SB or BUST

LII

Why the Falcons must win the Super Bowl this year

by Dewey

We, the long suffering fans of the Atlanta Falcons, have grown accustomed to one mantra over the years, “wait ‘til next year. In Super Bowl 51 (sorry, not going to bother looking up the roman numeral), for 40 glorious minutes, it looked like the wait was over. Not going to rehash what happened, it was painful enough the first 463,792 times. But this time, the mantra had a different feel. And why shouldn’t it? All our pieces coming back, very talented with more talent on the way, only major setbacks were a defensive coordinator who never seemed to do much anyway, and an offensive coordinator that most of the fan base despised. Things should look very good even with “Falcon colored” glasses on. Well, I’m here to explain why if we don’t get it done this year, we could be in serious peril.

forget

Forget about the players?

Forget about the players for a moment. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Vic Beasley, Gray Jarrett, whoever your personal favorite, or favorites might be. Forget that this is currently the most talented roster ever to wear the red, silver and black.

Forget about Dan Quinn, our long awaited savior whose never ending energy and enthusiasm has us all seeing nothing but gold, even after a terrible loss.

Forget about Arthur Blank, the owner with the golden touch and heart to match. He who has brought us the most spectacular sporting venue ever created.

Forget everything you know about time lines, windows, expiration dates, X’s and O’s. Forget all of that, because the simple truth is, we need to win this year, Super Bowl 52 (once again, not looking it up), for one reason and one reason only…….

MONEY

why

Why? Why?

(Sigh!) Everything always seems to come down to money, doesn’t it. So why should football be any different? And if football comes down to money, why should the Falcons be immune to it? Here’s what I’m referring to.

The way our current 2017 version of the Falcons are constructed, we are on the hook for 57 players at over $159 million dollars. Leaving us roughly $3 million under the salary cap.

Right now, looking forward to the 2018 season, we only have 38 players currently under contract. Moreover, due to increased wages, bonuses, escalators, those 38 players account for over $160 million in salary. About $13 million or so under the cap (give or take a couple of million given we won’t know the true salary cap for quite some time yet.

Just $13 million to add 15 players to get up to the league mandated 53 players. 6 or so players( already lost a 5th rounder to Denver in exchange for Ty Sambrailo) will be added via the draft, costing anywhere from roughly $3 – $5.5 million, depending on where we draft. That leaves 9 players and roughly $8- $10 million to pay them. No free agent spending spree this season, best to just take care of our own. In no particular order, here are the Falcons 2018 free agents, restricted, unrestricted or otherwise.

WR-Taylor Gabriel

WR/KR-Andre Roberts

WR-Nick Williams

RB-Terron Ward

OG/OT-Austin Pasztor

DT-Dontari Poe

DE-Adrian Clayborne

DE/DT-Courtney Upshaw

DT-Joe Vellano

LB-LaRoy Reynolds

LB-Jordan Tripp

LB/SS-Kemal Ismael

CB-Blidi Wre-Wilson

S-Ricardo Allen

CB-CJ Goodwin

S-Sharrod Neasman

K-Matt Bryant

who

Who do you keep?

Who do you keep from here, keeping in mind, you only have, at most, $10 million to spend. Dontari Poe? Ideally you’d like to get him long term if you so desired. You could back load his contract, but since he “settled” for $8 million this year, you probably couldn’t get him for much less than $6/7 million on that 1st year. Plus, with guaranteed money and the like, his “cap hit” would more than likely be more anyway. Adrian Clayborne? In the last year of a contract he signed coming off of injury (which is paying him $5 million this year). If we decided we wanted to keep Adrian, that probably means he performed fairly well, which means his “cap hit” would stay around the same, at least. Matt Bryant? Excellent kicker, makes over $3 million. Question: Why would someone pay a kicker that much money, then not trust him with the most important kick in franchise history? (Sorry, said I wouldn’t rehash that). Might take a little less at the tail-end of his career, but you wouldn’t get arguably the best K in Falcons history for less than $2 mil. Ricardo Allen? Finally set to make “big boy” money after 2 years of being an “exclusive rights” free agent, this restricted free agent to be will likely get a contract just under or just over $3 million, depending what level the Falcons decide to tender him at. So, it would appear we would be out of the running for any of our own “big money” free agents. Just have to make due with bargain basement free agents, draft choices and undrafted free agents.

relief

But Dewey… ??

“But Dewey”, you question, “aren’t there some players we could cut to gain some much needed cap relief?”. Excellent question, glad you asked. There are a handful of players that could be jettisoned to make room under the cap.

Matt Schaub-QB. This would net us about $4 million. But then we either draft his replacement, forcing us to have a rookie back up QB for 2018, or we sign one, which would take away anywhere from $1-2 million we just saved.

Jalen Collins -CB. Probably happening this season. Can definitely see it happening before 2018. Helps. But really only saves us about $1million.

Andy Levitre-OG. Ah, the guard everyone loves to hate. His 2018 cap hit is over $8 million. Cutting him frees up over $7 million. Question: What is the weakest spot on our offensive line currently? Answer: OG Wes Schweitzer. Yes, he’s getting incrementally better each week. But will it continue? What’s his ceiling gonna be? We drafted Pat Harlow, but he was largely unimpressive in pre-season. So much so that we signed an injured player (Pasztor) and traded for a player who’d lost his job (Sambrailo). So we would either have to hope a rookie comes along that can start, and excel, from week #1, sign a replacement, which would take away some of our cap savings, or hope both Schweitzer and Harlow develop. Don’t know about you, but I like Matt Ryan with a nice clean pocket he can step into.

Brooks Reed-DE. Cutting Reed would save about $3.5 million. Reed, so far this season, has been our most consistent overall DE. Yes, we have Beasley and Tak. But in this scenario, we’re already potentially losing Clayborne and Upshaw, do we really want to release another DE to save money?

trades

What about trades?

So, what about trades you say? You don’t want to have to trade a starter unless you’re in “cap hell” or you’re overwhelmed by an offer. I really only see 2 marketable players, who we could get assests (more than likely draft picks) for. RB Tevin Coleman, WR Justin Hardy, neither of who make a crippling amount of money. So, those options don’t really help out the situation I’m referring to.

There are other options to “stretch” the cap. We can rollover any amount we have leftover this season. Right now, that would add a couple of million. We can always “rob Peter to pay Paul”. This is a common practice, re-work some contracts. Problem with that is, you eventually need to pay what is owed. The Saints did this a few years back and won a Super Bowl. They have been a shell of a team ever since. Yearly needing to jettison good players to gain needed cap relief.

So, that’s it. Our Falcons really need to win it all this year. That will allow us to continue to build for the long term, maybe sacrificing a little talent and experience for some green talent that can grow with the existing core that’s on the team now. If not, we’ll be forced to play Russian Roulette with the roster and stare down the loaded barrel of cap chaos.

roulette

Roulette anyone?


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Season Predictions

predictionsI have a question for you. Are you ready? Really? I have been reflecting over this past weekend and frankly, I’m not sure I am. No matter how optimistic I want to be, history tells us to prepare for a down year. History tells us, someone will get injured. What would happen if we lose Matt Ryan for the season? Julio? Devonta? I just keep thinking about Jamaal Anderson in 1999.  I feel like I need to prepare myself for something horrific only because it will make our last real game hurt EVEN more. With that ray of sunshine, let’s go. This is my 5th annual attempt to predict the season. Hopefully, it will be entertaining and if nothing else, give everyone a target.

by Anthony Cooper, “Coop”

Breaking it DOWN!

