideal players would be similar to Marcel Reece or Justin Griffith.
Both guys can run, catch and block effectively, and honestly, it's still too early in Ewing's career to drub him a bust; however, injuries make bringing in competition for the fullback almost necessary. On the bright side, the Falcons could boost their special teams and/or versatility with a better backup fullback.
That fullback being able to be an H-back in the offense or a gunner on special teams will only assist an already good unit with a player who can make plays.
Best Fits: Louisiana State's J.C. Copeland, Florida State's Chad Abram, Arizona State's Chris Coyle
No. 7: Cornerback
Now, this may seem completely illogical, but the Falcons do need some depth at cornerback. Although Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford should be the starters sooner rather than later, it wouldn't be shocking to see Asante Samuel cut due to a $5.25 million cap savings.
Trufant and Alford are both showing that they're ready to be starters in the NFL with their play on the field; however, there's no nickel cornerback under contract. Robert McClain is a restricted free agent, but even him coming back is questionable at this point.
Atlanta would be wise to bring in someone who can play the slot role effectively and compete well as a punt returner. This is one of the needs that's tough to handle, but it's honestly prudent to take a cornerback in every draft.
Best Fits: Maryland's Dexter McDougle, Duke's Ross Cockrell, San Jose State's Bene Bewikere
No. 6: Tight End
Atlanta will lose their Hall of Fame tight end after this season when Tony Gonzalez retires, although they do have the option of bringing back Chase Coffman and going with a platoon of him and 2013 fourth-round pick Levine Toilolo at the spot.
Although this looks like a good plan, the Falcons haven't been getting the duo enough snaps to really learn on the job. Moving forward, it looks like bringing in at least one more mid-round tight end for competition is the right way to go.
Honestly, they could look at three different types of guys.
The first is a primary blocker who is huge (over 6'5") but also has good hands and can box out guys.
The second is a Gonzalez-sized guy who can be a good No. 2 tight end to Toilolo.
The final option is someone who is an H-back and fullback type. It would give Atlanta someone who could play both tight end and back up the routinely injured Bradie Ewing. Adding a Chris Cooley-type would be brilliant for the Falcons.
Best Fits: Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz, Georgia's Arthur Lynch, Arizona State's Chris Coyle
No. 5: Wide Receiver
The Falcons will have Roddy White and Julio Jones both heading into contract years in 2014. On top of that, Harry Douglas and Darius Johnson are the only two receivers who are currently on the roster and under contract for the Falcons in 2014.
Atlanta would be wise to bring in a free agent such as Andre Roberts to sit behind White and be a long-term option for the franchise quarterback Matt Ryan with Jones; however, on top of that, they need to bring in a receiver who can compete for a roster spot as a returner and slot receiver.
It can be someone quick and small or someone who is around 6'2" and has great speed, but they need someone who can at least blow the top off of a defense the way Jones can. A Steve Smith clone would be exactly what they need long term.
Best Fits: Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis, Oregon's Josh Huff, Michigan's Jeremy Gallon
No. 4: Offensive Tackle
Sam Baker will be coming off of injured reserve, and Lamar Holmes will be heading into his second year as a starter. Also, with Mike Johnson a potential cheap re-sign for depth, the Falcons could see this as less of a need than the fanbase would.
At this point, it looks like the Falcons could use someone to compete for the starting right tackle job and back up both tackle spots; however, the Falcons need to make sure they have talented depth, and Ryan Schraeder could completely surprise if given a chance this season.
The Falcons may not have the best group of tackles in the league, but they don't exactly need to have the best tackles to protect Matt Ryan. Ryan had his best year when both of his tackles were league average.
If the Falcons think they can get league-average performance or better from Baker and Holmes, they will hold off on tackle.
Best Fits: Michigan's Taylor Lewan, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Tennessee's Ju'Wuan James
No. 3: Defensive Tackle
Atlanta has just signed Travian Robertson under contract for the 2014 season. That means they need to make sure they re-sign one of their three veterans.
At 30 and 32, Peria Jerry and Jonathan Babineaux won't be likely to re-sign, especially since one likely would have to take a pay cut.
Corey Peters is then the most likely option for the Falcons to re-sign. Since he plays the 1-technique normally, the Falcons would need to bring in someone who could play both the 3-technique and 5-technique the way Babineaux does.
The Falcons should be looking for the standard undersized, quick-off-the-ball defensive tackle. Someone who understands hand usage and can make the offensive linemen whiff on passing downs would help as well. This could be a spot for multiple picks depending on contract situations.
Best Fits: Florida's Dominique Easley, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald, Syracuse's Jay Bromley
No. 2: Right Guard
Although Garrett Reynolds has been serviceable at right guard, his best fit is as a backup guard for both spots. The Falcons need a true road-grading monster on the right side, and that's just not the veteran from North Carolina.
While Joe Hawley is on the current Falcons roster, it's doubtful that the fourth-year pro would want to re-sign in Atlanta if he's not going to be given a legitimate opportunity to start or compete for the starting job at either center or guard.
A massive player who can sit back and help protect Matt Ryan, as well as open lanes for the backs, is what's needed. The Falcons need another Justin Blalock but with the same kind of nasty attitude Harvey Dahl had.
Best Fits: Baylor's Cyril Richardson, Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson, Alabama's Anthony Steen
No. 1: Defensive End
Atlanta's biggest issue on defense comes from its lack of pass rush and pressure off the edge. The Falcons also have issues setting the edge against the run. All of this traces back to the lack of defensive end depth on the Falcons' roster.
Although they get Kroy Biermann back from injured reserve, both he and Osi Umenyiora are going into the last year of their contracts. With developmental talents, such as Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi, the Falcons still don't have that premier pass-rusher.
So this is where they need to look at a top pass-rusher in the draft for the role. They need to look at freak athletes who can play the same role as Biermann the past two seasons and what the defense has been missing now.
Adding another player who can accomplish the same tasks would give the Falcons more multiplicity on defense, and that alone would make the Falcons a better team.
Best Fits: South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, UCLA's Anthony Barr, Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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