With the nineteenth pick in the 2010 BGN Draft, TheSportsWatcher selects...
Brandon Graham - DE, Michigan
As we enter the 2010 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons are a very interesting team. Their 9 wins last year had the Falcons competing for the playoffs until the last couple of weeks of the season, and with the right draft pick this April, they could find themselves breaking through in 2009.
After a stellar season in 2008, the team took a step back in 2009 with relatively poorer performances on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the troubles weren’t as grave. Yes, the Falcons finished 16th in 2009 as opposed to 6th in 2008, but the team’s scoring dropped fewer than two points per game. Those two points alone can be attributed to the drop in production by Michael Turner, who didn’t have his legs last season.
As for the performance of quarterback Matt Ryan, a lot of people think he took a step back, but after such a great, unblemished rookie season, 2009 was a time for Ryan to take a step back in order to move two steps forward. During Ryan’s rookie year, the Falcons rarely admit this, but they held back on Ryan—at least early on. Ryan had just 434 pass attempts (27 attempts/game) as he enjoyed watching Turner run all over the field. But in 2009, when they had to lean on Ryan and the passing game, it was only natural that the sophomore quarterback threw a few more picks. However, he added quite a few touchdowns (22 TDs in only14 games), and so as long he’s putting up more points and learning from his mistakes, the Falcons (with a healthy Turner) should be fine on offense.
More after the jump...
This brings us to the defense and the Atlanta Falcons draft pick.
The Falcons defense improved its ranking in 2009, finishing 21st vs. 24th in 2008, while giving up the same number of points per game (20.3). However, there’s no doubt that the Falcons had trouble defending the pass, and it wasn’t a problem that manifested itself this year. In 2009 the Falcons were 28th against the pass, but in 2008, they weren’t much better finishing 21st against pass. Most importantly, the Falcons were the worst team in the league at defending the pass on 3rd down, allowing teams to convert 45% of their 3rd down passes for first downs.
You could look at the secondary to fix this pass defense problem, but given Atlanta’s issues on 3rd down specifically, and the fact that Joe Hayden (Florida) is off the board, the Falcons have to go with a pass rusher in the first round.
Thus, I have the Atlanta Falcons selecting Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan) with the 19th pick in NFL Draft.
Graham is a very explosive defensive end with the ability to completely disrupt the edge of an offense all game long. He recorded 20 sacks over the last two years with a Michigan secondary that didn’t give him much help. He will be an instant difference-maker on this Falcons front line, and it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t be the starter since the Falcons are moving Jamaal Anderson to defensive tackle this season. Sure, at 6-1, Graham is short, but at 270 pounds, he’s as strong as the other ends drafted ahead of him, and he’s a much more versatile player because of his ability to drop back in the passing game. There is a good chance that with his quickness, and the leverage he displayed playing in the Big Ten, Graham could be the next incarnation of Dwight Freeney.
The Falcons may be tempted to go with cornerback Kareem Jackson, who has inexplicably fallen in this draft and whose stock has shot up recently.
Also, USC’s Everson Griffen (DE) would give Atlanta a bit more size at the DE position (which is something they have to consider with John Abraham playing slightly undersized at the other end slot).
But when it’s all said and done, Atlanta has to go with the guy who is going to help them improve upon their 28-sack total (26th Ranked) from 2009, and with Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) and Jason Pierre-Paul (USF) already off the board, there’s no question that Brandon Graham should be the guy the Falcons take in first round.
Previous picks: #1 Ndamukong Suh, #2 Russell Okung, #3 Gerald McCoy, #4 Sam Bradford, #5 Eric Berry, #6 Trent Williams, #7 Jimmy Clausen, #8 Bruce Campbell, #9 Bryan Bulaga, #10 Derrick Morgan, #11 Rolando McClain, #12 Sergio Kindle, #13 Joe Haden, #14 C.J. Spiller, #15 Mike Iupati, #16 Jason Pierre-Paul, #17