And with the #24 Pick in the Arrowhead Pride Community Mock Draft, the Atlanta Falcons Select...

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                                  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

 

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