USC LB Clay Matthews
RedNose with the pick...
The Atlanta Falcons were one of the surprise stories in the NFL in 2008. They were led by a rookie GM (Thomas Dimitroff), a rookie head coach (Mike Smith), a rookie QB (Matt Ryan), and a FA running back who had spent his career up to that point backing up a future Hall of Famer (Michael Turner). Going into ’08 the Falcons weren’t expected to do much. Well, Smith turned out to be a hard nosed head coach, Ryan was more poised than any rookie QB has ever been, and Turner was the toughest runner in the league. Behind the strength of their offense, the Falcons won 11 games and made an unlikely playoff appearance.
Going into the 2009 season, the offense remains intact, and will look to build on the success they had last season, pounding the defenses body with Turner and Jerious Norwood and then breaking their backs with deep play action passes to Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. If Ryan and his receiving core continue to progress, we’ll be looking at one of the NFL’s powerhouse teams for the next decade. What’s that? Defense wins championships?
Oh, well, let’s have a look. The Falcons ranked in the NFL’s bottom third in nearly every defensive statistic. Sure, they have a superstar pass rusher in John Abraham (His 16.5 sacks were just a shade under half the team’s total), and some solid young pieces in DE Jamaal Anderson, MLB Curtis Lofton, CB Chris Houston and FS Erik Coleman. However, the rest of their defense was old and slow (exit Keith Brooking and Lawyer Milloy), or expendable (Dominique Foxworth and Michael Boley).
So now the task is to build the defense the way Dimitroff’s Patriots and Smith’s Jaguars did. Build the front 7 with big, versatile, hammerhead type players. That sets the stage for the 24th overall pick in the AP Draft.
At this juncture in the draft, there are virtually no first round talents left. The best value on the board is an RB, and the Falcons certainly don’t need that. There are 10-15 defensive players who would grade out very closely and would most likely be ranked differently on every NFL scouts board. Of the 4 players I’ve narrowed it down to, 3 are in the front 7. The temptation is there to take one of the CB’s on the board, but while solid, they are not the playmakers the Falcons need in the secondary. But enough stalling, the Falcons need toughness and athleticism up front, and toughness and athleticism is what they’ll get with USC OLB Clay Matthews III
Matthews is a bit of an enigma. He’s an underdog and a thoroughbred at the same time. He father Clay II., uncle Bruce, and grandfather Clay Sr., all played extensive professional football, so the game is clearly in his blood. Yet, he entered USC as a 166 pound walk on who made the team as a tight end. Over 4 years he grew into a 6-3, 245 lb. LB/DE who can play all over the field. He finally got a chance to start in 2008, his Senior season, and he made the most of it. As primarily a rush linebacker, Matthews built his reputation behind the line of scrimmage, harassing QBs and burying running plays before they even began. I have to admit, it’s a little scary to take these USC players because the collection of talent skews your ability to single out the individuals as great prospects. However, Matthew’s size, athleticism, toughness and tenacity are easy to spot. I’ll also admit that I’m going with the Matthews name a little bit as well. Watching his uncle Bruce play with the Oilers/Titans, and catching the tail end of his dad’s career with the Browns and Falcons, I can’t help but consider that legacy. Matthews has grown up with the NFL and will be grounded by his family. He will be the perfect outside linebacker to put next to Lofton and behind bull rusher Jamaal Anderson. He is exactly the type of “hammerhead” Mike Smith craves in his front seven. The Falcons still need help at DT and CB, but that will have to wait for later rounds. For now the Falcons have their man. Falcons fans will love having a Clay Matthews at the beginning of his career, instead of at the end.
Previous pick: RB Chris Wells
Read more: Scouting Report (Mocking the Draft)
On the clock: Miami Dolphins (schraggyj)
Click over for the schedule and current draft results.
|Pick||Round 1||Selection||Date||Community Approval|
|1||Detroit Lions - UCrawford||LB Aaron Curry||Weds. March 10th||Forgot to do a poll|
|2||St. Louis Rams - Lanier63||OT Jason Smith||Monday, March 16th||67%|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs - TonyG88||OT Eugene Monroe||Monday, March 16th||56%|
|4||Seattle Seahawks - mikvogel||DT B.J. Raji||Tuesday, March 17th||46%|
|5||Cleveland Browns - HIV2Elway||WR Michael Crabtree||Tuesday, March 17th||37%|
|6||Cincinnati Bengals - mistamic||OT Andre Smith||Weds., March 18th||43%|
|7||Oakland Raiders - mushin||WR Jeremy Maclin||Weds., March 18th||38%|
|8||Jacksonville Jaguars - DThomasReigns||WR Percy Harvin||Thursday, March 19th||29%|
|9||Green Bay Packers - JasonM||
DE/OLB Everette Brown
||Thursday, March 19th||68%|
|10||San Francisco 49ers - Harry Feltersnatch||QB Matt Stafford||Friday, March 20th||61%|
|11||Buffalo Bills - ArrowDread||LB Rey Maualuga||Friday, March 20th||50%|
|12||Denver Broncos - Keyser Sose||DE Brian Orakpo||Monday, March 23rd||58%|
|13||Washington Redskins - Official Arrowhead Pride Parade||T Michael Oher||Monday, March 23rd||64%|
|14||New Orleans Saints - cmpotter||CB Vontae Davis||Tuesday, March 24th||46%|
|15||Houston Texans - ChiefsDude||CB Malcolm Jenkins||Tuesday, March 24th||61%|
|16||San Diego Chargers - Helmets||DE Tyson Jackson||Weds., March 25th||58%|
|17||New York Jets - NJChief||QB Mark Sanchez||Weds., March 25th||77%|
|18||Chicago Bears - Holmeslice||QB Josh Freeman||Thursday, March 26th||28%|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers - madtheory||DT Peria Jerry||Thursday, March 26th||45%|
|20||Detroit Lions (from Dallas) - UCrawford||
DE Aaron Maybin
||Friday, March 27th||54%|
|21||Philadelphia Eagles - Chiefsfan717||TE Brandon Pettigrew||Friday, March 27th||60%|
|22||Minnesota Vikings - kcsno56||WR Hakeem Nicks||Monday, March 30th|
|23||New England Patriots - connerman||RB Chris Wells||Monday, March 30th|
|24||Atlanta Falcons - RedNose||LB Clay Matthews
||Tuesday, March 31st|
|25||Miami Dolphins - shraggyj||Tuesday, March 31st|
|26||Baltimore Ravens - Ben S||Weds., April 1st|
|27||Indianapolis Colts - craig in calgary||Weds., April 1st|
|28||Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina) - Chiefsfan717||Thursday, April 2nd|
|29||New York Giants - ChiefsFan90s||Thursday, April 2nd|
|30||Tennessee Titans - Lvl.99||Friday, April 3rd|
|31||Arizona Cardinals - THE_TRUTH||Friday, April 3rd|
|32||Pittsburgh Steelers - McWhirt33||Monday, April 6th|