What positions will be addressed in the 2015 draft?
***POST BY CAGE MEMBER BANGKAPI AJARN***
As we prepare and overthink the upcoming draft with renewed optimism for the new direction our Falcons will take under new HC Quinn and his new-ish staff, the initial offseason roster evaluation seems to have paused for a bit, at least until April 6 when the Falcons, and other teams that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs and get their first chance to work with players already on contract.
This gives us a chance to review what changes have already taken place, what areas of the roster have been addressed, and what areas of the roster still need to be addressed based on numbers and FA focus, understanding that the front office has three primary ways to adjust the roster – Free Agency, Draft, and Trades.
Free Agency was oddly symmetrical
12 Players Out, 12 Players In
Lost DE Jonathan Massaquoi and DT Corey Peters
Signed DE Adrian Clayborn
Net loss one DT
Lost LB Sean Weatherspoon
Net gain of 3, now have 11 LBs on the roster
Lost S Dwight Lowery , S Zeke Motta, CB Josh Wilson , CB Robert McClain
Signed CB Phillip Adams
Net loss 2 safeties, one CB
Lost – OG Justin Blalock
Signed – OG Jared Smith, OG Mike Person
Net gain 1 guard
Lost – RB Steven Jackson , Jacquizz Rodgers
Signed – no one
Net loss – 2 RB’s
QB – No Change
Lost – WR Harry Douglas
Signed – WR Nick Williams, Leonard Hankerson
Net Gain – 1 WR
So– Just based on free agency roster churn, we appear to have
** put free agency $$$’s into fixing the LB problem,
**brought in two experienced guards to fill the hole left by Blalock (and fit better into the zone blocking scheme),
**replaced Douglas at WR with Hankerson, with a second WR for camp competition already on board
Holes remaining after free agency appear to be:
**Short two RB’s
**Defensive backfield needs strong infusion of talent, having lost 2 safeties and a CB.
**We are short a DT, more if running a true 4-3
There is a surplus of LB’s, so given Quinn’s stated objective of putting talent in the best place to perform, could he have thoughts of moving some LB’s into a CB or S spot?
Looking at the roster as a whole, including “legacy” players, we currently have
Guard – 5
Tackle – 5
Draft Outlook – Lots of injuries, combined with a new blocking system coming in, odds are good for some new blood being drafted for the O-line, maybe 3rd day picks. Positions are flexible, so 3 or 4 of the above will not make the team – at least.
QB – 3
RB – 5
WR – 8
TE – 5
Draft Outlook – With all the attention paid in Free agency, and with a still new, raw 6’8″ prospect on the roster, TE is likely a low priority this draft based on the roster post free agency. Running back, however, is very likely to be addressed with two major contributors off the roster this year. WR, despite 8 already on the payroll and the one loss already replaced in free agency, could be addressed based on injuries last year and an aging roster that is about to get really expensive. Low priority this year, based on other needs.
Draft Outlook –– While new head coach Quinn says he will NOT simply copy Seattle’s defense, the LEO variation of the 4-3 defense is widely assumed to be coming for the Falcons in 2015. Therefore, a rushing weakside DE that will play LEO is a very high priority for the Falcons according to pretty much every pundit out there. Beasley, Fowler, Gregory, Ray, Dupree – they all fit the template and would be upgrades after so many years of neglecting the pass rush.
DT, however, may be just as big hole after losing Peters to free agency. Of the two legitimate DT’s still on the roster, Soliai is 31 and Babs is 33 (not counting apparent camp cannon fodder Havili-Heimuli) . Soliai is more a nose tackle than a 4-3 DT, so the need here is as great as anywhere – unless you call the D-line a 3-4 with a LB lining up next to the weakside DE as a rushing LEO.
The stats back in up, as the Falcons interior run defense last year was abysmal. Failure to address this in free agency despite the loss of a starter indicates an intent to address this in the draft.
High priority area, likely go garner more than one draft pick.
Defensive backs –
Draft Outlook – Despite priority signings in Free agency, many mock drafts have the Falcons taking multiple LB’s in the upcoming draft.
Superficially, it would appear that the Falcons front office has addressed LB heavily in Free agency while leaving other priority areas to be addressed in the draft – such as safety, DT, RB, and CB.
Despite mocks and analysis floated by national pundits, it would appear that the Falcons front office addressed their LB and TE concerns, at least this year, in free agency – while leaving holes at DT, S, RB, and CB to be addressed in the draft.
IF, therefore, the Falcons draft their future LEO rusher in the 1st round (NOT a certainty after loading up on 5 LB/DE’s in Free agency), then the next priorities appear to be S, RB, DT and CB in no particular order depending on best player available at one of these 4 positions of need. Simply based on roster holes and Free agency priorities.