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Old 04-26-2007, 03:36 PM    (permalink
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Default Falcons Draft Q&A (AJC)

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By STEVE WYCHE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/26/07

Some questions and answers as the Falcons prepare for this weekend's NFL draft.

Q. What is new coach Bobby Petrino's level of involvement in his first NFL draft?

A. Petrino is very involved and coming from the college ranks he has first-hand knowledge of many of the draft prospects. With Petrino installing a new offense and defense, he's expressed to general manager Rich McKay the types of players he'd like to acquire to fill needs. McKay said he and Petrino have communicated from Day 1 and that he respects Petrino's approach to augment and fortify the roster.

Q. There's talk about the Falcons taking safety LaRon Landry or left tackle Levi Brown with their first pick. Isn't defensive end a bigger need after losing Patrick Kerney?

A. Defensive end is a priority, but with the No. 8 pick the talent and value at other positions could be more fitting. Incumbent Chauncey Davis may not be spectacular, but he can handle the job while the Falcons address other needs. There also are some players that could be available in the second round, including Georgia defensive end Charles Johnson. Keep in mind, Kerney played left end, not the more high-profile, right rush end, so some good run-support left ends could still be on the board in the first three or four rounds.

Q. Does the legal issue with Grady Jackson mean the Falcons must use an early pick on a defensive tackle?

A. The Falcons don't have to use a top pick on a defensive tackle but this is an area that must be addressed. It would seem unlikely that the marriage between Jackson and the Falcons will continue, especially since Jackson is not participating in offseason conditioning and might not be in shape should all be forgiven. Don't dismiss Atlanta using its top pick on Louisville's Amobi Okoye, who may be around 300 pounds now and can add more weight.

Q. Is McKay more likely to trade up for a higher pick in the first round or save his ammunition for a trade-up from a second-round pick?

A. The Falcons, according to McKay and another team official, aren't likely to move into the top three to get Calvin Johnson. However, if they are set on a particular player, say LaRon Landry, and feel he might get selected before they pick at No. 8, they might be able to move up to No. 6. Washington is looking to move down and acquire picks. It could take one of Atlanta's second-round picks and maybe a later-round pick to gain ground.

Q. Might McKay trade down in the first round?

A. There is a very good chance Atlanta could trade down. The main reason could be that their targeted players all get picked before they choose and the next group of players might not fit, value wise, into the No. 8 slot. The Falcons might try to broker a deal to get into the teens to select a player like Florida safety Reggie Nelson, Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson or Michigan nose tackle Alan Branch.

Q. What's the top priority on the offensive line: fill the vacancy at left guard or find a left tackle to succeed 36-year-old Wayne Gandy?

A. Though Gandy is in the twilight of his career, he can still play. There is an immediate need at left guard since starter Matt Lehr was waived. Auburn's Ben Grubbs or Texas's Justin Blalock might be available in the second round. Should Penn State tackle Levi Brown or Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas slip to No. 8, it would be hard for the Falcons to pass. If he somehow lasts through the first round, Central Michigan tackle Joe Staley could be an option with one of the two second-round choices.

Q. Isn't linebacker a big need, given the release of Ed Hartwell and Ike Reese, plus Demorrio Williams' impending free agency?

A. Linebacker is a definite need, especially since Williams could be gone after this season and Keith Brooking's contract expires after the 2008 season. This is not a great class of linebackers. McKay has hit big with Williams and Michael Boley in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, showing a knack for finding quality linebackers on the draft's second day.

Q. Petrino wants a big, power back. Will the Falcons pick one on the first day?

A. If they don't trade away one of their four first-day picks, it is likely one could be used on a running back. It's hard not to think Atlanta won't consider Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, if he makes it to No. 8. Louisville bruiser Michael Bush is also a possibility in the third or fourth round. His broken leg is healing and the Falcons can absorb a delayed start since Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood are the main guys. Arizona's Chris Henry and Fresno's Dwayne Wright are bigger bodied-runners projected to be selected on Day 1.

Q. With the acquisition of Joe Horn, is wide receiver now a second-day priority?

A. In all likelihood, yes. Horn has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons and Brian Finneran is still recovering from torn knee ligaments. If either goes down, the depth at wide receiver suddenly is very thin. If everyone stays healthy, though, the No. 5 wide receiver will see limited action, mainly on special teams if he is active on game days.

Q. At what position might the Falcons select more than one player?

A. With 10 picks, Atlanta likely will do some double dipping along the defensive line, offensive line and in the secondary. The Falcons need to add depth, if not starters, at defensive end and defensive tackle. They also need to start amassing massive bodies on the offensive line to fit Petrino's scheme. Though the selection of a cornerback is a possibility, drafting two safeties should not be discounted. The Falcons would like to get a starter at free safety and have somebody to groom at strong safety with Lawyer Milloy nearing the end of his career.
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Good info here.
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Old 04-26-2007, 05:32 PM    (permalink
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This is a great read, thanks so much Shiver.
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