Atlanta Falcons Offseason Outlook plus 2014 7-round Mock Draft

First things first, a 4-12 season shows that the Falcons have plenty of holes to fill. They started by maximizing their cap room by “trimming the fat” by cutting cost-efficient salaries and older players who don’t fit the future vision.  The following players have been cut:

CB Asante Samuel, Cap Savings $5.25 million Image

This move should speak for itself. Samuel is still a good player but not worth the $5+ million he’ll count against the cap, seeing as how he has already been replaced by two rookies this season.

LB Stephen Nicholas, Cap Savings $2 million 2014 and $5.5 million in 2015

Nicholas is the highest paid linebacker on the team with the least amount of production, this is a no-brainer.

G Garrett Reynolds, Cap Savings $1.329 million

An under-performing offensive line needs a complete makeover, enough said.

Others that could be cut:

DE Osi Umenyiora, Cap Savings $3.5 million 

I know he just came in this year, but this is a position in need of being upgraded and the birds will need every dollar they can to make the necessary improvements.

S Thomas DeCoud, Cap Savings $3 million in 2014, $4 million in 2015, and  $4.2 million in 2016Image

This move will save a small fortune over the next 3 seasons. It is affordable money if DeCoud’s production was that of his Pro Bowl 2012 season, but the Falcons have little time to wait and see if that returns. They need to use every dollar to see if they can capitalize on a veteran free-agent safety.

RB Jason Snelling, Cap Savings $1.375 million

With three running backs on the roster making more than 1 million against the cap this season, including incumbent starter Steven Jackson and flex back/return man Jaquizz Rodgers, unfortunately Snelling is the odd-man out. Antoine Smith has stepped up as well, making this move less risky.

Free agency is also where the Falcons could make some noise and turn around their fortunes. So here are a few of the options they could pursue:

DE Michael Johnson, Cincinnati

Michael Johnson 

He is a product of the home-town Georgia Tech and could be affordable as a run stuffing defensive end as well as a potential double-digit sack stud. His production in sacks last year was down, hopefully helping the Falcons land him.

FS Jarius Byrd, Buffalo Bills

The Bills now seem as though they will not use the franchise-tag on Byrd. He might be out of the Falcons price-range, but he is the best free safety on the market. If there is a bidding war for his services, it may leave the Falcons looking for another safety in free agency.

FS Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts

antoine bethea

He is a more realistic candidate to be signed by the Falcons, seeing as how he is still an upgrade on DeCoud but he is much more affordable.

OLB Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins

Of course this is assuming that he even hits the market. He is a candidate for a franchise-tag as well as maybe even an extension. He would be expensive, but it all depends on where the Falcons want to spend their focus within free agency and the draft.

C Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

He would instantly change the whole dynamic of the offensive line. Mack has already made it clear that there is a slim to none chance that he returns to the struggling Browns. The Falcons may be in the market to really upgrade this position  in particular through free agency.

OT Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs

branden albert

The connection of new Falcons Assistant General Manager Scott Pioli being the former General Manager of the Chiefs helps this possibility. He is a former left tackle, right tackle, and also a guard in college. He can bring versatility to the offensive line that it has not seen in a while.

OT Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens

He does not have any connection, but seems like a good fit at right tackle and would help immensely.

G Willie Colon, New York Jets

He was pursued by new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice while he was in Chicago, and he fits his scheme. He would also be a cheap addition who could start at right guard.

Others who didn’t make the cut: DE Greg Hardy-will probably be franchised, DE Michael Bennett-too expensive, OT Eugene Monroe-too big of a market, FS Louis Delmas-too many health concerns

And Now for the 7-round Falcons Mock Draft

Round 1 6th overall- DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo 

Khalil-Mack

This is assuming the highly coveted Jadeveon Clowney is off the board, and the Falcons would take the best player available which would be the versatile Mack. He has the NFL measurables and he is a clutch player, bringing in his best performances against top competition.

Round 2 37th overall- OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

He is a potential left tackle, but could play on the right side immediately as he develops.

Round 3 68th overall- DT Dominique Easley, Florida

He is a top 15 talent that slipped due to his torn ACL. He will be Babineaux’s replacement on the defensive line.

Round 4 99th overall- TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia

arthur lynch

He provides the ability to help in the passing game and as a blocker. Lynch will be a scheme-friendly pick for the Falcons, and should generate some home-town buzz.

Round 5 135th overall- S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

He is a tweener at sefety/corner, but his leadership and instincts make him valuable at the next level. He could play behind whoever the Falcons sign in free agency and make his living on special teams for the time being.