Let’s look at some interesting facts about the schedule.

  1. The Falcons play 5 nationally televised games this year. Last year we played 2 games, the beat down of both the Saints and the Bucs in their houses. Combined, we scored 93 points in those 2 games.  When you play in the Super Bowl, you get on national television more. We play Green Bay in our home opener on SNF, Sep 17th, travel to New England for SNF on Oct 22nd, head to Seattle for MNF on Nov 20th, host the Saints for TNF on Dec 7th, and the very next week visit Tampa Bay for MNF on Dec 18th. Man, I hope we don’t suck.

  2. The Falcons had multiple back-to-back home games and back-to-back away games last year.  In fact, there were 5 separate such pairs (3 away; 2 home).  This year is interesting in we have 2 runs of multiple home games and 2 runs of multiple away games. We have a 3-game road trip and a 3-game home stand… both unique. 

  3. The Birds have three short weeks. The first, following week eleven’s MNF game in Seattle.  Fortunately, we play at home against Tampa Bay at 1:00pm. The second short week is the TNF vs. New Orleans (week 14) after playing the Vikings at home the week before.  Yikes!  Short week prior to playing a division rival… ugh.  The good news is that it is the last of that 3-game home stand. Finally, we play New Orleans in week 16 following MNF vs. TB 6 days earlier. So… good news… we get to play our arch rival TWICE on short rest. Perfect.
  4. Travel is so much better this year. Other than our trip to Seattle, we don’t go west of New Orleans all year.  Weather should be good as well. We play the AFC and NFC north, but most of the games are front loaded. Seattle in late November is our only real potential for really cold weather. I lived there a couple years… honestly, it’s a crap shoot that time of year.
  5. The Falcons will again play a total of 10 games inside (I have no idea how to predict when our stadium will be open or closed, so I chose to assume we are inside at home) with the Bears, Patriots, Seahawks, Bucs, Jets, and Panthers being outdoors.

record

Path to the Playoffs

Next, let’s examine how the games are arrayed in terms of trying to map a way to the playoffs.  Though recent history has shown that you can make the playoffs with 9 or even 8 wins, most hold to the belief that 10 wins pretty much guarantees you a spot and 11 or 12 should lock up the division.  Of the 16 games, the Falcons play 6 in their own division (2 each against the Saints, Panthers, and Bucs).  If you win all 6, you can take the division to the bank.  At a minimum, you better win 3 and more likely 4 to have decent playoff hopes.

The Falcons have a total of 12 conference games in the NFC.  The 6 we just talked about plus 4 from the NFC North (Bears, Packers, Lions, and Vikings).  We play 3 of 4 in the first 3 games.  If you can win 3 of 4 here, to go with 4 of 6 from above, you have 7 of the 10 wins you need.  I think we win 3 and maybe sweep if we beat the Packers.

The NFC South also matches up with the AFC East this year.  So, we all get to play the Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, and Bills.  Win 3 of these 4 (specifically Dolphins, Jets, and Bills) and you now have 10 wins. 

So that brings you to the last two games to make up the 12 from the NFC.  These are the only games that will differ on our rival’s schedules.  We get the Cowboys and the Seahawks while the Saints drew the Redskins and Rams.  The Bucs got the Giants and the Cardinals while the Panthers drew the Eagles and the Niners.  At first glance, I think we have the toughest two games.  Our Birds should be able to split; I don’t have faith beating the Hawks.

The point I leave you with is this: winning 4 of 6 in the division is a must.  If the Falcons can grab 3 of 4 from the NFC North and 3 of 4 from the AFC East, then split the Cowboys and Seahawks, you have 11 wins and a likely playoff berth. Make no mistake, this is a tough schedule with. But there are some games we should win easily (Bears, Jets, Vikings, Bills, Dolphins, and Lions). We need to win these to buffer against the tougher division games and the brutal Patriots, Seahawks, Cowboys, and Packers.

Of special note, we often debate in the Cage about “this game is huge” vs. others who say, “It’s just a game, they all count the same”.  Actually, they don’t all count the same.  Without going through every procedure (http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakingprocedures), the basic order for tie-breakers is head-to-head, games within the division, games in common, and games within the conference.  So in terms of tiebreakers, all the games within the conference are more important than the AFC games.  In other words, if I can go 12-4 let me win all NFC games at the cost of the AFC games. 

Predictions!

  1. 01cSunday, Sep 10th @ Chicago 1:00 pm: As we lick our wounds from the worst defeat in our franchise history, it is hard not to be concerned. Of course, it is just pre-season, but I hate going 0-4. I hate that we have lost 5 straight games. I don’t like getting comfortable with losing. Remember the last time we went 0-4 in the preseason? It was 2013 after ALMOST making the Super Bowl… we finished the year 4-12. There is some hope here that we start with the Bears. I am surprised we didn’t open on MNF against the Patriots, but we head to the windy city instead. If the Birds don’t get shot in what has become a city so dangerous that people from Detroit say, “… you better not go to Chicago”, then we should win our opener and ease our fears. I predict this game will not be easy and will fuel the Super Bowl hangover dialogue. Not because the Bears are tough, but I think we have some demons to exercise. Fortunately, this will be like a 5th pre-season game against a franchise that has basically always stunk (except that one great season in ’85). Falcons 20 – Bears 12 (1-0)

  2. 02cSunday, Sep 17th vs. Green Bay 8:30 pm: Well, if we don’t beat the Bears, we might be in full blown panic. Meanwhile, Mr. Discount Douchebag will be coming to town to help us open the new stadium. The Packers are not as good as us. They don’t have a good defense and Rodgers line is still suspect. But I would bet my car today that they win this game. Rodgers will want revenge for the thrashing we gave them in the NFC Championship game. And… we, generally suck in huge moments… like opening a new stadium. If I am wrong and we win this game to go 2-0, count me in for the Super Bowl Express. But I see this game as another reason to worry. Packers 33 – Falcons 24 (1-1)

  3. 03cSunday, Sep 24th @ Detroit 1:00 pm:  Matt Stafford is now the highest paid player in football history. I think it is a smart move by the Lions. He is a great QB. Probably more physically talented than Ryan. Too bad the Lions haven’t put enough around him. That said, they did make the playoffs last year and perhaps he is nearing that maturing range that Matt hit last year. Mostly, it pisses me off that he couldn’t get UGA to the championship game. But Mark Richt was a terrible, Mike Smith clone. This game will be decided in Chicago and Atlanta. We are better than the Lions (ok, we are better than everyone except MAYBE New England), but they are good enough to beat us. If we lose to Green Bay and then Detroit, I suggest that we will miss the playoffs and 28-3 will never be avenged. Based on my current predictions to beat Chicago and lose to the Packers, I pick this game as the spot where we start to shake the rust off. I believe in Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan. I think this team is tough. I believe this is the game we regain our hope. Falcons 38 – Lions 18 (2-1)

  4. 04cSunday, Oct 1st vs. Buffalo 1:00pm:   The Bills are an interesting franchise to me. Loyal fans. Gritty northeast town. Four straight Super Bowl appearances. Have you ever been to Buffalo? It sucks. It is stinking cold. I don’t understand why people moved to Buffalo, Cleveland, or Detroit and say, yeah… this is awesome. Let’s live here. On a football note, name the Bills QB. I’ll get another Bourbon while you are thinking. As of now, Nathan Peterman looks to be the week 1 starter (yeah… I never heard of him either, but according to Wikipedia he was drafted in the 5th round out of Pitt). Tyrod Taylor should be back from concussion protocol, but if not, it will be Peterman or T.J. Yates. You remember how awesome Yates is, don’t you? This game is in our house. It is meaningless to the Bills who could be on their 3rd QB of the season. If we don’t win this game, pack it in. Falcons 31 – Bills 6 (3-1)

