The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off on April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the 28th in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.
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2012 record: 13-3
Key offseason acquisitions:
Osi Umenyiora, defensive end
Steven Jackson, running back
Key offseason departures:
John Abraham, defensive end
Michael Turner, running back
Dunta Robinson, cornerback
Brent Grimes, cornerback
Todd McClure, center
Tyson Clabo, tackle
Biggest holes in roster: Cornerback, offensive tackle, center
Both Umenyiora and Jackson filled holes left by cap casualties John Abraham and Michael Turner. That leaves only one big hole remaining on the roster -- cornerback. Three prospects could be available at No. 30, and each one has their own skill set.
Houston's D.J. Hayden may be the most interesting option (as well as the one with the highest upside). Hayden has the overall skill sets to succeed, demonstrating good speed and hands in his four seasons with the Cougars. But a freak injury during his senior season tore his inferior vena cava, a major blood vessel, and left him in a fight for his life. He was cleared by doctors and posted a blazing 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. His injury may have scared some teams out of drafting him, but he might be a great value at this stage in the draft.
The Falcons could also go for Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks out of Mississippi State. Banks, a converted safety, has good hands and hauled in 15 interceptions in four seasons with the Bulldogs. His draft stock slipped after a slow 40-yard dash at the Combine (4.61), leading some teams to question his straight-line speed.
There's also Boise State's Jamar Taylor. The 5-11 Taylor has a nice combination of speed (4.39) and strength to get physical with his man (his 22 bench press reps at the Combine were tied for the most among cornerbacks). He needs to work on his tackling and his ability to recognize play-action but his athleticism should be enough to warrant Day 1 consideration.
The Falcons could also take a tight end to groom as future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez's replacement. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert or Stanford's Zach Ertz could be options here. Eifert has the size and speed to split out as an H-back or in the slot and the hands to make the catch in traffic. Ertz is a bit slower, but he's known for his great hands and is also an underrated blocker. The Falcons could take either one and let them develop behind Gonzalez, though Eifert would probably be the better fit.