This afternoon the Atlanta Falcons decided to part ways with 4-Time Pro Bowl CB Asante Samuel and veteran LB Stephen Nicholas. In 2013 the Falcons had one of the worst defensive units in the NFL, and it appears that the brass in Atlanta wants a fresh start.
Looking forward into the upcoming draft, these two departures definitely point to the defense as an area of interest for the team’s first round selection. In my mock draft I had the Falcons selecting Anthony Barr because of the team’s dire need for an elite pass rusher. However, with strengths inside the division at wideout (Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, etc.), the Falcons could look to select a corner with their first round selection for a second year in a row.
One prospect that would be a great fit in Atlanta is Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard. Dennard is probably the most athletically gifted secondary player in this year’s draft. During his senior season at Michigan State he accumulated 61 total tackles, 4 interceptions and 10 pass breakups while leading his team to a Rose Bowl victory over the Stanford Cardinal. His breakout game this season was against rival Big Ten opponent Iowa. Dennard combined for 8 tackles and had two interceptions against the Hawkeyes on their home turf. Dennard has good size (5’11” 200 lbs.) with above average speed and thrives in bump and run, and man-to-man coverage. Because of the Falcons need for good pieces in their secondary to compete in the NFC South, Dennard makes a lot of sense.
Furthermore, some other players that might be on the Falcons radar include: UCLA OLB Anthony Barr, Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert, Florida CB Marcus Roberson and Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack.