ATLANTA FALCONS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
The core of a terrific offense should be back mostly intact. QB Matt Ryan and a sonic passing game reached even greater heights in 2012, and the future appears just as bright with young playmakers. But replacing TE Tony Gonzalez, who appears to be leaning toward retirement, and released RB Michael Turner are offseason priorities. Scoring points won’t be a problem for a while.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
TE — Whether Gonzalez retires or not, the Falcons need his long-term replacement — and this is the year to find him. With a decent class of TE prospects to choose from, the Falcons should be able to find the right combination of blocker and receiver to fit the bill.
RB — Turner, who turned 31 right after the Super Bowl, had taken a lot of wear and tear the past five seasons in Atlanta and would have been due a $5.5 million base salary that would have cost the team a cap hit of $8 million. It’s likely the Falcons will look to draft a power back to replace him — either in 2013 or beyond..
OL — Sam Baker held up well at left tackle this season, but he has a history of back problems. ORT Tyson Clabo is good, but the Falcons can do better. OT Lamar Holmes, last year’s third-rounder, is a project who isn’t guaranteed to pan out. The team also could use help at guard and center.
Although the defense made strides and turned into a ballhawking unit that was effective at creating turnovers and tightening up in the red zone, more help here is needed. Coordinator Mike Nolan was able to scheme around some of the shortcomings, but more pressure players are needed. It’s a good bet that the team’s draft will be heavily flavored on this side of the ball.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DE — Released veteran John Abraham was the longtime heart of the defense, and the team could use upgrades here. Kroy Biermann is a hustler who makes just enough plays, but he is likely best as a part-time end. It’s not clear if Cliff Matthews or Jonathan Massaquoi have starter potential.
LB — Akeem Dent has been fine inside, but he also has had some shaky moments in coverage and is probably best as a run stopper. WLB Sean Weatherspoon has become a standout, but SLB Stephen Nicholas is a middling-level starter. There was very little depth by season’s end, so an injection of youth here really could hit the spot.
CB — It’s not the most pressing need, but Asante Samuel (32 years old) and Brent Grimes (30 in July) make this a bit of an older position, in addition to Dunta Robinson just having been released. Adding some younger players through the draft and replenishing while the team is successful makes a lot of sense at a tough position to fill.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
2nd round (55): OG-C Peter Konz / Wisconsin (GP/GS: 16/10)
Skinny: Became starter at ORG, but future likely at center.
3rd round (91): OT Lamar Holmes / Southern Mississippi (GP/GS: 1/0)
Skinny: Backup swing tackle is still in developmental phase.
5th round (157): FB Bradie Ewing / Wisconsin (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Should return as top FB after tearing ACL in preseason.
5th round (164): DE Jonathan Massaquoi / Troy (GP/GS: 8/0)
Skinny: Will need to improve vs. run to see field consistently.
6th round (192): SS Charles Mitchell / Mississippi State (GP/GS: 10/0)
Skinny: Showed ability to fit as backup/special-teamer.
7th round (249): DT Travian Robertson / South Carolina (GP/GS: 7/0)
Skinny: Buried on depth chart and could have hard time moving.
SUMMARY: Dealt first, fourth-round picks as part of deal to select Julio Jones a year earlier, and still landed at least one starter.
Pro Football Weekly's 2013 Draft Guide is now available at stores where magazines are sold. It can also be ordered by calling 1-800-FOOTBALL.