  5. BYE Week (WAY TOO EARLY FRO MY TASTE)

  6. Sunday, Oct 15th vs. Miami 1:00 pm: Another team without a QB. What? You say they signed Jay Cutler??? HAHAHAHAHAHA! What, was Tomy Romo not available? Look, the Dolphins have talent. This will be a tough day for our offense. But Jay Cutler stinks and a couple of well-placed hits and he will fold. I think Jarrett and Poe start to look like a force of nature in this game. Tak gets his first sack and Cutler doesn’t finish the game. Falcons 17 – Dolphins 3 (4-1)

  7.  Sunday, Oct 22nd @ New England 8:30 pm:  I can’t. I just can’t. I… I just can’t.  Patriots 24 – Falcons 13 (4-2)

    08c

  8. Sunday, Oct 29th @ New York Jets 1:00 pm: The Jets are going to be terrible this year. If you keep up with them at all, you probably see that they seem to be tanking the season to get the #1 overall draft pick. Many think they want to draft the QB out of USC or UCLA. There is a recurring message in my picks; if you don’t have a QB, it is awfully tough to be competitive. So, I can’t honestly blame them. Every year there is a team or two that find a way to get by with a serviceable QB, but the teams that compete every year need that franchise signal caller that the Jets haven’t had. This game should be a blowout. Then again, the Jets beat us 2 years ago in Mike Smith’s embarrassing last season. We rebound from “the rematch” and handle a weak team that wants to lose. Falcons 42 – Jets 3 (5-2)

    09c

  9. Sunday, Nov 5th @ Carolina 1:00 pm: We hit the halfway point with a solid record built against a fairly soft schedule to this point. Things get tough from here on. I hope my predictions are correct, because we have the chance to build a lead in the standings before facing some tough challenges. Some are predicting that the Kittens will return to form this year. Perhaps. I still don’t believe in Scam Newton. For all his physical gifts, he lacks football IQ and leadership. He consistently shows that he cares more about Cam than anything else. I also think their D is still weak and ripe for Matt to carve up again. The wild card for me is McCaffrey. This kid looks dynamic. If he can be what they hope, then it will help their offense and lead to easier play for Cam. But this game comes down to whether they can keep up with our offense, because I think their D is still suspect. This will be closer than last year, but the Panthers are aging.  Falcons 31 – Panthers 17 (6-2)

  10. 10cSunday, Nov 12th vs. Dallas 4:25 pm:  I’m really glad the Cowboys lost last year and we got to host the NFC Championship game. But, it prevented us from beating them, so I have had to listen to all their fans saying they would have beaten us and won the Super Bowl. Hogwash. Even in Dallas, we would have destroyed this team. I am a firm believer in the sophomore slump for QBs. Elliot may or may not be suspended (who the hell knows), but regardless he will be back for this game unless there is a TRO now that is lifted and he serves the suspension later in the season. The best thing about Dallas is their O-Line. They will protect Dak and open holes for their running game. But they don’t have the defense to stop the Birds. More so than Carolina, this could be a shootout. Dallas should watch the Seattle and Green Bay tape from last year. Don’t bring a knife to a shootout with these Birds. Falcons 38 – Cowboys 35 (7-2)

  11. Monday, Nov 20th @ Seattle 8:30 pm Atlanta has really played Seattle strong the last few years. Outside of their division, the only other team that plays them as well as Atlanta is probably Green Bay. We had a great match in Seattle last year, but weren’t able to grab the W. I was very nervous to face them in the playoffs. After we trounced them, I was certain we would go to the Super Bowl and win. What was the difference in the 2 games against Seattle? The Falcons matured later in the season and became dominant. But I really think the venue plays a big role. Something about playing up there with e 12th man is a real advantage for them. I predict another close game, and another tough loss. Seahawks 24 – Falcons 20 (7-3)

  12. sappSunday, Nov 26th vs. Tampa Bay 1:00 pm: Tampa Bay is on the come. They will be the biggest divisional threat to our return to the playoffs. But they are intimidated by Atlanta. During the Warren Sap days, we were intimidated by them, but with the best QB, WR, and RB in the division (if not the league) make no mistake… the division fears our birds. Now, Winston is a very good QB and a leader that the Bucs rally around. I am not sold yet that he has reached his potential for decision making in their system. They have added playmakers to assist him, but it takes some time for all of it to synch. This late in the season worries me, because they may be putting it together and pushing for the playoffs. Another issue is that we learned today they will take their BYE in week 1 due to the hurricane. So, who knows what that will do to them physically and mentally.  Falcons 27 – Bucs 21 (8-3)

  13. 13cSunday, Dec 3rd vs. Minnesota 1:00 pm: Since I retired, I started consulting for a great company. My boss, the owner, is from Minnesota. She has box seats in their stadium. I was hoping this game would be there and that she would invite me up to watch. The scheduling gods did not deliver. I have been needling her that we should go to Atlanta to catch the game, so who knows… Minnesota is a solid team. But are they playoff good? No. Why does Sam Bradford still have a job? Am I the only one who doesn’t think he is any good? He’s not terrible, but I think I take Jay Cutler over Bradford. It doesn’t matter, because he will likely be out on IR by this point in the season. If Atlanta plays offensively like we are capable, this is another team that could get blown out. When we get up by 10 points or more, our defense really shines. It will on this day as well. Falcons 34 – Vikings 13 (9-3)

  14. 14cThursday, Dec 7th vs. New Orleans 8:25 pm:  Hello Newman! We finally meet our arch rival. I think it is interesting that we play them so late in the season. I have us solidly in the playoff picture at this point. Will the Saints be a playoff contender? Hell no. Let’s face it, without Drew Brees, this is the Browns or Jaguars (again, showing how important a good QB is to a franchise). But it is a short week for us and the historical mockery these two teams have made of each other over the years is astounding. I am never shy about my utter disgust and hatred of the New Orleans Saints over any other sports team on the planet. I hate them, their city, their fans. I hate France because of the French Quarter and I hate Bourbon because of Bourbon St… uh… well, perhaps I’ve gone too far. The Saints will be awful this year and lucky to win 4 games. Unfortunately, this will be one of them, because it’s just what we do.  Saints 45 – Falcons 31 (9-4)

  15. Monday, Dec 18th @ Tampa Bay 8:30 pm:  After the short week and the embarrassing loss on national TV, we get a longer rest before another nationally televised game against ol’ crab legs. The Bucs will be looking for payback and to prove that they can compete. They will be looking to grab a playoff spot if not win the division. This is an important and pivotal game for that crown. Just as we got stronger down the stretch last season, I predict some struggles down the stretch this season. I haven’t talked a lot about Freeman’s contract, but I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like the talk before the big game last year and I didn’t like the talk before pre-season. For my money, I would have traded him. I think we wasted money and I think the football gods have a way of disciplining teams that succumb to non-Brotherhood actions. What shape will our team be in late in the season? Injuries, the letdown against the Saints, the constant 28-3 reminders… let’s be real. We are going to see how mentally tough this team really is. And after this night, we will start to question whether they are going to flame out. Most think the early season success will prove there is no hangover. I predict the closer we get to the playoffs, the tighter that noose will squeeze. Bucs 24 – Falcons 19 (9-5)

