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2012 NFL Offseason: Atlanta Falcons

Draft Grades, Season Previews, Offseason Needs, Free Agents

Atlanta Falcons (Last Year: 10-6)

2012 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
ILB Lofa Tatupu, CB Asante Samuel.
Early Draft Picks:
C Peter Konz, OT Lamar Holmes, FB Bradie Ewing, DE Jonathan Massaquoi.
Offseason Losses:
FB Ovie Mughelli, OLB Mike Peterson, ILB Curtis Lofton, SS James Sanders, KR Eric Weems.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Offense:
The Falcons thought they were one player away from Super Bowl contention when they traded a barrage of picks for Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft. They clearly misevaluated their talent, as they discovered when the Giants essentially blanked them on the scoreboard in January.

That's not to say that Jones didn't help their offense. Matt Ryan threw for career-highs in both passing yards (4,177) and touchdowns (29) even though he attempted five fewer passes than he did in 2010. Jones was a big help, especially down the stretch once he returned from his hamstring injury. He registered 31 catches, 525 yards and six touchdowns in his final half-dozen games. This includes a game-high seven receptions for 64 yards in the aforementioned defeat against New York.

Jones will emerge as Ryan's No. 1 target in 2012. His sheer talent isn't the only reason; the decline of Roddy White is also a factor. White is still a receptions machine - he has 215 catches the past two years - but he's lost some of his explosiveness, which is hardly a surprise because he'll turn 31 in November. White also has unreliable hands; no one in the NFL had more drops than White last season (15).

Elsewhere in Ryan's receiving corps, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez have returned despite being a free agent and a retirement candidate, respectively. Douglas is an underrated slot receiver, while Gonzalez, 36, rebounded last year from a dismal 2010 campaign in which he looked unbelievably slow. Unfortunately, the future Hall-of-Famer is playing on his last legs, and his talent could completely erode by September. Atlanta did not draft his successor, so it'll have to do so next April.

One of the reasons why the Falcons were criticized for giving up too much for Jones was because they depleted their depth and prevented themselves from addressing a very important position of need. That would be left tackle, where Sam Baker and Will Svitek took turns embarrassing themselves last season. Atlanta could have chosen Riley Reiff with the No. 22 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but instead had to settle for Lamar Holmes in the third round. Holmes has some athleticism at 6-5, 325, but he's raw and won't be able to contribute immediately.

The rest of the offensive line is looking pretty solid. The Falcons spent their second-round selection on Wisconsin's Peter Konz, a borderline first-round prospect. Konz will start at right guard this season but will eventually move to center to succeed Todd McClure, who played well at 34 last year. Left guard Justin Blalock and right tackle Tyson Clabo are both excellent in pass protection, though the latter needs to cut down on his penalties (eight in 2011).

Another position the Falcons couldn't address because of a lack of resources was running back. Michael Turner had a solid 2011 campaign overall, but really looked like he was running on fumes down the stretch. He averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry in only one of his final seven games, and that came against a Buccaneer team that quit. Head coach Mike Smith told the media that Turner will be featured less this year; some of his touches will go to Jacquizz Rodgers, a very small (5-6, 196) but speedy running back whom the Falcons acquired in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Rodgers cannot carry a full workload, however, so Atlanta will have to find a complementary player next April.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Defense:
The Falcons have obtained exactly one big-name free agent in each of the previous two offseasons. They'll be hoping that this year's acquisition, Asante Samuel, is better than 2011's Ray Edwards.

Samuel was a steal for a late-round pick. He was disgruntled and highly paid in Philadelphia, so Andy Reid was more than happy to part ways with him. Samuel turned 31 in January, but still played extremely well last year, surrendering a sterling completion percentage of 47.5. That's almost as good as Brent Grimes' unbelievable figure (44.3), so the two should form an incredible cornerback tandem. Grimes was missed at the end of last season when he went down with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Dunta Robinson, who really struggled in 2011, will move to a more comfortable slot corner position.

