|NFL DRAFT: With no trade for Johnson, Falcons take Arkansas DE|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 28 April 2007 13:26|
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -Failing to work out a trade for hometown star Calvin Johnson, the Atlanta Falcons gladly settled for Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson with their first pick of the NFL draft Saturday.|
The Falcons took Anderson at No. 8 overall, having moved up two spots last month in a deal that sent backup quarterback Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans.
There was plenty of speculation that Atlanta would try to move up again to grab Johnson, Georgia Tech's all-world receiver and rated by many as the top prospect in the draft. General manager Rich McKay talked with Detroit about the No. 2 pick but nothing came of it.
``I never got the thought they were interested in trading the pick,'' McKay said.
The Lions selected Johnson after LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell was drafted first overall by the Oakland Raiders.
Anderson addressed one of the Falcons' myriad needs: a left side end to replace Patrick Kerney, who voided his contract and signed a lucrative deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
``We had three players we were ready to take, and Jamaal was certainly one of them,'' McKay said, without revealing the other two. ``Going into the draft, defensive end was the top need on our list.''
The 6-foot-5, 288-pound Anderson ranked third in the nation and led the Southeastern Conference with 13.5 sacks as a junior last season. He also had 19.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
``I'm ready to go to work,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``I'm about to hit the weight room right now.''
Anderson was a standout receiver in high school, and he signed with the Razorbacks not knowing exactly where they intended to play him. Shortly after arriving on campus, ``I went to the defensive meeting room and never looked back.''
He had to bulk up, of course, but the additional weight didn't have much effect on his athleticism. The Falcons also believe there's plenty of room for improvement, even though Anderson will be counted on to start right away.
``I can make plays on the run and on the pass,'' he said. ``I feel like I'm a dual threat.''
The Falcons passed on a player that Petrino was very familiar with: Lousiville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. In a striking twist, he went two picks later to the Texans - the Falcons' original spot in the first round.
``It comes down to two things: need and where we had the players graded,'' Petrino said. ``I think it's the right pick, no question about it.''
While John Abraham will be the main pass-rushing threat at right end, the Falcons are counting on Anderson to provide more pressure than the traditional left end.
``You don't have a lot of guys in the league playing left end who can rush off the edge,'' Mckay said. ``We like the fact that against SEC competition, he stepped up and rushed the passer. But he's got a body type that can also play the run. We like that combination.''
It was a crucial day for Atlanta, which also needed to upgrade safety, receiver and the offensive line. The Falcons had three of the first 44 picks and 10 selections overall in the two-day draft.
With its first pick of the second round, No. 39 overall, Atlanta addressed another crucial need by taking Texas offensive guard Justin Blalock. The 6-3, 320-pounder fits with Petrino's plan to get more size up front.
Under the previous staff, the Falcons preferred smaller, quicker linemen who specialized in zone blocking schemes.
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