  16. 12cSunday, Dec 24th @ New Or1eans 1:00 pm: Did I mention I hate New Orleans? Ugh. I hate even thinking about this city. But, the Birds must travel to the Big Sleazy once a year to play in the FEMA dome. So here we are… reeling after two straight losses that will have the Buc only a game behind for the division crown. The Cage will be starting to wonder if we even make the playoffs and how we would fair if we lost the last 4 games of the season to back in to a wild card birth. I do expect the Falcons to struggle. I expect their testicular fortitude to be questioned by the media and fans alike. And it is at this point, that we will all wonder if the whole thing is blowing up right in our face. Be prepared for this season being compared to THAT game. Running out to 9 wins only to finish 9-7. But Cage, your Christmas present this year is going to be balls. Huge brass balls. Cause Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Grady Jarrrett, and Dan Quin are going to say on Christmas Eve, enough. The Falcons’ brotherhood will be tested, but our leaders on this team will exert their will. And the Saints and their fans will choke on our huge brass balls. Falcons 38 – Saints 10 (10-5)

  17. Sunday, Dec 31st vs. Carolina 1:00 pm: We finish the season against the crybaby that is Sham “Fig” Newton. This clown is such a jerk that we often forget what a terrible passer he is. Mark it down, the media will be wondering aloud if Cam is just another Mike Vick by the end of the season. Incredibly gifted feet, but dumb decision maker with accuracy problems. It’s a shame too since he’s such a wonderful human being. Ha! Carolina is actually a likeable team except for this jerk. Kind of the antithesis of New Orleans which absolutely putrid except for Drew Brees who is a class act. The thing that I think of most when I think of Cam is… he quits. He is a quitter. He has no moral fiber and as I stated above, we have huge brass balls. The Panthers season will already be over and they will be ready to go home. Not all of them. They have several ballers with heart. But when your QB has quit… well, it won’t be enough. The Birds will need this game to win the division. They get it and a first round bye just like last year. Unlike last year, they will have to play on the road to make it to the Super Bowl… and it will be cold as hell when we get to Green Bay. Falcons 28 – Panthers 13 (11-5)

    16c

What’s your Predictions???


 

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OF THE 2O17 ATLANTA FALCONS PRESEASON………….SO FAR.

By John Waynesworld

THE GOOD

Cagers, we are in the midst of our preseason games and are finally getting close to that road to redemption beginning with Week One in Chicago. We’ve seen plenty of good performances from the 1st team offense and defense as they already appear to be ready for some Soldier Field action. Ryan and company look efficiently scary despite no Julio and running a vanilla scheme. We also seem to have a few rookie wide receivers who want badly to play on Sundays. Our running back battle was no such thing as Terron Ward already flexed his RB3 muscle over a rep-desperate Brian Hill.

The “Who’s Our Guard” drama was just that…Drama. We don’t have a replacement for Chris Chester, we have several. Garland and Schweitzer were both up for the task so far, plus Austin Pasztor was just acquired and could fit in at Guard if needed.

ALEX MACK PHINS

Despite national pundits still trying to figure out what Matt Ryan did to get himself better last year, Falcons fans know the secret to Matt’s and our Offense’s success in 2016 started with Alex Mack’s skill at Center and his leadership. As far as Chester, he was a fine but aging player and was last year’s beneficiary of Mack’s excellence in leading an offensive line. Either Garland or Schweitzer will work well at Right Guard nestled between the All-Pro Mack and one of the NFL’s top Right Tackles in Ryan Shraeder.

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Defensively our 1st team guys were flashing, as sports pundits love to say, but speed does indeed flash on the TV screen at times, and our defense was downright blurry. I am going to enjoy watching opposing screen plays blown up by our Linebackers.

DUKE11b

Rookie Duke Riley made back-to-back plays against Pittsburgh on their 2nd possession that showed his speed and instincts. The first play (above) began with a gaping hole and a running back accelerating through it. It had all the elements and visual spacing of a breakaway run but within an instant Riley shot to his right and had #33 down like a roped calf. I can’t believe that kid made it all the way to #75.

 

THE BAD

falcons 0033

There was also plenty of bad to see with poor blocking from our offensive backups. Our UDFA Tackles  were over-matched by NFL speed and penalties on the interior were a problem. It is possible that QB3 Matt Simms’ pass/run decision issues were a by-product of his protection because Simms looked better behind whichever O-Line Schaub had in front of him when he left early, but got progressively inaccurate with happy feet later in games.

 

falcons 5544

Defensively our backups are a concern, but not quite as bad as last year. Quinn keeps making out team better and better, but last week our defensive backups gave nearly 100 yards to Pittsburgh’s rookie James Conner and they lost leads in both matchups. In a slight defense of the defense, I thought a few of the penalties called against us in the 1st two games were bogus. Thankfully, Quinn has made the Jalen Collins distraction go away by employing a talented roster of rotational DBs to take his place.

 

THE UGLY

As far as the ugly, well, that’s for each individual football fan’s taste. A few might give the entire Special Teams group this award, but we know some of the Falcons regulars would normally be manning those ST spots now occupied by camp bodies. Some may give a career ugly award to Jalen Collins or the “Olé” award to the UDFA Tackle Brunskill vs Pittsburgh, but for me it was rookie Tight End Eric Saubert.

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From watching years of “Hard Knocks”, I know the coaches are spitting nails at this guy in the film room and he payed them back the next week with more painful film to scream at. With all the penalty flags thrown Eric’s way, his nickname should be “Eric the Yellow”. Flags by rookies in preseason games are like coffin nails. He should be happy with the Practice Squad.

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MO BROTHERHOOD FALCONS

So while we wait on September 10th in Chicago to arrive, let’s hear from the Cagers… Who makes your ‘impressed’ list, which players are not impressing that need to, what names are on the 90 that have zero chance of making this team, who are the depth chart movers and who are the gem or gems that will sneak into the 53?

Falcons Corners

03

by Dewey

Triangle? Square? Pentagon? Octagon? How many corners will the Falcons defense have? (Wait for laughter to die down and….), but seriously, the Falcons find themselves with an embarrassment of riches at the all important cornerback position heading into the 2017 summer workouts. With the NFL becoming more and more a passing league, and teams becoming more and more reliant on sub-packages, I guess you can never have too many cover men. But how many will the Falcons keep on the final 53 and how many will be among the 46 dressed on Sundays? We currently have a first rounder, 2 second rounders, 1 undrafted rookie and 3 castoffs, all of whom have seen significant playing time, and all who have played pretty well under some pressure filled situations. Now we add to the mix a 5th round rookie who by all rights should battle for significant playing time. Who will be the last few standing come September?

12

DESMOND TRUFANTxxxxxI had been pretty vocal on my displeasure with the Falcons rolling over and presenting Desmond with a big check without even testing the waters to see what type of deals might be available. Desmond is a good corner, but the defense actually played better (or 02put up better numbers at least) after Desmond was lost with an injury mid-2016. But with a new monster contract, Desmond will be a Falcon for quite some time. So let’s pencil him in at our #1 CB and hope he produces what his contract implies.

ROBERT ALFORDxxxxxThe player every Falcon fan loves to hate. Personally, I’ve always liked Alford. I could do with a few less penalties, which he did, in fact, clean-up in the back half of 2016. Alford has been our #2 CB since arriving via the 2013 draft with Desmond, and like Desmond, has a shiny new contract that will make him a Falcon for the foreseeable future. I like the way he takes chances for turnovers, something his06 counterpart doesn’t seem to do as often. I’ve seen where folks would like to see him tried out at FS, but since there have been no rumblings from the branch about this, we’ll go ahead and slide Alford into CB #2 spot.