The one weakness in Atlanta's secondary in the wake of the Samuel trade is free safety Thomas DeCoud, who was often picked on by opposing quarterbacks last season. Strong safety William Moore made up for it, but he needs to stay healthy. He's missed 18 games in his 3-year career, which does not include the aforementioned loss to the Giants; he barely played in that contest because of a groin injury he suffered in the first quarter.

As for Edwards, the former Viking really disappointed. He could barely generate any pressure on the quarterback, notching just 3.5 sacks despite playing across from John Abraham and his 9.5 sacks. Both players were very good in run support, but Edwards really has to pick up the slack in 2012, especially considering that Abraham, at 34, is past his prime and could be in for a major decline any season. The Falcons spent a fifth-round selection on Jonathan Massaquoi, but he probably won't contribute very much this year.

The interior of the defensive front is pretty solid. Jonathan Babineaux is a very well-rounded player; he can apply some pressure on the quarterback and hold his own against the run. Corey Peters, meanwhile, did an OK job in run support last year, but hardly ever rattled opposing signal-callers. Atlanta will want 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry to push Peters, but it appears as though that ship has sailed. Jerry hasn't been the same since shredding his knee during his rookie campaign.

The Falcons had one major loss this offseason, and that was Curtis Lofton, the team's leading tackler (147 tackles), who signed with arch rival New Orleans. They added Lofa Tatupu as a possible replacement. He'll battle it out with 2011 third-rounder Akeem Dent to see who lands the starting gig. Tatupu was out of the league last year, so it's tough to speculate what he could possibly contribute. Dent, meanwhile, barely played as a rookie, so he's just as much of an unknown.

Surrounding the winner of the Tatupu-Dent competition are Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas. Weatherspoon didn't play very well as a rookie in 2010, but really stepped up last year, becoming one of the top linebackers in the NFL. Nicholas is a pretty decent two-down run-defender.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Schedule and Intangibles:
In four seasons, Matt Ryan is 26-5 in the Georgia Dome. That's an impressive record on paper, but it didn't seem to matter much when the Packers waltzed into the Falcons' house and slaughtered them, 48-21, last January.

Eric Weems, now with the Bears, was a very good punt returner. He didn't score last year, but maintained a 9.8 average, while the Falcons restricted the opposition to 4.8. Weems was outgained on kickoffs, however. No touchdowns there either, for or against.

Matt Bryant has been one of the top kickers in the NFL over the past two years. He was 28-of-31 in 2010 and 27-of-29 last season. He's 3-of-3 from 50-plus in that span. He just turned 37.

Matt Bosher didn't have a successful rookie campaign as Atlanta's new punter. He averaged 42.7 yards per attempt with 27-of-70 tries inside the 20.

Atlanta's second-place schedule is pretty difficult. The team has to deal with the Chiefs (road), Broncos (home), Chargers (road), Eagles (road), Cowboys (home), Giants (home), Lions (road), as well as the Saints and Panthers twice.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):

Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2012 Atlanta Falcons Analysis: The Falcons have to love what the Saints have gone through this offseason. That makes their quest to re-claim the NFC South so much easier. But the regular season can't be very important to the fan base, given that they've seen Atlanta blow homefield advantage throughout the playoffs to the Packers in January 2011. The 2012 campaign will be all about finally living up to expectations in the postseason.

