(With many thanks to DaveTheFalconer from The falcoholic.com who provided the framework for us to start with. Most of the information in this article is from him.)
2008 was a good year for Atlanta. NFL fans who aren't close to Atlanta had a few things running through their minds at the start of 2008:
1. This team was recently abandoned by their coach,
2. This team was recently abandoned by their QB,
3. This team had some locker room issues (see Hall to Oakland).
Those fans might have thought Atlanta would be visiting the basement. But the team featured a star young QB, and played their hearts out. Having dodged what could have been a terrible year, Atlanta has placed themselves in a position where they can approach the draft needing a few key players instead of blowing up the roster.
Let's take a look at the construct as it currently stands:
Atlanta, despite those difficult issues, had an ace in the hole. A new GM who gave the team a fighting chance moving forward. From Dave:
We drafted pretty poorly the two years before 2008, but the addition of GM Thomas Dimitroff made a huge difference. Aside from a pair of injured reserve players late in the draft and two seventh round picks, everyone on the roster had an impact. The philosophy is to fill needs high in the draft and then look for the best value/best fit beyond the second or third round. It worked well for us last year.
TEAM NEEDS -
The team's biggest needs are along the offensive line and at DT on the defense. Dave tells us that he would rank the needs as below:
'09 Draft Strategy Approach -
Direct from Dave:
If the best players available at 24 are safety or a defensive end type, or if it's a huge reach to grab one of the remaining DTs or OLs there, I would definitely trade down. Trading up isn't really an option in my mind.
After last year, it's very possible we'll simply go best available for much of the draft. I would note that our first round picks hit major team needs, and I would see that trend being repeated again this year. If you go beyond the second round, definitely look best player available.
Picks Available to Atlanta -
- 7 & 24
- 24 (Conditional pick for Foxworth based on playing time - as high as a 5th round pick).
Note that Atlanta is not likely to gain any compensatory picks from the NFL.
Targets in the Draft -
- DT B.J. Raji
- OT Andre Smith
- DT Peria Jerry
- TE Brandon Pettigrew
- OT Eben Britton
These players may not slip to Atlanta, but they would be takes if they did. SAF Moore would be worth the value, but may be available in the second.
Retirement / Injury Considerations -
Again, from Dave:
There's a small chance Swill retire, but he's getting older and we should be replacing him one way or the other. DT Grady Jackson is playing dangerously close to 400 pounds and could break down at any moment. , who swung back and forth between both tackle spots last year, shouldn't have to start due to his knees and the team should be looking to improve production on the right side of the line.
If there is one thing I believe in, it is that fans of a team are closer to their team and to their team's needs. When I want to know about a team, I go straight to the SBN team's site and ask.
So I'm asking you, either as a fan of the Falcons or as a fan of the draft, where do you agree and where do you disagree? What would you add to the conversation?