JALEN COLLINSxxxxxBoy, I really didn’t like this pick in the 2nd round of 2015. Troubled past, not a lot of starting time at LSU, and didn’t put up impressive numbers when he did play. Really slow to pick up even the fundamentals when he got to “big boy school”, it looked as if this was a dud pick. 2016 didn’t start off any better for Jalen, as he was suspended the 1st four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Then coming off suspension, he was inactive for a few games and it looked like we might have to admit our folly in drafting Jalen. Then came the Trufant injury and Collins was forced to play. To everyone’s surprise, amazement and awe, Jalen actually played steady 04(further fueling my desire to at least shop Desmond). Jalen can be a solid #3 CB, but not a nickel. Ultimately, when we go to 3 corners, Jalen plays the outside and Alford would assume slot duties. One has to wonder though, has the Falcons FO had its collective fill of Jalen? Only 1 slip-up with the league so far, but is that, coupled with his past, and the fact that he was so slow to grasp the process, enough to make the Falcons look in another direction? More on that later.

BRIAN POOLExxxxxPoole burst onto the Atlanta scene as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016. He impressed enough that he was the 3rd CB in the first 4 games while Jalen was serving his suspension, then continued in that role after Jalen returned and subsequently after Trufant was injured. Coach Dan Quinn intimated this past off season that Poole would get some work at safety. Obviously, some people ran with that and said Poole was being moved to safety. I don’t believe that to be the case. I believe Poole will get some work07 there to be familiar with the position in case of injury and to have more roster flexibility with the final 53 and the dressed 46. Right now, I believe Poole has the inside track on the 4th CB slot in dime situations.

DEJI OLATOYExxxxxAs 2016 wore on, the Falcons made a couple of minor roster moves to their practice squad with a couple of free agent CB’s. One, that we will get to in a moment, was more the “headliner” of the signings. The other, Olatoye, was barely even noticed. But down the stretch run to the playoffs and on into the playoffs and Super Bowl, it was Olatoye that proved to be the better signing, as he played steady, within himself, when called upon.

BLIDI WREH-WILSONxxxxxBlidi is the aforementioned “headliner” signing the Falcons made when filling out their practice squad. More heralded than Olatoye, Wilson did an admirable job when called 08upon, but it was clear that he was behind Olatoye in the pecking order. Good size and speed that Quinn likes, Wreh-Wilson may be fighting an uphill battle to earn a roster spot.

C.J.GOODWINxxxxxTalk about size, speed and athleticism! C.J. has it all except experience. A college WR along with playing WR his first couple of years in the league, C.J. made the switch to the defensive side of the ball in 2016 and showed some really good ability. Mostly a special teamer in 2016, CJ did find his way on defense a few times and was relied on even more during the post-season. There were also rumors of C.J. getting some looks at safety.

DAMONTAE KAZEExxxxxOne of our 2017 5th round draft picks, Kazee is going to be the wild card on how the CB10 situation plays out this fall. Smallish and more quick than fast, Damontae has a penchant for turnovers, something this defense could use more of (2 ways to stifle the opposing offense, stop ‘em or just take the damn ball from them). If, if, if, if, if Kazee can come into camp and win the 3rd/4th CB spot, things could get a whole lot more interesting in our defensive backfield, personnel wise.

Trufant and Alford are the starters, period. At the end of last season, Jalen had proved himself capable of being the #3 CB, playing the outside in nickel and dime situations. But if Poole improves and provides solid depth at the safety position AND Kazee comes in and performs like everyone hopes, Jalen could find himself on the outside looking in come 2018 (where he 11could be traded/released to provide some much needed cap space).

MY PREDICTION:

The Falcons will break camp with 7 CB’s on the roster. My feeling is Trufant, Alford, Collins, Poole, Kazee, Olatoye and Goodwin all make the club. Poole and Goodwin will also be used for depth at the FS position. I believe we could see a defensive alignment were all 7 are on the field at once (I call this the Knee-Jerk-Reaction-to-Blowing-a-Huge-Lead-to-the-Patriots-in-the-Super Bowl defense). Or maybe we’ll just call it the “Heptagon Defense”.

(And Yes, I’m aware that a heptagon actually means 7 angles, but that also means there are 7 vertices, or “corners” to the layman….I went to elementary school too ya know.)

01

Falcons Draft: A Retrospective

Grading the Atlanta Falcons Draft

by Dewey

With the Falcons 2017 draft square in our rearview mirrors, everybody with an opinion and access to the internet is quick to give out letter grades for a bunch of prospects who haven’t stepped one foot on a professional football field, either in practice or a game. Though there is nothing wrong with the process of grading the most current draft, it is hardly an exact science. The NFL draft is, year-in and year-out, my absolute favorite televised sporting event. I love playing armchair GM, speculating on all the “what if’s” and “if only’s”. Another reason I love the draft is it’s the perfect time of year for reflecting.

It is said that you can’t truly know how good a draft is or isn’t for 2-3 years. I prefer 3 years. A player’s rookie season is all about learning. Schemes, verbiage, speed, not to mention a complete culture shock. It’s difficult for rookies to make much of an impact (in general). A player’s second season is when they tend to make the biggest jump as far as on field production. With all of the “new” worn off, 2nd year players are able to do more reacting on the field rather than thinking. By a player’s third year in the league, the player and his team pretty much know who they are…starter, reserve, rotational, situational, special teamer, whatever. So, to me, this is the perfect opportunity to go back in time and re-grade an older draft.

So, without further ado, I give you…..

 

1-coulda

He coulda been a contenda…

 

THE ATLANTA FALCONS 2014 DRAFT

2-injuryRound #1, 6th overall-Jake Mathews, RT, Texas A&M
Jake was brought in to solidify the RT spot until such a time that he could take over for another 1st round pick, Sam Baker, at LT. Well, the future came all too quick as Sam Baker suffered a season ending knee injury (surprise!) forcing Jake to the LT spot early in his rookie career, a spot he has not relinquished since. And, although Jake has been steady at LT, he has not been spectacular. Technically sound with brains to spare, Jake can still get bullied from time to time and has been developing a penchant for untimely penalties. One starts to wonder if Jake wouldn’t be better off at another position, RT, G or maybe even C one day. Every season seems to have the same story line for Jake, “He wasn’t all that impressive, but he played through nagging injuries all season.” That’s all well and good, except for 2 problems, (1) he wasn’t all that impressive and (2) he played through nagging injuries all season. It’s time for Jake to either start being impressive or stop with all the nagging injuries. Having just had his 5th year option on his rookie contract picked up, Jake will more than likely be given the chance through the 2018 season to prove he was the 6th best player in the 2014 draft

GRADE: 81


3-workRound #2, 37th overall-Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Baby ‘Shede came in to the Falcons with all the size and potential in the world, but with a less than stellar work ethic. Flashes of brilliance are often disrupted by long periods of “where the hell is Hageman?” The beginning of the 2016 campaign didn’t start too well for Hageman as there were reports of domestic violence along with being inactive for early season games, flaming speculation that Hageman’s days in a Falcons uniform were numbered. A light came on for Ra’Shede in the second half of 2016 and he started to resemble the player we’d all envisioned when he was drafted in April of 2014. One thing has always been true for Hageman going back to his rookie season…if he’s properly motivated, Hageman can be a major force to be reckoned with on the football field. Fortunately for Falcons fans, not much inspires Hageman more than going face to face with Cam Newton or Drew Brees. Something about those 2 guys brings out the nasty in Hageman. It’s contract year for “Shede, so I can expect we’ll be seeing his best game in and game out in 2017. If not, we’ll be seeing him in another uniform in 2018.