Projection: 10-6 (Tied 1st in NFC South)

2012 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2012 NFL Season Previews


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AB's Mock Draft 03-25-2013 04:09 pm (total posts: 6)
13     24

Atlanta Falcons Draft goes like this:
1st: Desmond Trufant CB Washington
2nd: Alex Okafor DE Texas
3rd: Tyrann Mathieu CB Ex-LSU
4th: Marcus Lattimore RB S.Carolina
4th: Brandon Jenkins DE Florida State
5th: Sean Porter OLB Texas A&M

Atlanta Selects 2 CB's because Grimes probably isn't resigning and Asante Samuel is getting older. Trufant will start oppisite of Samuels while Robert McClain plays the nickel. Tyrann Mathieu isnt the type of player the falcons usually pursue but he has talent. With Coach Smith around him Tyrann will be a humble player and mature in the dime role and KR/PR role. If atlanta signs Osi Umeynori or not they still should grab 2 DE's. Okafor is a bargin in the late 2nd Round and could start oppisite of Osi/Bierman. Brandon Jenkins i believe is a diamond in the rough. He proved to be a valued DE early in his career before 2 injuries and a crowded Florida State rotation. In the 4th round he is a good pick and should start for the falcons in time. Sean Porter gives atlanta depth at the OLB spot and possible a new starter if they decide to let Stephen Nicolas go due to the amount of cap space he has. Atlanta has shown alot of interest in Sean Porter so this pick is bound to happen. As for Marcus Lattimore its hard to say he is worth a 4th round talent. He was once considered the top RB in college but after 2 seasons of serious knee injurys it is unsure what he can do. But Atlanta needs to take a RB to groom behind Steven Jackson. If Lattimore becomes the player he once was, Atlanta could have a draft field with steals. At worst atlanta merely wastes a 4th rounder but at this point there isnt alot of players worth taking.
We Need Grimes!!! 03-19-2013 05:45 pm (total posts: 6)
7     20

Atlanta is gonna be screwed if they cant get Brent Grimes back. They have alot of needs in the draft where you cant draft a CB in the 1st. They need 2 DEs unless you bring back John Abraham or sign Dwight Freeney. If you cant get grimes you have to sign a veteran like Antione Windfield to manage opposite of Asante. The draft doesnt have alot of good 2-5 round talents with most the CBs going to be gone when atlanta picks. ATL must resign Grimes
Brian 03-02-2013 01:53 pm (total posts: 1)
7     19

Re-sign Dunta, Moore and Gonzalez if he doesn't retire. Grab Jake Long if Miami becomes a bunch of idiots who don't hold onto their most valuable assets. Every other free agent should be veteran Minimum players with the Draft picks coming in to fill the other holes like DE.
Falcons Mock Draft 02-21-2013 06:03 pm (total posts: 6)
7     32

Atlanta is gonna sign Dwight Freeney, resign Moore, Tony G and Sam baker. And either resign grimes and cut Robinson or keep the opposite. Then in the draft the 1st pick should be Eddie Lacey out of Alabama. He is the best RB in the draft and is worth taking in the end of the 1st. then in the 2nd we take the Best DT hopefully being Sylvester Williams from North Carolina. Then in the 3rd we draft a Guard like Alvin Bailey from Arkansas or Larry Warford from Kentucky or a DE like brandon jenkins from Florida State or John Simon from Ohio State. that would be a great 1st 3 picks.
the real RHM 02-19-2013 08:20 pm (total posts: 1)
7     8

hey rhm! we did that last year. konz/holmes. glad your paying watching the team so close...
anyways, we ain't taking kyle long in the 2nd. stop mocking him to atl in the 2nd. DT,DE,LB,RB,TE are greater needs in the draft.
Anthony 01-30-2013 06:15 pm (total posts: 6)
21     9

Atlanta just needs to resign there own. Sigh William Moore, Sam Baker and Grimes to deals that will give us space to work with. Cut Turner and Dunta Robinson unless Robinson will take a pay cut. Try to bring Tony Gonzalez back for 1 more year. if you can do that during the free agent period that is a win. Only player in Free Agency we should try to get is a decent Oline man that is versatile. Then in the Draft spend the 1st pick on Alex Okafor or another DE that we need. Then in the 2nd round get Eddie Lacey or Montee Ball at RB. 3rd round draft the best oline men availble, probs Alvin Bailey. Then 4th round you get the best avalible player.
RHM 01-29-2013 07:06 pm (total posts: 1)
13     127