Round 5 compensatory- WR/RS Dri Archer, Kent State

He could be the Falcons 4th receiver, and speed demon return specialist. Sometimes it makes sense to take a flier on a guy who could make you look smart, he has gamebreaker potential.

Round 6 166th overall- G Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt

The need for help along the line has been noted and here is just another body to use for competition in camp.

Round 7 197th overall- WR L’Damian Washington, Missouri

ldamian washington

If he is still here at this pick, the Falcons should jump all over it. He is a big-body receiver who can make plays in the red zone to help replace Tony Gonzalez.

Round 7 compensatory- CB Ross Cockrell, Duke

Talented corner who is underrated for his smooth transitions in coverage. He will help special teams and be a 4th corner.

Round 7 compensatory- QB Connor Shaw, South Carolina

connor shaw

The Falcons do not seem to be high on Dominique Davis, and that’s why they brought in Sean Renfree in the draft last year. They want to create competition behind Ryan. Shaw would provide that and he is originally from Flowery Branch, where the Falcons practice facility is, thus creating local buzz. He is a proven winner, and has great running ability which is also valuable as a backup in the NFL.

Round 7 compensatory- C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

This would be adding another guy to the mix in camp to push Peter Konz.

Falcons Draft Recap

Round 1 – Pick 22(From Rams): Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

Desmond Trufant

Trufant, we now know, was the player that Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons coveted in the first round. They traded up to get him  and he was worth the pick. He is an automatic plug in starter at the corner spot opposite of Asante Samuel. He was a three-year starter at Washington and has the NFL pedigree, as both of his brothers play in the NFL. There are so many positives for this selection because Trufant is a complete player, and he has good size for a corner at nearly 6 foot and 194 pounds, he can match up with anyone.

Round 2 – Pick 60: Robert Alford, CB SE Louisiana

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl

This pick was an excellent value, even though it puzzled some people that the Falcons did not draft a defensive lineman with this pick. He is a freakish athlete who can play nickel corner and be a dynamic kick/punt returner. He had a great showing at the Senior Bowl which helped his draft stock.

Round 4 – Pick 127: Malliciah Goodman, DE Clemson

malliciah goodman

Here is where the Falcons first started addressing their defensive line. Goodman had an above average career at Clemson, but he never quite put a whole season together. There is no question that he has the tools to be a star at the NFL level, b ut he is also a developmental player who will benefit from learning from Osi Umenyiora and Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan. This is why he dropped to the 4th round.

Round 4 – Pick 133: Levine Toilolo, TE Stanford

levine toilolo

This was an excellent pick by the Falcons. The scouting department has served the fans well with this one. Toilolo comes from a freakishly athletic family in which his dad, brothers, and uncles have all played major sports at the collegiate and professional levels. He is 6 foot 8 and 265 pounds, and he was overshadowed at Stanford by 2nd round pick TE Zach Ertz and also last year’s 3rd round pick TE Colby Fleener of the Colts. He has had a good career for having to share the ball, which is what he will do this season behind Tony Gonzalez. He also gets to learn behind Gonzalez, potentially the greatest tight end of all time.

Round 5 – Pick 153(From Bears): Stansly Maponga, DE TCU

stansly maponga

Maponga is a guy who was targeted early but slipped to the 5th round where the Falcons actually traded up with the Bears to snag him. He possesses rare pass rush abilities, but like Goodman he is a project at defensive end. He will also be in the mix on this defensive line for the Falcons.

Round 7 – Pick 243: Kemal Ishmael, S UCF

kemal ishmael

This was a pick to support the secondary depth, as well as to provide special teams help. Ishmael could be a nickel corner and a backup free safety. He had a solid career overall and might make the team.

Round 7 – Pick 244: Zeke Motta, S Notre Dame

Notre Dame Miami Football

I know what you’re thinking, why draft ANY defensive player from Notre Dame. This however was strictly for the special teams ferocity that Motta plays with; he was a playmaker but slow for a secondary player. He will be a backup at strong safety and play on all of the coverage units for the Falcons.

Round 7 – Pick 249: Sean Renfree, QB Duke

sean renfree

This was a luxury pick, and the Falcons got a great value here. Renfree is going to be able to come in to Atlanta and compete with Dominique Davis for the backup QB role behind Matt Ryan. This is due to the fact that Luke McCown left in the offseason. Renfree has been Duke’s best quarterback in school history and was coached by David Cutcliffe, who also coached both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning. Renfree has also helped with the “Manning Camp” the past few years which helps younger quarterbacks learn the position.

