Falcons would be wise to move up in NFL draft

April 22, 2013 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons' general manager, has had an active offseason. He slashed payroll (John Abraham, Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson), signed two key veterans (Steven Jackson, Osi Umenyiora) and, in a move that blindsided most, cut one of his last remaining veteran offensive linemen (tackle Tyson Clabo) to clear yet more salary cap space.

But Dimitroff knows the Falcons still have a few significant holes on the roster, which is why there's a reasonable chance the Falcons will move up in the draft. The team currently is sitting 30th overall but has 11 draft picks (including two in the fourth and four in the seventh) to use as currency with hopes of moving up for somebody Dimitroff considers more of a difference maker.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported on Twitter, “Hearing the Falcons are trying to trade up from number 30 in the first round, and not, obviously, for a quarterback,” and I'm inclined to agree with him.

The question: What player or position would Dimitroff be targeting?

Here's the needs list:

1. CORNERBACK

You can make the case that even with the Umenyiora signing, the top need is for a defensive end. But the Falcons' only reliable cornerback right now is Asante Samuel, and ideally he should be only the No. 2 or 3 best on the depth chart. Cutting Robinson creates problems. One problem-solver: Florida State's Xavier Rhodes. The Falcons like him but he is projected to be gone long before the 30th pick. The top cornerback in this draft is Alabama's Dee Millner but he will be at least a top 10 selection and possibly top five. That leaves either Rhodes and Washington's Desmond Trufant .

2. DEFENSIVE END (OR OUTSIDE LINEBACKER)

With no Abraham (who remains on the market), the three ends behind Umenyiora are Kroy Biermann (four sacks last season), Jonathan Massaquoi (zero) and Cliff Matthews (zero). Fortunately this draft is deep in defensive linemen. Potential late first-rounders: UCLA's Datone Jones, Florida State's Bjoern Werner and SMU's Margus Hunt. The pass rush also could be included by adding an active outside linebacker, which also is a position of weakness.

3. OFFENSIVE LINE

I'm still stunned by the Clabo move and wonder how quarterback Matt Ryan is going to feel if he's playing behind a line that includes at least two inexperienced players (center Peter Konz and tackle Lamar Holmes, both drafted in 2012). The jury remains out in this area of the team. Only left tackle Sam Baker (just re-signed) and guard Justin Blalock are definite starters.

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