I think the falcons need to snag Barret Jones in the first and another OT in the second. I like the Gillissee pick in the third, but wouldnt mind a Devin Taylor. The two fourth round picks should go to a TE and DE. I don't see the need for two DE's in the draft. What a waste. I hope they sign someone that can be productive at DE thru free agency.
TorontoFalcons 01-27-2013 07:23 pm (total posts: 1)
7     10

Yeah they will probably grab Jenkins, or Hankins to play NT, then grab Brandon Jenkins from FSU in round 2 or 3 to play OLB. This team is in the transition of moving to a 3-4
Lance 01-26-2013 12:21 pm (total posts: 19)
13     9

The Falcons are probably going to shift to a 3-4 next season. They already showed signs of it throughout the season with regular use of 3 DT sets. Just an FYI.
epic 08-27-2012 08:32 pm (total posts: 1)
11     10

Falcons r gonna do much better than 10-6, maybe 12-4. How are the wrs and qb not 5 stars?
Willy B 08-23-2012 05:25 pm (total posts: 1)
61     9

whose dick do we gotta suck to get a 5-star receiver rating?
KoG 07-23-2012 03:59 am (total posts: 1)
11     9

You need to add Chris Hope Safety
Randall Flagg 07-09-2012 01:46 am (total posts: 1)
743     636

Won't win anyting with Matt Ryan as the QB. How that guy got the Matty Ice nickname I'll never know, he is a turd of a player.
Bryan Aspinwall 06-27-2012 06:45 pm (total posts: 1)
85     41

Konz is not the successor to McClure, that would be Joe Hawley. Konz will likely stay at guard.
bigdwarf 06-25-2012 05:11 pm (total posts: 1)
321     95

falcons 31 stars,panthers 27 stars,panthers very hard schedule and you give us both a 10-6,how does that work apart from u dont like atlanta in general

2012 NFL Draft Grade: C+

Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: The offensive line is the greatest area of concern. Left tackle and right guard are major problem areas. A successor for Todd McClure is also needed at center. Unfortunately, Atlanta doesn't have a first-round pick.

2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: This is a tough grade because the Falcons didn't pick until No. 55 and had only two selections in the top 150. I loved what they did with their first choice in picking Peter Konz. The Wisconsin lineman fell because of injury concerns, which were overblown. He'll be a force on Atlanta's front, starting out at guard and then taking over for McClure in a year or two.

The rest of Atlanta's picks were decent, save for Lamar Holmes, who was not in the top 225 of many major big board. He was a big reach at No. 91, but maybe the Falcons, who didn't pick until No. 157, thought there would be a good chance he wouldn't be available in the fifth round.

2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

55. Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin: A+ Grade
Medical issues affect draft statuses, but they are usually overblown. Peter Konz fell because of the medical. If he happened to be healthy, he would have been drafted in the final stages of the first round. The Falcons are getting incredible value here. Konz also fills a huge need; he can play at guard until center Todd McClure retires.

91. Lamar Holmes, OT, Southern Miss Matt Millen Telemarketer Kielbasa Salesman Grade
I didn't have Lamar Holmes being drafted. No major big board ranked him in the top 225. The Falcons probably could have obtained him in Round 6 or 7. Maybe they know something no one else does.

157. Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin B- Grade
Ovie Mughelli is coming off a torn MCL, so it's understandable why the Falcons would draft a fullback. I think this is a bit early for Bradie Ewing, but it's not much of a reach.

164. Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy A Grade
This is a really good value pick. Jonathan Massaquoi was ranked No. 84 on Mike Mayock's big board, and he was No. 116 on the consensus rankings. The Falcons had to find a young pass-rusher to perhaps eventually take over for John Abraham.

192. Charles Mitchell, SS, Mississippi State B Grade
Safety depth had to be addressed, so this pick makes sense. Charles Mitchell could have gone a bit later than this, but given that this is Atlanta's penultimate pick, it's not a big deal.

249. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina B Grade
The Falcons don't have much depth at defensive tackle, so this pick makes sense. Travian Robertson probably should have been selected at this spot.

Season Summary:
The Falcons thought they were one player away from becoming one of the Super Bowl favorites, which is why they traded the farm for Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jones didn't disappoint, but pretty much everyone else did. The Falcons have some glaring holes on their roster, but with no first-round pick to fill any of them, it'll be difficult for them to improve.

Offseason Moves:
  • Falcons cut FB Ovie Mughelli
  • Falcons acquire CB Asante Samuel from Eagles for late-round pick
  • Bears sign CB Kelvin Hayden
  • Falcons sign SS James Sanders
  • Falcons re-sign C Todd McClure
  • Saints sign ILB Curtis Lofton
  • Falcons re-sign LS Joe Zelenka
  • Falcons re-sign DE John Abraham
  • Bears sign WR/KR Eric Weems
  • Falcons re-sign WR Harry Douglas
  • Falcons re-sign QB Chris Redman
  • Falcons re-sign DT Vance Walker
  • Falcons sign ILB Lofa Tatupu
  • Falcons re-sign RB Jason Snelling
  • Falcons re-sign S Thomas DeCoud
  • Falcons re-sign DE Kroy Biermann
  • Falcons franchise CB Brent Grimes

    Offseason Needs:
    1. Left Tackle: The Giants manhandled Atlanta's offensive line in the playoffs. One of the issues was at left tackle, where Sam Baker was benched during the year. Will Svitek was solid in relief early, but really struggled down the stretch. Acquiring a left tackle without a first-round pick will be difficult, unfortunately. Drafted Lamar Holmes

    2. Cornerback: It doesn't appear as though Brent Grimes will be back in Atlanta next year in the wake of speculation that he sat out the playoff game to avoid injury (per Pro Football Weekly). Franchised Brent Grimes; traded for Asante Samuel

    3. Center: Todd McClure is a 35-year-old free agent. If he's not retained, the Falcons will obviously need a replacement. A Day 2 selection could suffice. Re-signed Todd McClure; drafted Peter Konz

    4. Defensive End: Ray Edwards was a disappointment as a free-agent acquisition. John Abraham is a 34-year-old free agent who frequently disappears in big games. Kroy Biermann is due to hit the market as well. Re-signed John Abraham and Kroy Biermann; drafted JOnathan Massaquoi

    5. Running Back: Michael Turner is pretty much done. He averaged 3.6 YPC or worse in six of his final seven games, losing any sort of burst he once had. Jacquizz Rodgers is just a third-down scat back, so the Falcons need a new starter. Re-signed Jason Snelling

    6. Inside Linebacker: Stud inside linebacker Curtis Lofton is a free agent who must be re-signed. Signed Lofa Tatupu

    7. Right Guard: It's unclear if last year's fourth-round pick, Joe Hawley, is the answer at right guard. He was brutal in the postseason loss, but he'll be better next season.

    8. Tight End: Tony Gonzalez just rebounded with a great year, but he'll be 36 in February. He could decline next season, and if he doesn't, it's likely that the 2012 campaign will be his last. A successor will need to be acquired.

    9. Free Safety: Thomas DeCoud is another free agent I'm sure Atlanta would like to retain. Re-signed Thomas DeCoud

    10. Wide Receiver Depth: Help is needed behind the starters and free agent Harry Douglas. Re-signed Harry Douglas

    11. Linebacker Depth: The Falcons will be thin here if Mike Peterson walks.

    2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Lofa Tatupu, ILB, Seahawks. Age: 29.
      Signed with Falcons (2 years, $5.75 million)

      Lofa Tatupu (or Taptua) oddly received no interest in 2011. Maybe a year off was what he needed to recover from all of his injuries.

