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Draft Preview: Falcons pick 30th
Posted: Friday March 19, 1999 04:25 PM
For four years, the No. 30 pick has belonged to the reigning Super Bowl champs, but this time, the runners-up from Atlanta have the honors.
Because the Falcons gave up their second-round pick last year to get receiver Tony Martin from the San Diego Chargers, they have just one selection in the first 90 picks. Martin has since been released, but the Falcons have done a solid job of filling obvious needs through free agency, making their pick hard to project.
Dan Reeves has gotten better impact players with his lower-round picks than his first-rounders in Atlanta. The Falcons took tight end O.J. Santiago in the third round and linebacker Henri Crockett in the fourth round in 1997, and last year, the team found a starting tackle, Ephraim Salaam, in the seventh round and nabbed return specialist Tim Dwight in the fourth. First-rounders Michael Booker and Keith Brooking should emerge into larger roles next season, however.
Reeves hasn't been gun-shy to trade his picks, either - he moved down from No. 3 to No. 11 in 1997 and traded down in the second round with Tampa Bay last season.
Best bets for No. 30
The Falcons' top three needs heading into the off-season were at quarterback, receiver and defensive back, and Atlanta did well in signing former Giants quarterback Danny Kanell and his top receiver last year, Chris Calloway, as well as ex-Bears safety Marty Carter. Unless the team releases veteran safety Eugene Robinson as has been speculated, there's not an obvious void to fill with the first-round pick. With that said, two areas where the Falcons might use that pick are on the offensive and defensive line.
The Falcons had a surprisingly cohesive line last year, but dangerously little depth. The line is certainly young - among the top eight linemen, Bob Hallen, Jose Portilla and Salaam were rookies last year, and center Calvin Collins is entering his third year in the league.
Given the draft's excellent class of tackles, Atlanta could bolster their line there - there's a chance one of Georgia's two potential first-round linemen, Chris Terry and Matt Stinchcomb, could be available when the Falcons pick. Stinchcomb is more likely to be gone by No. 30, but with all the attention on the tackles, an interior line prospect like Boston College center Damien Woody might be available. No center has been taken in the first round since Steve Everitt went to the Cleveland Browns in 1993, and Woody should break that trend.
The Falcons' pass rush was among the best in the league last year but will get hit hard by free agency next year, so Atlanta could help counter their losses by addressing that need - the team's top pick has been on the defensive side for each of the last four years. One small-school prospect the Falcons might go for is Lamar King of Saginaw Valley State. He's surprisingly fast for his size - 6-foot-3, 291 pounds - and could ease his way into the lineup this year and take on a larger role in 2000 if a starter signs elsewhere. If they're still on the board, Florida State's Tony Bryant and West Virginia's John Thornton could also fit in with the Falcons.
Even with the addition of Kanell, the Falcons' top priority will be keeping quarterback Chris Chandler healthy, and the deeper their offensive line, the better the chances Chandler will be standing at the end of each game. Knowing that, the best bet looks to be offensive line for the Falcons - pencil in Georgia's Terry as the Falcons' choice at No. 30 next month.
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