Falcons Draft Need - Cornerback

Head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff have their hands full this offseason. Whether they make the playoffs or not, the Falcons must find some cornerbacks they can rely on in both zone and man-coverage in order to take the next step. The offensive playmakers are in place, but on defense they need more or they will be mired in mediocrity for the forseeable future...

The Atlanta secondary has given up 20 pass-plays of more than 30 yards and they rank eighth-worst in the league in that category. To give you some perspective, Detroit and Oakland have each allowed 24 plays of the same distance.

Dimitroff and Smith are probably already discussing how they can improve the secondary and it isn't out of the question that they might look at a veteran or two to bring into the fold. However, there are several elite corners that could be available for them next April when the NFL Draft takes place, so let's take a look at who some of those top players are likely to be...

Florida's Joe Haden is only a junior, but the expectation is that he will declare for the draft and if he does, with his size, aggressivness and speed, he will likely be the top rated corner heading into the NFL's annual selection weekend.

Haden is outstanding in a cover-two zone, because of his ball-skills and his ability to break on passes thrown in his direction. He plays the position with a safety's mentality and is very physical both at the line as well as in re-directing receivers.

The Gators rely heavily on their corners to force running plays inside and Haden has shown the willingness to take on blockers as well as come up and lay a lick on a ballcarrier when he has the chance.

Donovan Warren from Michigan and Kareem Jackson from Alabama are two more juniors who have the size and skills necessary to declare early as well.

Both measure in at 6-feet tall and both hover around the 190-pound mark, so both offer up that physicality NFL defensive coordinators are looking for.

As far as zone is concerned, I like Warren a little more because he reads and reacts well in space and breaks on passes well. Jackson is better in man, playing physical at the line, not allowing his opponent a free release.

Of the seniors that are available, keep an eye on Alterran Verner. He too possesses good size (5-11, 190), but it's his quickness that really has teams intrigued. He ran a 4.08 in the three-cone drill out of high school, giving coaches the feeling he can change direction well no matter whether he's in man-to-man or in zone.

Also, Trevard Lindley from Kentucky has the size of a safety (6-1, 185) and he's been solid for the Wildcats since he arrived in 2006.

The top senior on several boards is Florida State's Patrick Robinson a player who has fallen on my board just because he's been a bit more inconsistent than I'd like to see.

When his head is in the game, there isn't a better cover-corner in the country, but he tends to peak into the backfield a little too much in zone and he loses track of his man at times when asked to play bump-and-run. He also bites on double-moves a lot, guessing on a route instead of reading the play and then making the adjustment.

All in all, this is a good, not great, draft for corner prospects so the Falcons should be able to find someone they can add to their roster that can really give them a shot at improving.

Chris Houston has been very inconsistent this year while rookie Christopher Owens has shown some promise in his initial season with the team.

With Owens and then a talented rookie and a solid veteran in the fold, the Falcons could greatly improve their playmaking abilities in the secondary and that might allow them to take that next step to the elite level of the NFC.

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