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Finding young talent on 'D' will be Falcons’ draft focus again

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Jan. 23, 2010 @ 6:32 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

The Falcons spent seven of their eight draft picks on defensive players in 2009 as they focused on getting younger and faster on "D." They were unable to fill all of their needs with those selections, though, and those rookies are going to need time to develop. With the most pressing of the team's current needs being at cornerback and defensive end, sources say Atlanta will put an emphasis on that side of the ball once again in 2010.

Observers say not to be surprised if there is some buzz about the Falcons considering drafting a running back early, at some point between now and Draft Day. Michael Turner was banged up and missed time in the second half of last season, and RBs Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling will become restricted free agents in March. Adding a talented complement for Turner could give the Falcons' offense a boost, but unless an offensive weapon who can't be resisted falls to Atlanta, which will pick 19th or 20th in the first round depending on a coin flip with the Texans, a corner or defensive end will likely be coming off the board.

GM Thomas Dimitroff is well aware that the combination of a lackluster pass rush and a CB corps that had a tendency to give up big plays is a problem that has to be solved for the Falcons to get back to the postseason in '10.

With that in mind, Dimitroff will be looking to pluck a pass-rushing complement to pair with John Abraham, who did not make the same kind of impact in '09 after making 16½ sacks in the previous season. Jamaal Anderson, a first-round pick in '07, hasn't developed into a productive pass rusher, so the Falcons move him inside to tackle on passing downs. Atlanta spent a fourth-round pick on Lawrence Sidbury in '09. He could develop into a solid rotational player but isn't the full-time stalwart the team needs.

Sources say the most likely position Dimitroff will target with his top pick, though, is corner. The club liked what it saw from '09 third-round pick CB Chris Owens during his rookie year, and the team is not ready to dismiss Chris Houston or Brent Grimes as potential starters, but this is a group that has struggled mightily. A talented rookie would have a chance to earn a starting role from Day One.

 

PFW has launched its brand-new NFL Draft Newsletter series, with the second issue now ready for mailing and a third issue focusing on underclassmen to be published in the next few weeks. Produced by PFW's player personnel department under the direction of Nolan Nawrocki, the series consists of four information-packed issues. For more info or to subscribe — click here for PDF e-pub or here for print format. You can also find details about other draft-related publications in the PFW store.

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