Check out how the Falcons first and second round picks first met!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fozy1K-0LXM

 

Written by Daniel, hammockd29

A.J. Green VS Julio Jones

                        aj green v julio jones

These two studs are forever linked and will always be subject to comparison.

It all started in high school as these two highlight-reel receivers were being recruited by every SEC, ACC, and any other conference school who saw anything about them. A.J. Green committed to UGA and Julio Jones committed to Alabama. These two both arrived on campus as the focal points of their respective schools and their passing games.

Both of these young men exceeded expectations upon arrival, both sporting the same number in college, eight. These were both two very different offenses at the time. The Georgia Bulldogs had Junior gunslinger Matthew Stafford at quarterback and had a very complex passing system, whereas the Crimson Tide had more of a rushing attack as John Parker Wilson was more of a game manager and the offense was only balanced because of Jones’ deep threat ability.

aj green v julio jones 1

They both continued their careers in college and left as two of the most prolific receivers in SEC history. As their Junior seasons came to an end they both decided to forgo their Senior season to declare for the NFL Draft, together. As the draft approached, it quickly became evident that they were the top two and the best the draft had to offer since Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, formerly of Georgia Tech. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Green with the 4th overall pick and the Atlanta Falcons traded their 2011 first round, 2011 second round and their 2012 first round picks to move up to the 6th overall pick and selected Julio Jones.

aj green v julio jones 2

They, of course, lead both of their teams to a better offensive outcome, as Jones went to Atlanta and joined an offense that included Roddy White, Matt Ryan, and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Green joined an offense that was rebuilding and his quarterback, Andy Dalton, would actually be drafted the round behind him and both of them would go on to surprise everyone and be in contention for rookie of the year. Julio Jones has had two great years in his first two seasons in the NFL having 54 and 79 catches, respectively, 959 and 1,198 yards and 8 and 10 TDs for those years. Green has been even better his first two seasons with 65 and 97 catches, respectively, 1,057 and 1,350 yards and 7 and 11 TDs for his two seasons. So the question is simple, who would you rather have on the other end of your passing game? The answer is more complex, as both excel in different ways as receivers.

Who would you take? A.J. Green or Julio Jones? The choice is yours, well if you’re a fantasy football owner, because these guys are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Steven Jackson Taking His Talents to A-Town

Screen_Shot_2013-03-10_at_12.11.20_PM

Yes, Falcons fans you read that correctly, the former star at Oregon State and stud back for the St. Louis Rams has now agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons for a 3 year deal.  So get used to seeing this guy running towards the endzone for your beloved Falcons.  An offense that just got back it’s Hall of Famer at tight end Tony Gonzalez and ofcourse has Pro Bowlers Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White.  Dang, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that’s a lot of fire power.  Going to be even harder to beat Atlanta now, because they can really get back to being a more balanced attack with threats through the air and now on the ground.  Is this enough to push them over the top? It might just be, still need to really improve the defense though to stop teams like San Fran and New Orleans, but if one things for certain, Falcons fans, break out the Dirty Bird dance because this guy is going to be bringing in exciting times ahead for your franchise.

Gonzo Returns, Defense Still Needs Help

Before I get into my first topic, I would like to say that I am thrilled to be blogging about sports, giving my opinions and hearing back from those of you that read and respond to our topics here on the Deep South Sports Blog.  I intend on bringing forth my opinions and stories to help generate some conversation, so get to reading and responding, because that’s what makes this fun, enjoy!

Now for the moment you have all been waiting for, my first topic writing on this already growing in popularity sports blog.  Those Atlanta Falcons getting back their boy at tight end for one more season to make a run at the Super Bowl.  Great for the Falcons, their offense specifically, and the fans, getting the Hall of Famer back.  My concern is still the weakest point, the main reason for the bouncing from the playoffs, the defense still needing to be addressed.  This news is great!  So celebrate Falcons fans, but don’t let it overshadow the fact that the defense still needs the work.  A team that finished the season ranked 23rd in passing defense and 21st in rushing defense needs more than Gonzo returning to fix its problems.  Free agency just started and the draft is on the way and D-line help and linebacker help is sorely needed.  So if I were the Falcons, I would search for someone who plays in the front 7 on defense to come right in and play,  a cheap but productive option more preferably.  So who should they sign? Who should they draft?  Let me know what you think and how you feel about this news.  Too bad Gonzo can’t go out there and be a Hall of Famer at D-lineman or linebacker right?