First Round, 24th Pick
Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
Doug Farrar's Take: The first step in Thomas Dimitroff's second NFL draft is a decisive one. A non-stop penetrating three-tech tackle at Ole Miss, Jerry has quietly produced in the shadow of B.J. Raji in the long term and Ziggy Hood in the recent past. But of all the tackle prospect in this draft class. Jerry may have the fiercest forward move of any player at his position. He can also get around the edge and bull-rush, but his trademark is hitting a gap and pursuing. He's played end, untertackle, and nose at Ole Miss, but his function for the Falcons will be to get under the pads of every guard he faces and make negative plays happen -- in 2008, he led the SEC and ranked second in the nation with 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. During last two seasons, he registered 32 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2007 and 2008 combined.
Scott Eklund's take: Jerry is a player you need to have on your team if you want to be successful at stopping an offense. He led the SEC in tackles-for-loss with 18 while also notching seven sacks and 49 tackles. He's a good three-tech tackle, able to get penetration and cause problems in both the running game as well as rushing the QB. Early on I thought Jerry would go earlier in the first, but it appears some teams weren't sure he could stay healthy. The Falcons got a top 15 talent at 24, so they should be ecstatic that he was still available.
Brian McIntyre's take: Getting an impact defensive tackle to improve the Falcons' 25th-ranked run defense was high on Thomas Dimitroff's to-do list this weekend, and by selecting Jerry with the 24th pick, they've succeeded on that front. He's got the size and quickness to be a disruptive force inside and could start immediately alongside Jonathan Babineaux.
The only concern I have about Jerry is that he'll turn 25 in August, making him nearly two full years older than teammates Curtis Lofton and Jamaal Anderson, and nearly three years older than Missouri's Ziggy Hood, a defensive tackle chosen eight spots after Atlanta tabbed Jerry.
Second Round, 55th Pick
William Moore, S, Missouri
Doug Farrar's Take: Defense, defense, defense. Get used to it in this draft, Falcons fans! As we reported on Falcon Insider almost a month ago, Moore visited the team in early April -- this doesn't come as a surprise. Moore, who played free and strong safety in college, is the replacement for veteran Lawyer Milloy, who was not asked back after starting 15 games in 2008.
Moore's best season came in 2007, when he set a school record with eight interceptions and was named Second team All-Big 12. Moore was slowed by injuries in 2008, and he had a very rough Senior Bowl week, but he rebounded at his Pro Day on March 5, running a sub-4.4-40 by one stopwatch.
Moore believes that his 2008 season, where he overcame adversity, shows as much as the more statistically impressive 2007. "The 2008 film is very important, because they know what I can do good on the field," he said at the Combine. "They're curious about my production. Why did it slip? They want to look at 2008 to see if it was my ability or my position or was it my durability as far as being healthy. I feel like 2008 is very important. I also go back and watch that film and see what can I do different.
"I worked harder after the 2007 season to get better. But you face injuries sometimes. I worked harder, it just didn't pan out the way I hoped."
Now, William Moore has another chance to get back in the groove. And the Falcons will benefit from his ability to rebound. Thomas Dimitroff's preference for interchangeable safeties that can cover in space and man up in a front eight just took a big step forward.
Scott Eklund's Take: Coming into the season, Moore carried a late-first round grade with his ideal size and athleticism. However he struggled with injuries and missed some tackles and took bad angles as a senior in 2008. Moore's instincts make him ideal as a free safety that can run to the ball and either lay the lumber on a receiver or make a play on the ball. He could also do well closer to the line as a strong safety/in-the-box player as well. We'll see where the Falcons put him, but in the end they picked up a player who's talent is a lot better than where he ended up being selected.
Brian McIntyre's Take: Because of his combination of size, speed and versatility, I had Moore as the top safety in the draft. I was very surprised that the Falcons were in position to take him without having to burn a later round draft pick to move up to do so. It's probably too early to say with any certainty if Moore will start in Week One, but the competition with second-year safety Thomas DeCoud should be one to watch during training camp.
Third Round, 90th Pick
Christopher Owens, CB, San Jose State
Scott Eklund's Take: When you play corner in the WAC, you had better be able to man-up and cover guys in space and that's exactly what Owens excelled at during his time at SJSU.
What you really have to like about Owens is how explosive he is and how he continued to improve every year he was on campus. He earned All-WAC honors in both 2007 and 2008 and posted a solid 68 tackles, one interception and eight passes defensed which led the team.
He's compact, he runs well and he was really starting to ascend up many draft boards as the process continued so he should be able to challenge for playing time since the departure of Domonique in free agency has created a huge hole at one of the corner positions.
