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Mere seconds away from a trip to the Super Bowl two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons fell out of contention early during the 2013 season. Injuries played a major factor in the team’s downfall, but so did a lot of decisions made in the offseason at positions that used to be their strong point.
The team’s leading sacker in 2012, John Abraham, was gone, as was Michael Turner who spearheaded one of the most consistent rushing attacks in the league. The burden fell onto Matt Ryan who was left with a pair of hobbled receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones, and a defense that couldn’t stop — well, a nosebleed.
The Falcons will have their pick of the litter with the No. 6 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, and given the organization’s previous moves to trade up and nab the best player available at their biggest needs, it would not be surprise if they once again pull off a great draft and return to contention in 2014. The Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft needs start with finding young talent on both the offensive and defensive lines, a new workhorse in the backfield, and a successor to Tony Gonzalez.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said his team needed to get tougher this offseason, leading us to speculate the team could address one of its lines with its first pick. Given the team’s past track record of pulling the trigger on Julio Jones, would it shock anyone to see Atlanta go after Jadeveon Clowney? The most highly touted player in this year’s class, Clowney fits the team’s biggest hole at defensive end and would immediately upgrade the pass rush which lacked last year.
If not, the team could address the offensive line and find better protection for Ryan with the sixth pick. The highest-rated tackle Jake Matthews may be around, as could Greg Robinson, who would immediately bolster the team’s pass blocking that allowed 44 sacks a season ago.
Steven Jackson proved there’s not much left in the tank last season, and Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t able to shoulder the entire workload. Atlanta could go after a Jeremy Hill, Bishop Sankey or Devonta Freeman to add some power to its backfield and eventually become the No. 1-type back it lost in The Burner.
And while there’s no replacing a Hall of Fame-bound tight end like Gonzalez, the team will have to try. There is talent at the top of this year’s class, and perhaps an Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Troy Niklas could fall to them in the second round. Seferian-Jenkins is 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, giving Ryan a huge target to rely on. Niklas is one of the biggest risers of late and has the ability to be a three-down player.
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