Atlanta Falcons Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
June 10, 2013

Solid Starter

Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington – Round 1
The Falcons were desperate for cornerback help and they needed to land a player who can start as a rookie with their first-round pick. Thus, the organization felt compelled to trade up for Trufant. We mentioned Atlanta was likely to do that deal in our final mock drafts since Trufant wouldn’t make it to the end of the first round. While Trufant has his detractors, I really think he has a good overall game and is ready for a starting role as a rookie.

Trufant had 36 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one interception, five passes broken up and a sack last year. The senior was left on an island throughout 2012 and held up extremely well in one-on-one man coverage. Going back to the end of his junior season, Trufant was one of the few Washington defenders to hold his own against Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, wide receiver Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams in the Alamo Bowl.

Trufant showed serious man-coverage ability to win one-on-ones with wide receivers at the Senior Bowl. He has size, length, speed and can recover. Trufant also was very gritty and physical with receivers. It was clear that he is very confident with a tenacious attitude and the mentality of a man-cover corner.

With Asante Samuel, Trufant will have a good veteran to learn from in 2013. Trufant’s older brothers are experienced NFL veterans, so he has good resources to lean on as he adjusts to the pro game. Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is one of the best in the business, and he’ll put Trufant in situations to succeed while disguising his weaknesses.

I think Trufant will play well as a rookie for the Falcons as they pursue the Super Bowl. I think he will turn into a solid starter for Atlanta over the next few seasons and has the upside to potentially be a No. 1 corner or a very good No. 2.

Most Likely To Bust

Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford – Round 4
Perhaps Toilolo will show better when he gets an opportunity to have a bigger role, but that may not come with the Falcons either. Atlanta will have to replace future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, probably next offseason. Toilolo will have the 2013 season to show the coaching staff and front office that he should be viewed as the starter of the future, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Atlanta uses an early-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on a pass-receiving tight end.

Toilolo was stuck on the bench at Stanford behind Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz. Toilolo was part of double-tight end sets, but was never the lead guy. He caught 24 passes for 393 yards and four touchdowns last season. Toilolo looked better in 2011 despite Fleener being on the team. Toilolo caught 25 passes for 343 yards and six touchdowns. The rookie is a good red-zone weapon, but needs to work on his blocking and route running.

The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder was supposed to be a prospect with a rare combination of size and speed, but he looked terrible at the Combine. Toilolo was second to last in the 40-yard dash (4.86) among tight ends, which was much slower than expected, and recorded a low total on the bench press with 17 reps.

The Falcons are a great opportunity for Toilolo. Not only do they need a tight end of the future, but he has the chance to learn from one of the greatest in NFL history. Toilolo also has one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and some great receivers to help open up the middle seam for him. In my opinion, Toilolo looks more likely to be a backup tight end who is best used in the red zone rather than becoming a three-down starter and a true replacement for Gonzalez.

Potential Boom Pick

Malliciah Goodman, DE, Clemson – Round 4
I think the Falcons are going to have a pass-rusher emerge from one of their mid-round picks. Between Goodman, Stansly Maponga and 2012 pick Jonathan Massaquoi, I think Atlanta will get a good rusher to play opposite of Osi Umenyiora. Of the three, I think Goodman has the skill set that will translate the best for the NFL.

The 6-foot-4, 276-pound Goodman has speed and explosiveness to go along with good size. He produced 20 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles last year. Goodman had a lot of splash plays for Clemson, but wasn’t consistent enough. The rookie has to improve his run defense, but he could be a situational pass-rusher this season.

Scouts from other teams told that they really liked Goodman and felt he had some real upside for the NFL. Goodman flashed that potentioal at the Senior Bowl. It is a real head-scratcher why he didn’t produce more in college. Goodman could use his combination of size and speed to become a boom pick for Thomas Dimitroff, especially under the guidance of Nolan and head coach Mike Smith.

Future Depth Player

Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana – Round 2
The Falcons doubled up at cornerback in the second round which made a lot of sense with Alford available. Many thought he wouldn’t get out of the top half of the second round, so landing him just before the third round was a nice value pick for Atlanta.

In the immediate future, Alford should be depth for Atlanta. The 5-foot-10, 188-pounder also has good speed and was impressive at the Senior Bowl. Alford did well in man coverage, zone coverage and on special teams. He displayed some ball skills in college with 10 interceptions and 20 passes broken up over his career.

Perhaps Alford could develop into a starting cornerback on the other side from Trufant, but in my opinion, Alford would be best as a nickel cornerback. He may not have the size to match up on the outside with big receivers. Alford has the agility and physical demeanor to be a nice slot cornerback. I think he’ll turn into a solid contributor as a nickel.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

22. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: B+ Grade
I like Desmond Trufant a lot. I mocked him to the Falcons quite frequently at No. 30, but I guess Atlanta felt like he wouldn’t fall to them. Moving up eight spots to land him is definitely acceptable. Trufant should be an instant starter across from Asante Samuel, as he fills a huge need.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

60. Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana: A Grade
There was a report a few weeks ago that Robert Alford wouldn’t make it past the 42nd pick. Well, he did, and the Falcons have to be thrilled. Alford, who provides solid value, really helps fortify the cornerback position along with Desmond Trufant. Atlanta’s former greatest weakness now has to be considered a strength.

126. Malliciah Goodman, DE, Clemson: B Grade
The Falcons needed a defensive end despite signing Osi Umenyiora in free agency. Malliciah Goodman projects as a solid complement for the former Giant, and he fits the range.

133. Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford: B- Grade
This is a slight reach for Levine Toilolo, but that’s not a big deal at the end of the fourth round. Toilolo could be viewed as the heir apparent for Tony Gonzalez whenever the future Hall of Famer chooses to retire.

153. Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU: B Grade
The Falcons continue to draft well. This is another pick that makes sense, as Atlanta had to double dip at the defensive end position. Stansly Mapgona fits the range as a fifth-round prospect.

243. Kemal Ishmael, DB, Central Florida: C+ Grade
Why not add another defensive back? Teams can never use enough of them. Kemal Ishmael will provide some help on special teams.

244. Zeke Motta, S, Notre Dame: B Grade
Speaking of defensive backs, Zeke Motta provides more value than Atlanta’s other compensatory seventh-rounder. The Falcons didn’t have much depth at safety.

249. Sean Renfree, QB, Duke: A- Grade
Sean Renfree is a very smart quarterback who could be developed and flipped into a mid-round pick or better. Why not take a chance on him?

2013 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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