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Falcons have quality choices

OT Long, RB McFadden showing great gifts


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 02/25/08

Indianapolis Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long opened the NFL scouting combine late last week bench pressing 225 pounds 38 times. That set the bar literally and figuratively for coaches and scouts.

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden dashed 40 yards in 4.33 seconds Sunday leaving everyone else literally and figuratively in the dust.

This is why the Falcons, who hold the No. 3 pick in the April 26-27 draft, have options.

There is more to come. Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, respectively, didn't fully participate or won't participate, in combine workouts. They'll show their wares at Pro Days next month.

"I know we're going to get an outstanding football player at that spot," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It also opens up other avenues for us in terms of how we want to pursue this."

Which of the potential draft picks lands in Atlanta will be determined, in large part, by what the Falcons do in free agency, which starts Friday.

Should Atlanta acquire an offensive lineman in free agency or maybe two that could prompt the selection of Ryan or McFadden. If the Falcons secure a safety and/or a middle linebacker in free agency, the selection of Dorsey could be in order, especially with Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff reiterating the desire to build the team through the middle.

Adding a left tackle is a must, since veteran Wayne Gandy was released last week. So too is stockpiling defensive tackles. Rod Coleman was cut and starting nose tackle Trey Lewis tore his ACL late last season and might not be ready to start the season.

Quarterback? That is the most drought-stricken position on the roster.

D.J. Shockley, coming off major knee injury, and Joey Harrington, whose future with the team isn't solid, are the only quarterbacks under contract. The Falcons want to re-sign Chris Redman, a free agent, but there is not guarantee that will happen. The pickings are slim among free-agent quarterbacks.

"In this league the teams that are successful are the teams that have great quarterbacks," Smith said. "If you look at the playoff teams from this season and you'll see that the majority of them have outstanding quarterbacks. It's a quarterback driven league and I think we have to look at all avenues, in terms of free agency and the college draft. I know there are a number of young quarterbacks here at the combine that we have a lot of interest in."

If Atlanta doesn't choose a quarterback with its top pick, it is expected to at some point within the first three rounds. Michigan's Chad Henne, Delaware's Joe Flacco, Louisville's Brian Brohm and USC's John David Booty are considered the best quarterbacks after Ryan.

While tailback might not be the Falcons' most threadbare position, it is an area that must be addressed because of starter Warrick Dunn's age and durability.

Adding a standout player like McFadden, whose stature, style and productivity have been compared to NFL rookie of the year Adrian Peterson, not only could give Atlanta its back of the future, it could have a household name who could boost awareness and ticket sales.

In addition, the system that will be run by offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey calls for a bruising tailback. Smith is on-board with the philosophy.

"In terms of us being able to run the football, that's what we want to do offensively first and foremost," Smith said. "That doesn't mean we're not going to throw the football but we're going to make sure that we can establish the line of scrimmage and run the football first."

A position not to be overlooked: place-kicker.

Morten Andersen, 47, has been automatic within 45 yards the past two seasons but the Falcons are going to explore other options, again, before calling on the reliable veteran.

"He's on our radar screen but there are a number of guys here, in terms of college guys that kicked that we were very impressed with," Smith said. "We are going to make a determination, as we go through this process, looking at the college guys, the free agents that are available, and make our decision."

"There's definitely going to be competition, not only at the kicker position but I believe that competition is what makes a football team. It's going to be an open competition at all positions."


" Today-Tuesday: NFL scouting combine

" Friday: Free agency period begins

" NFL Draft: April 26-27

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brvslugger10 (2/24/2008)
the_next_level (2/24/2008)
I hope Ellis puts up sick numbers at the combine.Kid has a tremendous upside,and good motor.I think he is who the Falcons take.
If not J. Long, then Ellis is the guy.

I agree with you but Vise versa. , I would take Ellis but I'm not sure that TD and MS could go with Long , I couldn't blame them or be to upset , but i'd go Ellis and take a couple of OTs in the 2nd and third rounds.

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