The 2012 Falcons started out on fire, coming out of the gates 8-0 and showing a great mix of offensive brilliance and opportunistic defense.
The team finished the season 5-3 and locked up a first round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs.
The Falcons would end up losing in the NFC Championship to the San Francisco 49ers.
It was a disappointment to a stellar regular season.
As a team, the Falcons displayed one of the best passing attacks in the NFL and Matt Ryan seated himself among the best quarterbacks in the league.
The Falcons had a triple-headed threat for receiving options in wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, along with tight end Tony Gonzalez. The rushing of Michael Turner left something to be desired, as he only managed 800 yards on the ground.
Defensively the Falcons were towards the bottom of the league in almost all important categories and gave up way too many points in the playoffs for a team that was making a Super Bowl run.
Overall the Falcons were a very fun team to watch on offense and when they were hitting on all cylinders they were among the NFL’s elite.
13-3 overall, Winners of the NFC South division with a 3-3 record
Positions of Need
DE, TE, CB, OG, OLB
First Round Target(s)
Over the last couple of days the Falcons have really gone out and solidified their lineup in order to make a run to the Super Bowl in 2013. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has decided to come back for one more year and the team signed free agent running back Steven Jackson.
If you add those signings to the resigning of tackle Sam Baker and defensive back William Moore, than you have most of the glaring needs filled heading into the Draft. However, with the loss of John Abraham at defensive end leaves huge holes in the pass rush.
The Falcons have to find a starter at the end spot on defense. The team has Cliff Mathews and Kroy Biermann as starters as of today. Both guys are good, solid players who might fit best in a rotational situation.
A player who would fit the mold of a 4-3 pass rushing defensive end is Florida State’s Bjoern Werner. Werner is one of the most scrutinized players in this year’s draft, but has been listed at times to even go as high as number two to the Jaguars.
So the chances of him being there at 30 are remote. However, keep an eye on his teammate Tank Carradine in the late part of round one. Call me crazy if you want, but Carradine is a player who has all the skills as a pass rusher and can hold up to the run game as a 4-3 end.
The biggest knock on Carradine is he is coming off a late season ACL tear and has not been able to work out for teams this offseason. Another way for the Falcons to look is LSU’s Sam Montgomery or Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore at that end spot.
Both players have all world talent but their mental game is what leaves much to be desired. On both players the elite pass rush talent is there, but just not enough character shines out of either player on a consistent basis.
As we all know two things are going to happen for the Falcons with this first round pick, one is that general manager Thomas Dimitroff will not reach for a player based on need and he will not draft any character concerns in the first round.
All of that, coupled with Gonzalez’s old age lead me to believe the other route to go in the first round is tight end. All teams in the NFL look for that second threat and a guy they can groom to be the starter and there are two good ones in the first round who very well can be available at pick 30.
Stanford’s Zach Ertz and Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert are great prospects who both fit well into what the Falcons want to do offensively. It would not be a reach to see either of them falling to Atlanta in the first round.
Teams To Keep An Eye On
When you pick at No. 30 there is going to be a lot of waiting around to see if your guy falls to you.
If Werner is the guy they covet at defensive end, they are going to have to trade up and get him.
But if they decide to take the best available defensive end on their board then the Falcons will have to stave off the New York Giants at 19, Indianapolis at 24 and Denver at 28 as teams that are in the market for pass rushers.
However, when you pick as late as the Falcons will in round one, you don’t have a lot of options if you really desire a player that could be taken as high as pick two, like Werner.
I doubt we will see Dimitroff try to pull off another Julio Jones type trade as he did in 2011, there just isn’t that type of player the Falcons covet.
I don’t think we will see the Falcons trade up or even trade back in this Draft, at least not out of the first round. There is just too much depth at the positions of need the Falcons have to give up any picks in this or future Drafts.
There are some solid prospects to be had in the second through fourth rounds and I see the Falcons really taking advantage of that in 2013.
One theory I do have is that the Falcons will covet a cornerback much higher than we think. Brent Grimes is coming off major injury problems and they could use a guy that fits into their system to shore up the secondary.
If a guy like Desmond Trufant or Xavier Rhodes falls past pick 22 or 23, expect the Falcons to trade up with Minnesota at pick 23 (who has an extra first rounder) to leap frog a team like Green Bay who is in need of cornerback help.
2012 Peter Konz, Center, 55th overall (Traded 1st Round Pick to Cleveland)
2011 Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, 6th overall
2010 Sean Weatherspoon, Linebacker, 19th overall
2009 Peria Jerry, Defensive Tackle, 24th overall
2008 Matt Ryan, Quarterback, 3rd overall
2007 Jamaal Anderson, Defensive End, 8th overall