The State of the Franchise: Where Do We Go?
Special Guest Writer: Roddy E. “Seminole Warrior” Nixon, Jr.
As I sit here in the Tee Pee and finalize this narrative, we are less than two weeks away from the 2016 Annual NFL Selection Meetings (aka the NFL Draft). By now, most are well versed in the fact that the Falcons have only five (5) picks to work with in this draft. I wish we have a few more selections to work with but it is what it is.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, in an interview dated 18 April 2016 with Vaughn McClure made it clear that he expects at least 60% of this draft class will become starters THIS fall. Additionally, AB made is clear in the same interview that he is astutely aware of the significant depth that is available defensively in this draft.
While I am inclined to agree with AB in regards to the defense, this team has MANY needs that will persist long after the stage lights are out in Chicago. This is a football team STILL in search of an identity. This is a football team with a lot of holes to fill.
So, where do we go from here? What do we really need from this draft class? What is the state of the Falcons franchise as we draw closer to the onset of the 2016 NFL season?
First, let me give a big “shout out” to my good friend “Just Little Ole Me”. His posting of 18 April 2016, 12:03am, was VERY telling and VERY supportive of the TPS opinion.
For years, we have been constantly railing against the “Big Lots” approach to team construction and composition. As so well stated by JLOM, a massive exodus awaits Atlanta at the end of the 2016 season. If you take a close look at the 30 players that are forecast to see their contracts end, there is only ONE that is, in the opinion of TPS, a sure fire retention. That would be Desmond Trufant. Every other player on that list, ALL twenty nine (29) are at risk.
I am not saying that each and every one is certain to be let go but just how many of these guys can you really see as being impactful enough to pay “premium” for? Consider we are talking Alford, Worrilow, Schrader, and DiMarco? Guess what, friends. Those are the BEST of the litter!! All are serviceable players for sure but is there anyone in that pool that you consider a franchise changer? Yep, thought so. The resounding answer is NO.
In an interview with Vaughn McClure, Atlanta owner Arthur Blank made it crystal clear that he is expecting big things from this 2016 draft class. AB expects that at least 60% of this draft class should be starters when the season opens in September. To take this point even further, AB has mandated, at least in this interview that 75% of the first four selections, should be starters. That means that the Mighty Quinn and our extensive collection of has-been GMs in our front office have their work cut out for them.
What Do We Really Need?
This team has many, many needs. Many fans lobby hard for a strengthening of the inner core; a comprehensive focus on the offensive and defensive lines. Ok, I concur. Others would say that we absolutely need to generate and sustain a MUCH better pass rush. Ok, point noted. Yet, there is another group that feels that our linebacker corps is a disaster that cost this team time and time again in critical situation. I’m feeling you completely, brothers and sisters. And yes, there is even a contingent that would say that there are shortfalls in coaching at critical positions such as defensive line and offensive coordinator that have stagnated a once promise position group or facet of the team.
Five picks is a starting point. But let’s be clear. It is NOT the end game. Even if the Falcons are fortunately enough to land a full five starters from this class, most of them will fill in areas where depth is still highly questionable or missing in action.
In the mindset of an expansion franchise, we continue to build the core of this team. Therein rests the most challenging aspect. If the vision of Quinn is to be given a full chance to turn the tide, Falcons fans (and Arthur Blank) have to understand that this is a long term project.
The mistakes of the past have hurt this team seriously and will continue to haunt them for a few more years to come. There will be incremental progress in some areas but a Super Bowl leap is not likely.
Finding talent in this draft class and post draft free agency is absolutely critical in 2016. Given the daunting task of a schedule that this team faces in 2016, anything less will result in a very long season and an uneasy feeling as we leave the Georgia Dome for the world’s largest new luxury car dealership facility in 2017.
After careful consideration, Tee Pee Sports feels that the greatest needs for this team in this draft class are in the trenches. The inner core of the defensive and offensive lines MUST be given prime focus and attention.
Defensive tackle is absolutely essential to address given the facts that age, youth, relative inexperience, and inconsistent play have not given reason to sense that there is a measure of strength at the position.
Linebacker is in equal critical shape as we have not one single linebacker that is remotely considered a Pro Bowl talent. “Scheme fits” seem to have not worked and we are still facing considerable questions going forward.
The offensive line, even with the zone blocking scheme, is far from settled. A significant point of weakness was addressed with the signing of Alex Mack.
TPS views the left tackle position as still in question as Jake Matthews ranked 17th among left tackles and the OL as a whole ranked 30th in 2015. Ryan Schrader continues to show that he is at worse a quality reserve acting out the role of starter but is he the answer long term at right tackle?
At offensive guard, we have Andy Levitre and nothing else. And Levitre seems to have lost the mental edge he had while in Buffalo a few years back. Chris Chester is ready to move on and we have nothing else.
It’s all on you now, my friends. What are your thoughts, opinions, etc. as we head towards the draft? Share that insight. In the mean time, I leave you with the following to ponder:
Expect another year of transition and with thus, frustration.
Can this draft class meet Arthur Blank’s desired expectations?
Do you STILL think that Dan Quinn is up to the task of turning this around in Atlanta?
Is an 8-8 record in 2016 enough to save Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta?
Name the Falcon player that is MOST in need of a breakout 2016 campaign.
What is the greatest STRENGTH in the Atlanta organization?
What is the greatest WEAKNESS in the Atlanta organization?