GRADE: 73


4-flashRound #3, 68th overall-Dezmen Southward, FS, Wisconsin
Oh deary. Who’s to blame for this horrible pick. Ex-coach Smitty who never seemed to have a handle on what type of players or what type of defense he wanted? Thomas Dimitroff, who seemed to have an affinity for the “measurables” and players from the Midwest (particularly Wisconsin)? Going into the 2014 draft, the Falcons had no real FS on the roster, but seemed fine with letting this position wait until the 3rd round of the draft, and choosing a player that was rated by most “draft experts” as a 5th rounder at best. Lightning speed with incredible quickness and reach, Dezmen never got his feet on the ground under Smitty. Enter Dan Quinn who tried a position change to CB in an attempt to harness all that God given talent. It was to no avail. Dezmen was released in November of 2015 having played in just 3 games that season. Later signed to the Colts practice squad, Dezmen was released with an injury settlement in September of 2016. In December of 2016, Dezmen landed on Carolina’s practice squad where he was granted a futures contract.

GRADE: 12


5-strengthRound #4, 103rd overall-Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
There’s no need to go into all of the accolades of the diminutive RB with the Big heart. If you don’t know them,shame on you. 2 pro-bowls, back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, 29 total touchdowns already, etc., etc., etc. Tailor made for the zone blocking scheme Atlanta now employs, you really couldn’t ask for much more from Devonta than what he has produced during his 3 years in Atlanta(except possibly better representation at the contract table).

GRADE: 99 (taking off 1 point for a horrendous missed block at the most inopportune time)

 

 


6-wolfRound #4, 139th overall, Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame
Prince had his troubles before he ever became a Falcon. Accused of sexual assault on a female student at Notre Dame who eventually committed suicide. He was also suspended his Senior year of High School for throwing a desk at a teacher who took away his cell phone. Prince came into Atlanta under ideal conditions. Not a lot of talent or depth at the LB position. Prince got to play and did pretty well for himself. Even being counted on as a probable starter for the 2015 season. Then, in May of 2015, Prince was viscously attacked by his girlfriends dog. Fearing for his life, Prince bravely, valiantly fought off the onslaught by kicking the dog until the dog had ceased living. The dog was a Yorkshire Terrier. For those of you unfamiliar with Yorkshire Terriers, they are about as big as a grown man’s foot. Prince was gone the moment the story broke. No one would touch him after that. End of story.

Grade: 0


7-strikerRound #5, 147th overall, Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue
What a ride for Ricardo. Allen spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. Exit Mike Smith. Enter Dan Quinn. Mix in a position change to free safety and voila…instant starter. That’s pretty much how it went for the smallish Ricardo. He has shown the ability to stick his head in and make a tackle, break up passes and even pick off a couple. A very smart player with a fabulous work ethic and study habits, and becoming more of a defensive field general each year, Ricardo Allen might not be the best FS in the league, but what he offers you is steadiness. Game in and game out you pretty much know exactly what you’ll get from Ricardo. Everything he’s got.

Grade: 79


8-argonautsRound #5, 168th overall, Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that Marquis blew out his knee and we never got the chance to see what he could do, or the fact that Thomas Dimitroff traded a 6th and 7th round pick to move up and acquire him. Marquis was a head scratcher for most Falcons fans. Too small to continue at MLB, too slow to be an OLB or SS. After Marquis lost his rookie season to reconstructive knee surgery, he came back under rookie head coach Dan Quinn and didn’t make it through pre-season before being cut. In 2016 he signed on with the Toronto Argonauts in April but was released in June. Talk about a tale of “what might have been?”. What if Marquis hadn’t blown out his knee? What if the Falcons hadn’t traded up for him and he was drafted by another team? Does he still blow his knee out? Sad really.

Grade: 0


10-slowRound #7, 253rd overall, Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
I know I wasn’t the only one excited when we snatched up Yawin in the 7th round. I had seen projections with him going as high as the 4th round. Big bodied middle linebacker, Smallwood was going to be the diamond in the rough that we always look for. One small problem though. Yawin was slow…I mean really slow. Slow to move, slow to recognize, slow to react, just all around slow. Oh, he could hit you, and hard. He had to catch you first, and that was difficult. If you ran the ball straight up the middle, you didn’t have a chance to get by Yawin, 3 feet to the left or right, and a RB was home free. Yawin was cut at the end of August that year, signed on to Tennessee’s practice squad for 2015 & 16. He’s currently a free agent.

Grade: 0


11-starrRound #7, 255th overall, Tyler Starr, LB South Dakota
I remember thinking 2 things about Tyler when the Falcons drafted him at the tail end of the draft, (1) damn, his fiancé is hot, and (2) I bet of all the LB’s we drafted in this draft, Tyler ends up having the biggest impact. Turns out I was correct on both counts, sort of. Tyler’s fiancé now wife was and still is hot and by making the 53 man roster in 2014 and the practice squad in 2015 (later promoted to 53 man roster), Tyler at least outlasted any of the other LB’s drafted in 2014. Career stats: 1 game played, 1 tackle. Tyler was injured in the preseason in 2016 and was waived/injured. He is currently a free agent.

Grade: 10(for his wife, Megan)


Using my very scientific grading system, that comes up to 354 points divided by 9 players chosen for an average score of 39.33 per pick. By all rights, that’s a failing grade. However, There are currently 3 starters from this draft, including 1 two-time pro bowler plus 1 rotational player who is a major contributor to this young, up and coming defense. So that’s 4 main contributors out of 9 picks, which is outstanding after 3 years, and under the Smitty/Dimitroff regime, quite possibly the best draft they had together.

Tune in next year when I spotlight the 2015 draft (the first under Dan Quinn).

Thanks for listening.

9-armchair

The Atlanta Falcons: Post Draft Analysis

SHADOW

by Roddy E. “Seminole Warrior” Nixon, Jr.

Well, the 2017 edition of the NFL’s Annual Selection Meetings, aka the NFL Draft, has come and gone. After a couple of days to assess the workings of the Atlanta front office, we here at Tee Pee Sports decided to take a closer look. The Falcons went into this draft with concerning needs at several positions. Among these were offensive line, defensive line (particularly a defensive end/pass rusher), safety, and linebacker.

TeePeeSports_150Tee Pee Sports will now take a look at the players selected, assign a grade, and give an outlook in regards to anticipated impact on the team. The FINAL OVERALL draft grade assessed to the team by Cocoa Mel and Tee Pee Sports is C+.

The draft could have been better despite an overall weak class in many areas. As you will see, the Falcons did well in some areas and not so good in others. The trade in the first round may have been essential if the player selected TRULY was the man we wanted all the time. Only the shadow knows!!

But this front office has a history, more troubling than productive, of making moves up for players that are more “splash” than “solid”. So, let’s see how it all played out in the eyes of the Tee Pee.


ROUND ONE

DE/OLB Takkarist McKinley – University of California, Los Angeles Grade: A

takThe Falcons HAD to address their pass rush. I hate that they had to move up in the draft to do so but I have no issues with the player they selected. I am going to be this kid’s biggest fan!!

