(SportsNetwork.com) - With quarterback Matt Ryan in the prime of his career, the Atlanta Falcons believe they can pull off a worst-to-first-type of scenario in 2014 as long as they fix the problems up front on both sides of the ball.
First and foremost, general manager Thomas Dimitroff was intent on getting bigger and more physical, and he took some significant strides in that direction during free agency, bringing in run-stuffer Paul Soliai from Miami and big, five-technique defensive end Tyson Jackson on the defensive side. Jackson's teammate from Kansas City, guard Jon Asamoah, was snared to help the offensive line.
Now Atlanta needs the big-time edge pass rusher and there is only one in this draft, South Carolina stud Jadeveon Clowney, the best pure talent in this class with an upside that is off the charts.
The Falcons will obviously have to trade up to get Clowney and they seem willing to do so. If forced to stand pat at No. 6, however, Atlanta will likely be content to take the best offensive tackle left on the board whether it is Auburn star Greg Robinson or NFL-ready Texas A&M legacy Jake Matthews.
The Falcons currently have 2008 first-round pick Sam Baker, who played just four games last year due to knee issues, penciled in at left tackle, but would like to flip him over to the right side and get a more athletic option to protect Ryan's blind side.
2013 Record: 4-12
Top Needs: DE, OT, TE,
First Three Picks: No. 6, No. 37, No. 68
Number of Selections: 10 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7)
CALLING THE SHOTS: A two-time NFL Executive of the Year Dimitroff has a Patriots' pedigree and had helped guide the Falcons to a franchise-record five consecutive winning seasons before last year's injury-riddled hiccup. He's also got some help (or some incentive depending on how you view things) now as Atlanta brought in another ex-Patriot braintrust member, Scott Pioli, who was fired as the Kansas City Chiefs' GM after the 2012 campaign.
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington); 2012 - none; 2011 - Julio Jones (WR, Alabama); 2010 - Sean Weatherspoon (LB, Missouri); 2009 - Peria Jerry (DT, Ole Miss); 2008 - Matt Ryan (QB, Boston College), Sam Baker (OT, USC); 2007 - Jamaal Anderson (DE, Arkansas); 2006 - none; 2005 - Roddy White (WR, UAB); 2004 - DeAngelo Hall (CB, Virginia Tech), Michael Jenkins (WR, Ohio State); 2003 - none.