Atlanta Falcons 2011 NFL Draft Review

A big play receiver was needed to keep the offense on pace in the competitive NFC South. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Coach Mike Smith pulled off the draft’s blockbuster trade, moving four picks and swapping the 27th pick in the first round for the sixth selection in the 2011 draft. The target of their passion was the powerful Julio Jones. The Falcons received the 6th pick on Thursday night and gave up selections 27, 59, and 124 in the 2011 draft as well as the first and fourth round choices in the 2012 draft. The bold move strongly affected the 2011 and 2012 drafts, but the Falcons’ organization, led by owner Arthur Blank, was all for the trade. Wide receiver Julio Jones was drafted with the idea that he will bring explosiveness to the Falcon offense and take pressure off of Roddy White. The three-year starter from Alabama has rare speed for his size. Just as important as catching the ball on all levels of the field is the ability and pride Jones takes in his blocking for the running game. He is a clutch big play receiverwho has the mentality of a press corner. He will sacrifice his body for the ball. He has a track record of having produced against top level competition. A strong hand catcher, he will break a tackle and finish a play. Linebacker Akeem Dent was selected late in the third round. The productive and active three year starter made 126 tackles in 2010. Instinctive with physical toughness and intensity in his play, he is blessed with good lateral quickness and speed. He works his way through traffic and keeps leverage on the ball. Dent is experienced in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers was targeted in the fifth round by the Falcons. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff moved up 13 spots by trading a 7th round selection (229) to make the pick. The slippery and strong former Beaver has good contact balance and bounces around and off tacklers like a pinball. Quicker than a hiccup, he is a good complementary back to power backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. Punter Matt Bosher fills a need for Atlanta as 2010 was the final year of Michael Koenen’s contract. Bosher also kicks off and handles field goal chores. Offensive guard Andrew Jackson was a four-year starter. He suffered a high ankle sprain after four games in 2010. Although an average athlete, he is tough and physical in his play. He uses his hands effectively in both pass protection and in the run game. He works on his initial block, then hustles downfield to make another. Left guard Justin Blalock and right guard Harvey Dahl are both free agents. Cliff Matthews was taken late in the seventh round, but his credentials at South Carolina warranted a higher pick. He was a four-year starter and a two-year captain. He plays every play with maximum effort. Experienced at both right and left end in a four-man front, he plays with leverage and is quick to shed a block and locate the ball carrier. He is a developmental player with pro skills. GRADE: ABOVE AVERAGE.

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