Takkarist McKinney represents an emerging talent. He is filled with an intense degree of pride and dedication. He is driven by something GREATER than football. He wants to succeed not because he stands to make millions in the process. TM has a much higher, more personal reason to represent himself well and leave a legacy. And it is that edge that Tee Pee Sports senses will result in the greatest Falcons pass rusher since John Abraham wore our colors.

TM is still developing his skill set. But make no mistake. It has the potential to be one HELL of a skill set. His game has grown each year during his time at UCLA as has his role. A review of video reflects a player that is a bonified pass rushing specialist. But the same video review indicates that there is still a raw nature to his game in terms of technique. He does not possess a dominate move (i.e., Reggie White’s famous club move) but he still gets to the target.

Quality coaching and improved technique will certainly be essential in developing this talented player. His combination of speed, aggression, and drive can’t be taught. And if properly enhanced, he is going to become one of the league’s most feared defenders. Expect an ascent very similar to that of former first round pick and Deacon Jones Award winner, Vic Beasley. Four to six sacks this season is likely but by year three, double digit sacks each season should be the norm.


ROUND THREE

OLB/ILB Duke Riley – Louisiana State University. Grade: D

rileyThe Falcons needed depth at the linebacker position but to select a special team ace with one year of experience at this point in the draft was not the approach TPS would have taken. First, Riley is an undersized linebacker who put on some twelve pounds just to get to the 232 he was listed at for the NFL Combine. Second, his coverage skills are questionable when one takes a look at the tape. Granted, he has a very quick step and may offer some promise as a blitzing linebacker (evident on tape), the total package is not there. Sure, he followed in the footsteps of former Tiger Deion Jones, TPS does not feel that he is as complete a package as Jones was. Using a third -round selection was not in order here as TPS sees Riley as a future special team linchpin and a quality reserve player.

At this point, given the need and value, Tee Pee Sports would have taken, instead of Riley, Pittsburgh offensive guard Dorian Johnson would have been the choice. Johnson would be an instant plug and play at right guard in his rookie season. In the zone blocking scheme, Johnson displayed, as his tape reflects, solid footwork and solid blocking technique. Further review reflects a solid performance in both pass protection and opening lanes for running backs.

An alternate to Johnson, Tee Pee Sports also considered CB Fabian Moreau from UCLA. Moreau’s 6 foot, 205lb frame and talents would have been great opposite Desmond Trufant and would have allowed me to use the skill set of Robert Alford in his new position, free safety.


ROUND FOUR

OG Sean Harlow – Oregon State University Grade: C+

harlowOffensive line depth had to be addressed in this draft. At this point, Sean Harlow represents a solid pick and quality value at this point. He is a versatile lineman and is capable according to scouting reports of playing all positions along the line. Some reports we here at TPS looked at compared Harlow’s game to that of former New York Giant and current Fox broadcaster, David Diehl. If that is the case, given Diehl’s fifth round selection by the Giants and his ensuing eleven-year career, this may be a quality find. This was a good selection in an overall not too impressive offensive line class.

NOTE: The Falcons are STILL in need of OL depth across the board. 2018 looks to be a better OL class.


ROUND FIVE:

RB Brian Hill – University of Wyoming Grade: B+

hillOutstanding value and a fine pick at this point. The Falcons were hurt several times last season by the lack of size and power when attempting the inside rushing game. Courtesy of the Mountain West Conference, those days may well be over in Atlanta now. Brian Hill is a PERFECT counter to the skill set of Devonta Freeman in the Atlanta rushing attack. The 220 pounder runs with a purpose. There is a little Michael Turner in his game as he can be deceptively effective and hit another gear on sweeps and around the end. Video review of Hill shows a power back that grinds out the tough yards. He is a solid blocker as well. The perfect red-zone compliment for Atlanta and the perfect spell-man for Freeman. Most of all, review of the tape reveals one of the most secure ballhandlers in college football over the past two years.

However, Hill is not the most gifted receiving option. But that is not why we are bringing him to Atlanta. There are a few minor things to clean up in his game but this is a VERY solid pick.


ROUND FIVE:

TE Eric Saubert – Drake University Grade: D

saubertAt this point in any draft, a few chances are taken. Some turn out to be the rare discoveries and others just fade into the twilight. I really do not know what to think of the selection of Eric Saubert. We do not have a lot of depth at tight end; Austin Hooper shows flashes of potential and will have every chance to emerge big time in 2017. Every other tight end on the roster is living on borrowed time.

In the limited film study, TPS noted that Saubert was much more inconsistent than I care to see. There are some things there to build upon. There is nice size and speed. At times, his routes look nice. But….

Here comes that word again – consistency. It’s missing in action too often. We saw easy passes dropped. He saw a lack of effort in blocking too often. Overall game would run hot and cold too easily. Honestly, Tee Pee Sports thinks that the Falcons would have been better off here with perhaps, another offensive line selection.


ROUND FIVE: CB/S Damontae Kazee – San Diego State University Grade: B-

kazeeI love the Mountain West. And for a defense that relies on depth at defensive back, the Falcons found pretty VERY GOOD value here if they are looking for the ultimate “nickel” corner. Damontae Kazee is the real deal. He is very solid in slot. DK displays a very nice talent suite; a fine feel for the ball; reads the quarterback well and understands how to attack passing lanes. DK further displays a nice ability to jump routes having secured FIFTEEN interceptions over the last two years. This pick DEFINES value.

So, there you have it. The 2017 edition of what the defending NFC Champions need to address in the eyes of the Tee Pee. Let the discussion, pro or con, now begin….

The Annual Tee Pee Sports Mock Draft

TeePeeSports2017 Edition


Cocoa Mel, aka Seminole Warrior, the CEO of Tee Pee Sports, managing six of picks for the 2017 NFL Annual Selection Meeting, and acting as lead agent for the Atlanta Falcons, respectfully submit the following selections. Our vision: The building of a team core and laying a foundation for the future.

As always, I want to pay homage to my draft mentors, Sensei Ozzie Newsome and Mel Kiper. Like the great Sensei, we will NEVER reach for a player; we will simply move on to the best player available at an immediate position of need. After all, our single mission is to acquire and develop productive football players.

Simply put, an infusion of defensive talent continues to be first and foremost for the team. So, let us get right to the heart and soul of the matter in the two rounds.

ROUND ONE

PRIMARY: OLB/ILB Jarrad Davis – University of Florida

SECONDARY: OLB/ILB Zach Cunningham – Vanderbilt University

First, to HELL with this bull—- of converting K. Ismael to linebacker. We need the depth at safety. This is one stupid move in the eyes of Tee Pee Sports. Sorry. I got carried away. Back to regular programming.

The Atlanta Falcons have not had a presence at middle linebacker since the release of Curtis Lofton. We attempted to change that last season with a mid-round selection. Post Super Bowl, it is now PRIORITY ONE.

1

Jarrad Davis, Zach Cunningham

Davis and/or Cunningham would bring INSTANT impact to the core of the Falcons defense. Both of these guys are serious football players, strong leaders, and astute students of the game. Both members of this dynamic SEC duo were clearly among the most productive and tenacious linebackers Tee Pee Sports has scouted in some time. Their drive and desire are relentless; both possess great sideline to sideline range as well as excellent anticipation skills, and utilize solid tackling techniques.

Both Davis and/or Cunningham can be disruptive when asked to blitz and either player would be an upgrade in pass coverage skills over any linebacker currently on the roster. Both tend to be a little overactive at times but quality coaching can clean this up in short order. Each represents the real deal!!!

