We’ll start of our session of team-by-team mailbags with the Atlanta Falcons and go in alphabetical order (by city or region).
Not sure yet if we’ll roll through the entire division today or if we’ll do the Falcons and Panthers for now and save the Saints and the Bucs for Sunday. Either way, stay tuned.
Kishon in Long Island said he loved the article about Vidal Hazelton and asked if the Falcons might give him a shot.
Pat Yasinskas: Let’s be real objective about Hazelton. Even if he lights it up at his pro day, he probably will be a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent. He’s a guy with a world of talent, but he didn’t get to play a lot of college football because of his transfer from Southern California to Cincinnati, and injuries. But he had a high profile coming out of college, and teams are going to keep an eye on him. Hazelton spent part of his life in Georgia, has family there and has made it clear he’d love to play for the Falcons. I think Atlanta could be looking at other receivers earlier in the draft. But Hazelton is the kind of guy the Falcons and a lot of other teams could take a chance on very late in the draft or sign as an undrafted free agent. There’s not a lot of downside because he’s not going to cost much. And there’s big upside if Hazelton can stay healthy and finally live up to his potential.
Joe in Atlanta asks if the Falcons could be a landing spot for Tommie Harris.
Pat Yasinskas: I never like to say never, because anything is possible. Teams will surprise you, like the Carolina Panthers did when they signed Jeremy Shockey. But I would say Harris is a long shot. The Falcons don’t have a huge need at defensive tackle. They have a very good veteran in Jonathan Babineaux, and they believe Peria Jerry can make an impact next season as his knee continues to get stronger. They’re also pretty pleased with Corey Peters, a third-round pick last season, who wound up as a starter.
Alex in Atlanta asks if defensive end Ray Edwards could be a possible target for the Falcons in free agency.
Pat Yasinskas: Entirely possible, but we’ll have to see what happens with the labor situation. We all know the Falcons want to improve their pass rush, and that might come in the draft. But the Falcons have been pretty deliberate under coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. They might only make one or two moves via free agency or trade per offseason, but they usually are pretty big ones. Edwards certainly fits the profile of what might be Atlanta’s biggest need – a pass-rusher up front.
David in Atlanta wonders if receiver Michael Jenkins can raise his level of play and match Roddy White’s production.
Pat Yasinskas: Short answer: No. Long answer: The Falcons aren’t looking for Jenkins to be anything like White. They’re two very different types of receivers. Jenkins is a role player. He’s a big guy, and is considered one of the top blocking receivers in the NFL. That alone gives him an important niche in Atlanta’s offense. He also is a decent possession receiver who makes some catches when needed. But he’s clearly the No. 3 option in the passing game behind White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons might look for a speed receiver in the draft, but Jenkins’ role in this offense is valued a lot more by the coaching staff than most people realize.
Jason in Atlanta asks if cornerback Brent Grimes ever can be an elite player, because he seems to give up as many big plays as he makes.
Pat Yasinskas: I think Grimes already qualifies as a very good player. Can he become elite? Probably not. He has one big limitation. That’s his height. The reality is Grimes is really about 5-foot-8. He does a nice job of making up for that with his athleticism and leaping ability. But NFL coaches are smart, and they’re going to try to set up as many matchups as possible where Grimes has to cover a 6-4 receiver. He’s going to lose some of those battles. But Grimes has become more of a player than anyone ever expected when he came out of college. If Grimes were 6-1, he might be the best cornerback in the league. But he’ll never be 6-1, so he just has to continue making the most of the hand he was dealt. So far, he’s done a nice job with that.