24. Atlanta Falcons
-Brandon Pettigrew (TE/Oklahoma St)
The Atlanta Falcons have been searching for a massive run-plugging defensive tackle to go alongside Jonathan Babineaux. But the only first round quality tackle is B.J. Raji. So, the Falcons probably will look to upgrade another serious hole on the other side of the ball. With no serious starter on the roster, GM Thomas Dimitroff wants to find a quality TE to help Matt Ryan’s progression. Although Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew isn’t incredibly fast, he fits well in Atlanta’s short-intermediate passing game. Besides Michael Clayton (6’4 215 lbs), Matt Ryan has no big targets. Pettigrew has ideal size (6’5 255 lbs) and excels in the short passing game. For this reason, I doubt the Falcons will pursue the likes of Jared Cook, who is used to lining up in the slot and is best suited for a vertical passing attack. As an added bonus, Pettigrew’s blocking ability would only bolster an already stellar run game featuring Michael Turner.
-Darius Butler (CB/Connecticut)
Losing #1 CB Dominque Foxsworth in free agency hurt the Falcons secondary. Chris Houston is a decent #2, but they still need to find another starting corner in this draft. If Atlanta either passes on Pettigrew or he is already taken, then the next best value is to draft a cornerback.
The best cornerback available is Connecticut’s coverage specialist Darius Butler. At the combine, he posted a 43 inch vertical leap, ran the fastest 40 yard dash (4.46 sec) of any defensive back, and showed by far the best footwork of any corner in the draft. He possesses adequate height and weight (5’10 183 lbs), but has good enough instincts to play in either man or zone coverage schemes. In his final season of college, teams stopped throwing to him because of his shutdown coverage ability.
-Robert Ayers (DE/Tennessee)
LE Jamaal Anderson has been disappointing for a 1st round selection after producing a measly 2 sacks over his two seasons in the NFL. Some people have proposed drafting Larry English as a viable alternative. Yet, that would require him to play LE, a position he is ill-suited to play at 255 lbs. The only possibility I can think of for the Falcons if they want to upgrade their edge pass rush in round 1 is Robert Ayers. The Lions might pass on him, in which case Atlanta would have the chance to select him. Ayers is an up-and-coming defensive end, who has loads of upside. However, his 1 year of starting experience makes him a risky pick in the first round. Nevertheless, he is the most formidable end prospect available to the Falcons in round 1 (I’m not a fan of workout warrior Michael Johnson).
John Abraham is perfect at RE, so I don’t see him moving anywhere. Paul Kruger might be an option in round 2 or 3 as a LE candidate.
Next on the clock: Miami Dolphins