Acquiring either of these immense talents and pairing him with rising stars Deion Jones and Vic Beasley would give the Falcons a linebacker corps of unparalleled talent, youth, and potential. The key elements of versatility, speed, tenacity, and improved coverage ability would IMMEDIATELY UPGRADE the intermediate pass game defense that was SERIOUSLY exposed by the Patriots in the second half of the Super Bowl. (PS: Yep, that is the REAL reason we lost the damn game!!)

ROUND TWO Primary Pick: FS Budda Baker – University of Washington

ROUND TWO Secondary Pick: DE/DT Demarcus Walker – Florida State University

The Falcons defensive backfield has the potential to be a great one. With CB Desmond Trufant and SS Keanu Neal looking like long term stars, the free safety position needs to NOW be addressed. Given the recommendations given in round one related to the upgraded linebacker corps, a dynamic, ball-hawking free safety is a MUST. And in the Pacific Northwest, Tee Pee Sports has found him.

2

Budda Baker, Demarcus Walker

Enter Washington’s Budda Baker. While scouting Baker, TPS constantly found comparisons to former Pro Bowl free safety Bob Sanders. The comparison is valid in our eyes. If we can get that kind of productivity from our free safety, the sky is the limit. Baker is the epitome of a free safety – a focused defender that displays strong tenacity and incredible scheme focus. Baker is always near the ball with a fiery presence. He displays great skill in pass coverage as he displays nice closing speed, the ability to change direction in coverage, and excellent field vision. His tackling technique is very solid and he is a physical presence. He has the heart of a lion and the ability to be a MAJOR upgrade at the position as well as a perennial Pro Bowler.

Speaking of legitimacy, the Falcons need a LEGIT presence at the defensive end position. Coach Dan Quinn needs a presence on his defensive front that is capable of being a force inside and outside. He needs a “Michael Bennett” like presence for his scheme. The Gulfstream next landed in Tallahassee.

Demarcus Walker represents OUTSTANDING value here. In terms of defensive ends, JB appears to be as solid as any of the so-called “true” defensive ends in this draft class. His work ethic, total team first attitude, willingness to play through pain, and dedication to improving all facets of his game, are critical facets that Tee Pee Sports feels strongly about. Walker is outstanding against the run and a presence as a pass rusher. Like Bennett, Walker also has the ability to move inside and impact the defensive interior. Think of him as the next Jonathan Babineaux. There are a few issues with technique that could be cleaned up with quality coaching but this pick represents great value!!

ROUND THREE:

PRIMARY: OG Dan Feeney – Indiana University

SECONDARY: OG Dorian Johnson – University of Pittsburgh

The Falcons are STILL in need of OL depth across the board. Jake Matthews, in the eyes of Tee Pee Sports, is NOT the long-term answer at left tackle. But there is nothing we can do about it in the weak tackle class of 2017.

3

Dan Feeney, Dorian Johnson

Both offensive guard positions remain in a state of flux as Chris Chester is no more (retired) and Andy Levitre remains inconsistent. In 2017, given that he is a “slightly” better run blocker than pass protector as well as his cap figure, Tee Pee Sports will move Levitre into the right guard spot vacated by the retirement of Chester.

With that move, the staff took trips to Bloomington, IN and Pittsburgh, PA where they discovered a pair of very promising prospects that would excel in the zone blocking scheme and could become starters on day one in Atlanta.

Guards Dan Feeney and Dorian Johnson are both technically solid, position versatile, and leaders on the field. Both represent great value at this juncture in the draft and have the upside going forward to become very solid NFL players.

ROUND FOUR:

PRIMARY: RB Samaje Perine – University of Oklahoma

SECONDARY: FS/SS Xavier Woods – Louisiana Tech University
The Falcons are on the verge of a great move by retaining two-time Pro Bowl RB Devonta Freeman for the long haul. He needs a compliment. Tevin Coleman is a speed demon but can’t stay healthy. Given the extreme value Freeman gives the team as a cut back rusher and receiving option out of the backfield, TPS will allow Coleman to move on and find a larger compliment for Freeman.

4

Samaje Perine, Xavier Woods

The TPS G5 jet landed in Norman, Oklahoma where we found Samaje Perine. NFL Networks’ Mike Mayock , on the occasion of OU’s Pro Day, stated that SP reminded him of former Charger and Falcon Michael Turner. After reviewing more film, at 5’ 11 and 230 pounds, the comparison, both in terms of size and talent, are very accurate, friends. SP represents the total package; consistent in all facets – a true “thunder” compliment to the “lightning” represented by DF24.

The need for additional depth at safety is enhanced with the selection of Xavier Woods. The immensely talented All Conference USA player is a focused defender that displays strong tenacity and incredible scheme focus. He is always near the ball with a fiery presence. He displays great skill in pass coverage as he displays nice closing speed, the ability to change direction in coverage, and excellent field vision. His tackling technique is very solid and he is a physical presence. Though undersized in many eyes, Xavier Woods could be effective at either the FS or SS positions.

ROUND FIVE: TE Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech

At tight end, Austin Hooper is showing signs of promise. Depth at the position is a need for Atlanta as the tight end is a critical element of the West Coast Offense. Tee Pee Sports strikes again with truly outstanding value at this point in the draft.

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Bucky Hodges

At Virginia Tech, Bucky Hodges was a steady, improving force on a football team that was often offensively challenged until a head coaching change last season. Hodges is the prototypical tight end; a great combination of size and athleticism for the position. His movements are always smooth and he displays a great catch radius. Hodges can climb the ladder and win the battles with LBs/DBs with ease. Solid hands and the ability to separate in the intermediate game. Nightmarish red zone potential as he continues to fine tune his game. Shows some skill as a blocker with upside evident if afforded proper coaching and additional physical conditioning.

There are some things that need to improve in his game but the upside here is incredible. The potential for a Tony Gonzalez/Jimmy Graham like career is not out of the question if this potential is truly tapped. One of the best hidden gems in this draft class and an ABSOLUTE sleeper in the right hands.

ROUND SEVEN: QB Nathan Peterman – University of Pittsburgh

Matt Ryan is entering his prime as a NFL quarterback. The four-time Pro Bowler and reigning MVP is the most under-appreciated Atlanta Falcon EVER. Despite the constant and wishy-washy nature of the Falcon fanbase, MR2 serves as the field general for one of the most lethal offensive units in the NFL.

However, depth behind him is a SIGNIFICANT issue. It is time that the Falcons begin to develop that depth and perhaps, an eventual replacement. Once again, value strikes.

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Nate Peterman

Nate Peterman is a very solid quarterback and has solid potential. He has nice touch on his passes at time and is solid placing the ball downfield. He has good pocket awareness and displays solid mobility. He is not afraid to tuck and secure yardage if the play is not there. Displays the ability to be patient and allow the route/play to unfold. Comfortable with three, five and seven step drops. Compiled a 47-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio the past two seasons at Pitt. Married (April 2016) with a mature lifestyle — high character individual and worker.

But….

A true and honest review of film shows that Peterman needs some work but his upside is very promising. At times, he looks great and confident. Other times, he can frustrate the hell out of you. But at this stage in the draft, he is a developmental prospect that could become MUCH more. And having time to learn from one of the best students of the game and a true professional, MR2, can only serve as the ultimate motivation.

So, there you have it. The 2017 edition of what the defending NFC Champions need to address in the eyes of the Tee Pee. Let the discussion, pro or con, now begin….

 

philly