With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the team with the No. 30 overall selection, the Atlanta Falcons. They have a total of 11 picks, and aren’t afraid to make bold moves, so their picking somewhere north of 30 is a real possibility.
Defensive end: There’s already noise about the Falcons wanting to move up in the order, and it makes sense that their target would be a pass-rusher.
John Abraham was still producing right up until the time they released him, and they have to find someone to replace that production other than Osi Umenyiora, who has not produced at the same consistent level. If they can get into the top half of the first round, they can find someone in the Abraham mold, before the run starts.
Cornerback: This would be the other drastic need that could be the target for a move-up. It seems like forever ago they were three-deep with excellent players. But with Brent Grimes gone to Miami and and Dunta Robinson released and resurfaced in KC, they’re down to Asante Samuel and a bunch of guys.
Linebacker: You could probably run down the list of defensive positions, and the Falcons could stand to upgrade. Sean Weatherspoon is quite good, but the rest of their linebacking corps is fairly ordinary.
Tackle: The thinking is the release of Tyson Clabo opened the door for Lamar Holmes to start at right tackle, and that could work. But they still need cover here, particularly if newly rich left tackle Sam Baker goes back to the 2011 version instead of the 2012 salary-push version.
Guard: The retirement of Todd McClure leaves a big hole, but they could slide 2012 second-rounder Peter Konz over from right guard. But that leaves another vacancy. They have some in-house candidates, but need depth here.
As good as they are, they’re not as well-covered as you’d think. They have nothing to speak of in terms of depth on defense. Heck, they don’t even have a full complement of starting-caliber players on that side of the ball.
But their offensive skill-position talent is so good, it might not matter. As long as Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are together, the Falcons are going to be among the best in the NFC.
But until they get at least a little bit better on defense, it’s going to be hard for them to make the next step.
Their offseason efforts have focused on retaining their own, and making a few surgical signings of veterans who came looking for rings. Their team is good enough that 11 draft picks aren’t making their 53-man roster, so they might as well make some moves, and see if they can plug some starters in on defense.