I have watched a great deal of college games this year so that I would know who we should look out for in the draft to help fill out the Falcons' needs, so I figured I would share what I have seen.
Safeties) possibly our biggest concern & the quickest position to fix through the draft. Some teams who have picked succesfully in recent years include the Colts (Mike Doss, 1st round, 2003 & Bob Sanders, 2nd round, 2004), Steelers (Troy Polamalu, 1st round, 2003), and Ravens (Ed Reed, 1st round, 2002). There is little doubt that a first round safety, if not a stretch pick, is about the most surefire pick you can make in the draft.
1a) Ko Simpson - if he declares then I would personally trade up for him. Has skills similar to Ed Reed in college, but is a better tackler & has less talent around him.
1) Jimmy Williams - everyone knows about him, but he won't be around when we pick.
2) Michael Huff - haven't seen much of him, but according to most reports he is the best coverage DB in the draft, although I would be willing to dispute that. He is said to be a sure tackler & has already won the Thorpe award for the nation's best DB for this year. I don't expect him to be around when we pick either to be honest.
3) Jason Allen - the wild card of this draft. Allen was projected as the #1 Db prospect of this draft class going into this season but when I saw Pope run him over in the UT v UGA game I saw him leg pop out of the socket & knew he had a problem. The good thing is our staff has seen this injury recently (Hall had a similar injury in preseason last year), but the bad news is that some guys never recover from hip injuries (Bo Jackson immediately comes to mind). The good thing is that Allen had a completely different body type than Jackson did & I think he will make a total recovery over the next 18 months. Thus I am going to put him in the slot for the reasons that i will point out in the next assesments.
4) Pat Watkins - a Safety with great size (6'4", 200+ lbs) and speed (reportedly runs a 4.4ish 40), Watkins had a huge role in FSU's upset victory over VaTech in the ACC Championship game. He looked to be a solid tackler, although not a big time hitter, and displayed terrific range & hopes when going for the ball. Watkins' other hidden trait would be his ability to shut down top flight TE's in man coverage, freeing up the linebackers to blitz or zone cover.
5) Darnell Bing - a good sized Safety (6'2", 200+lbs.) that can lay the wood. Bing gets the same knock that most big hitting college safeties get, that his coverage skills are lacking. All I can say is I am not sure about his coverage skills, but he blew Mercedes Lewis up in the USC v UCLA game at the end of the season.
6) LaRon Landry - this guy could be a very good Safety in the NFL, but he has had a tendency to look very bad against LSU's best competition. He drew a terrible pass interference call in the Alabama game that cost his team some points, and it was an obvious call. Against UGA in the SEC Championship, he blew a coverage on the second drive of the game allowing Sean Bailey to run free for a long TD pass after Bailey had done the exact same thing on the previous drive to the backup Safety on the other side of the field. He also missed a tackle 1 0n 1 with DJ Shockley that allowed Shock to walk right into the end zone for UGA's 3rd TD. Needless to say, I am not at all impressed with Landry especially given the talent he has around him.
7) Gregg Bluw - Blue was my favorite player coming into this season from my school (went to UGA). After watching him miss tackles in big games & get torched in coverage I would honestly not even consider drafting him before the 5th or 6th round. I wish I didn't have to say it, but I have spent more time watching the Dawgs than any team on this planet other than the Falcons.
8) Roman Harper - while not the most physically gifted Safety, Harper has the kind of fearlessness that every Safety should be privy to. Against Tennessee, the Crimson Time had a 6-3 lead with seconds left on the clock. Tennessee dropped back & slipped out a little screen to their 275lb. Fullback....yes I said 275lbs!.....who proceeded to run untouched to the Alabama goal line. Out of nowhere this SCUD missle fire accross the goal line & absolutely blows up the UT Fullback causing him to fumble the ball out of the end zone. Alabama got the ball & the win to preserve their perfect season up to that point. Harper is the most underappreciated Safety in this draft and reminds me of Rodney Harrison.
9) Dwayne Slay - has great size (6'4", 215lbs) and very good speed (4.5 40) and is probably the biggest hitting Safety in this draft. He is still a bit raw & can be had in coverage, but he may turn out to be the 2nd or 3rd best Safety in this draft.
10) Bernard Pollard - sorry but I just don't know much about this guy at all.
Other quality Safeties: Nate Salley, Gregg Threat, and Aaron Rouse (Ohio State, Miami, and VaTech).
***I will report back with analysis of other need positions in the following days. If someone would like to post this over at AFMB on my behalf I would appreciate it.