    Atlanta Falcons Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Curtis Lofton, ILB, Falcons. Age: 26.
      Signed with Saints (5 years)

      Curtis Lofton is a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker. Re-signing him is Atlanta's No. 1 priority this offseason because he's the soul of the defense.

    2. Brent Grimes, CB, Falcons. Age: 29.
      Franchised by Falcons

      Despite size and speed limitations, Brent Grimes is a very talented cornerback. The only question is his dedication. There is speculation via a Pro Football Weekly report that he sat out the playoff game so he wouldn't risk a big pay day by getting hurt. If so, Grimes might be one of those take-the-money-and-run bust free agents. Caveat emptor.

    3. John Abraham, DE, Falcons. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Falcons (3 years)

      John Abraham is pretty overrated because he comes up small in big games, usually racking up his high sack totals against poor opponents like Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars. He'll be 34 in May, so his best days are far behind him.

    4. Todd McClure, C, Falcons. Age: 35.
      Re-signed with Falcons (1 year)

      Todd McClure turns 35 in February, but he still gets the job done. His skills could erode without warning, however, which is why I'm listing him at just three stars.

    5. Eric Weems, WR/KR, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bears (3 years)

      Eric Weems scored two special-teams touchdowns in 2010, but couldn't find the end zone this past season. However, he was still effective on returns, maintaining solid averages in both punt and kick returns.

    6. Kroy Biermann, DE, Falcons. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Falcons (3 years)

      Kroy Biermann had a very solid 2010 campaign, but struggled this past season, notching only 2.5 sacks despite playing about 35 snaps every week. He was invisible against the Giants.

    7. Thomas DeCoud, FS, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Falcons (5 years, $17.5 million; $4 million guaranteed)

      Thomas DeCoud is good in run support, but tends to get lost in coverage. He performed poorly in the beginning of the year, but picked up his play late.

    8. Ovie Mughelli, FB, Falcons. Age: 32.
      Ovie Mughelli is coming off a torn MCL. He needs to prove that he can still be an effective blocker.

    9. Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Falcons
    10. Vance Walker (RFA), DT, Falcons. Age: 25. -- Re-signed with Falcons (1 year)
    11. Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Falcons (3 years)
    12. Mike Peterson, OLB, Falcons. Age: 36.
    13. James Sanders, SS, Falcons. Age: 28. -- Signed with Cardinals
    14. Reggie Kelly, TE, Falcons. Age: 35.
    15. Kelvin Hayden, CB, Falcons. Age: 29. -- Signed with Bears
    16. Chris Redman, QB, Falcons. Age: 35. -- Re-signed with Falcons
    17. Brett Romberg, C, Falcons. Age: 32.
    18. Kirk Chambers, OT, Falcons. Age: 33.

    2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings Coming Soon

    Divisional Rival History:
    Carolina Panthers: The host has won six of the past eight meetings. The Falcons had a fluky comeback at Carolina in 2011 though.
    New Orleans Saints: The Saints have won 10 of 12 in this rivalry. New Orleans can thank Garrett Hartley for missing an overtime field goal during one of those two losses.
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Ryan is 6-2 against the Buccaneers. There's no need to explain that record.

    Features to be Posted This Offseason:
    1. 2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
    2. Detailed season preview
    3. Fantasy football projections
    4. Positional rankings
    5. Daily updates on free-agent signings

    More 2011 NFL Offseason Pages:

    DAL / NYG / PHI / WAS /
    CHI / DET / GB / MIN /
    ATL / CAR / NO / TB /
    ARZ / SEA / SF / STL /
    BUF / MIA / NE / NYJ /
    BAL / CIN / CLE / PIT /
    HOU / IND / JAX / TEN /
    DEN / KC / OAK / SD /

    2012 NFL Offseason Pages

    Fantasy Football Rankings - July 26

    2016 NFL Mock Draft - July 24

    2015 NFL Mock Draft - July 23

    2015 NBA Mock Draft - July 1

    NFL Free Agents

    NFL Picks - Feb. 2

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