The 2012 NFL Draft has wrapped, and the Atlanta Falcons sent a message to their fanbase that they were going to fill several needs with rookies who could hopefully make an immediate impact on the field. The Falcons had six picks in this year’s draft, so here’s your chance to read up on them before they hit the practice field in Flowery Branch.
— Joel Feinberg (@joelbfeinberg) April 28, 2012
Second-round pick: Peter Konz, center, Wisconsin
If I told you, “He blocked for Russell Wilson and Montee Ball last year,” that would be enough … right? I mean, he was on an offensive line that gave two players in the Badgers’ backfield a chance to be Heisman candidates at some point in the 2011 season. Ball, the running back, even made it to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
But enough about the guys Konz made better. The Falcons’ second-rounder will eventually be the replacement for current center Todd McClure, and Konz will benefit greatly from the guidance of his superior. In the meantime, Konz can play other positions along the offensive line, and that will help clear up serious issues that occurred with last year’s group, giving quarterback Matt Ryan very little time to throw the ball as a result.
Third-round pick: Lamar Holmes, offensive tackle, Southern Mississippi
I think all Falcons fans wanted to see their front office make a statement in this year’s draft that the offensive line needed improvements, and I can think of no better way to say it than to use the first two picks on offensive linemen. With the 91st overall pick, the Falcons grabbed a guy from Southern Miss that is large but nimble. I’m not worried that Holmes was supposed to be a late-rounder, because the Falcons drafted what they needed rather than the most talented player left on the board. Matt Ryan will thank his front office for that.
Fifth-round pick: Bradie Ewing, fullback, Wisconsin
When fullback Ovie Mughelli went down with a season-ending injury in the middle of the 2011 season, it left the Falcons with a tough situation in their backfield the rest of the year. Mike Cox had his good moments, but they needed something more. With Mughelli getting ready to start his tenth season in the NFL, the Falcons will need to begin training his replacement in case injuries (or just age) wear him down.
Ewing will be a great addition to the Falcons’ backfield because, much like his college teammate Konz, he can keep blitzing defenders off Ryan’s back. But he can also catch the ball — in 2011, Ewing had 20 receptions for 246 yards, an average of more than 12 yards per catch. He’s getting rave reviews, and the Falcons will be excited for his arrival.
Fifth-round pick: Jonathan Massaquoi, defensive end, Troy
The cousin of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, the Falcons didn’t have to look far for their second fifth-round pick of the draft. A defensive end from Lawrenceville, Ga., Massaquoi has been raved about by draft experts for his speed in pass-rushing off the edge, and if the Falcons can add that to third-down defenses, they can be a very dangerous unit. Imagine how much it could help interception hounds Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel if the defensive line could force quarterbacks to throw off-balance!
Sixth-round pick: Charles Mitchell, safety, Mississippi State
It seems, all too often, that these late-round secondary draft picks pan out. The Falcons hope that will remain true with Mitchell, a safety who didn’t have a single interception in his final two seasons at Mississippi State (even though he did have four picks in his sophomore year).
Mitchell had some really great games in his senior campaign, even if he wasn’t an interception machine. In 2011, he had at least 11 tackles in three different games, including a 16-tackle performance against LSU. The Falcons haven’t always been a surefire tackling bunch on defense, so the addition of Mitchell to the secondary will hopefully fix that issue.
Seventh-round pick: Travian Robertson, defensive tackle, South Carolina
Two of the 42 SEC players drafted went to the Falcons, and this one will help add depth to the interior of the defensive line. Standing 6-foot-4 and 303 pounds, Robertson is exactly what you want from a defensive tackle — someone who will plug up the inside and stop the run.
Robertson had at least one tackle in every game last season for the Gamecocks, and he had as many as seven tackles in two games. This pick will give the Falcons as many as five guys to cycle between two positions in the middle of the defensive line, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will definitely benefit from that much depth.