Brian McIntyre's Take: Owens was on Atlanta's radar screen throughout the lead-up to the draft, so it's not too surprising that they've chosen the former Spartan in the third round.
Owens was overshadowed at San Jose State by teammates Coye Francies and Dwight Lowery, who was a 4th round of the New York Jets in 2008. Lowery was a major contributor for the Jets last season (started 10 games) and Owens could make a similar impact in Atlanta's secondary this season.
Doug Farrar's Take: Always a solid player, Owens really jumped up the boards at the Texas vs. the Nation Game, where analysts at the scene labeled him the best prospect on the field. He built on that performance at a Pro Day that allowed him to improve on many of his Combine numbers. The Falcons get a defensive back with 4.4 straight line speed, agility in space, and the ability to keep up with downfield threats.
Part of the reason that Dwight Lowery and Coye Francies were able to succeed from a stat perspective playing opposite Owens was that opposing quarterbacks started to avoid him more and more. A team captain who totaled over 50 tackles in each of his last three seasons, Owens plays bigger and tougher than his frame might suggest.
Fourth Round, 125th Pick
Lawrence Sidbury, DE/LB, Richmond
Scott Eklund's Take: You have to love guys with size who can run and that's exactly the set of skills that Sidbury brings to the table. He's got outstanding size and quickness and at the combine he posted a 4.53 at 265 pounds while also posting 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench and a 35-inch vertical.
Obviously, the athleticism is there, but what about productivity?
He had 20.5 sacks and 42 tackles-for-loss in his four seasons at Richmond and came out as one of the top-rated 1-AA players available.
Sidbury adds a pass-rush element to the Falcons defense that will see a 3-4 scheme employed at times depending on the matchup as well as the situation. He could play a stand-up pass-rusher position in that scheme and really cause problems for offenses, but he's a bit stiff so he won't be great when asked to play in space.
Solid fourth-round selection for the Falcons.
Fifth Round, 138th Pick
William Middleton, CB, Furman
Scott Eklund's Take: As noted when the Falcons selected Christopher Owens in the third round, the loss of Domonique Foxworth left a huge hole in Atlanta's secondary, so they yet again addressed that concern with the selection of Middleton, a corner with outstanding ball skills who can also provide a physical presence as well.
As a senior in 2008, Middleton posted an amazing 95 tackles from his corner position, finishing second on the team and he tied for first on the team with four interceptions.
When you select a small-college player like Middleton you look for one thing, did he dominate at the level he played at and he certainly did that.
Also, Middleton is very smart, finishing a biology degree in four years with future plans to attend medical school.
He's an unknown quantity at this point, but with his measurables, skills and smarts, he was another solid late-round selection for Atlanta.
Fifth Round, 156th Pick
Garrett Reynolds, OT, North Carolina
Scott Eklund's Take: After addressing the defense with their first five selections, the Falcons opted for a tenacious right tackle prospect in Reynolds whose uncle is former L.A. Rams linebacker Jim "Hacksaw" Reynolds was one of the more intimidating players in the league during his era.
Surprisingly, Garrett is a much better pass-blocker than run-blocker because he doesn't have the great lower-body strength you'd like to see in a line prospect. However, he's outstanding getting the initial punch at the point and his long arms keep pass-rushers at bay.
He'll fit into the depth chart as a backup as a rookie while he works on his strength and then should push Tyson Clabo for playing time now that Todd Weiner has retired.
Sixth Round, 176th Pick
Spencer Adkins, LB, Miami
Scott Eklund's Take: The Falcons need linebacker help, but with the way the draft fell they didn't feel the value warranted a selection of one until the beginning of the sixth round.
For over a decade the Hurricanes had a player selected in the first round, however Adkins was the first Miami player selected in this draft and he could end up being the only one.
What Adkins brings to the table is toughness and athleticism, however he isn't very big and he struggles some shedding blocks.
Could he make the move outside? That's a strong possibility so the team can take advantage of his speed and quickness in space.
Seventh Round, 210th Pick
Vance Walker, DT, Georgia Tech
Scott Eklund's Take: I had Walker rated as a possibly fourth-round selection, so for the Falcons to pick him up at the beginning of the seventh round is a minor coup.
Walker is very quick and he's a great athlete with outstanding upper body strength. He isn't exceptionally strong in his lower-body though and at times he faded out of sight in games and didn't play up to what I thought he could have given his measurables and abilities.
Either way, he will combine with Atlanta's first found choice, Mississippi DT Peria Jerry, to be cogs in the Falcons' defensive tackle rotation and he could possibly see time in the starting lineup if he can maximize his outstanding potential.