Monday, April 27, 2009

Falcons took 8 in NFL Draft over the weekend.

The Atlanta Falcons selected eight players in the 2009 NFL Draft, which included seven players on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons also made a trade with Dallas, giving the Cowboys their fifth round (143rd overall) pick in exchange for Dallas’ fifth (156th overall) and seventh round (210th overall) selections.

With the 24th overall selection in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected defensive tackle Peria (pur-ray) Jerry from the University of Mississippi. Jerry became the Falcons first defensive tackle selected in the first round since Tony Casillas (Oklahoma) was drafted in 1986. Jerry is also the first player from Mississippi to be selected by Atlanta in the first round and only the third player from the university to be selected in franchise history.

Jerry was a first-team All-America selection by the Associated Press and ESPN following the 2008 season. He finished the year ranked first in the SEC in tackles for loss (18.0), fifth in quarterback sacks (7.0) and tied for sixth in forced fumbles (two). A consensus first-team All-SEC selection, Jerry also helped the Rebel defense rank second in the conference and fourth in the nation in rush defense (85.5 ypg.) last year.

“We are very excited about having Peria on board,” said Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff. “Peria is a big, strong, country guy. He is going to hold the point of attack. He also has the ability to be a one-gap guy and be disruptive behind the line of scrimmage.”

In his Ole Miss career, Jerry totaled 132 tackles (79 solo), 11.5 sacks, 33.0 tackles for loss, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception. He also recorded his first career touchdown on a 13-yard fumble recovery against Vanderbilt in 2008.

“I think (Peria) is a guy that can be very disruptive,” said Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith. “He creates plays in the backfield. I think that is very important when you have negative yardage plays presented by the defense. I like his work ethic and he did a great job this season at Ole Miss.”

In the second round, the Falcons drafted safety William Moore out of the University of Missouri. Moore finished his career with the Tigers having recorded 284 tackles (182 solo) and 11 interceptions for 162 yards. His eight interceptions in 2007 broke the old school season record of seven by Pro Football Hall of Fame safety, Roger Wehrli (1968). Moore also earned second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press in both 2007 and 2008.

“(William) is a strong safety/free safety which provides a lot of versatility for us,” said Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff. “He is a downhill, blow-you-up kind of tackler. He’s a guy that is very physical on the field, but he also has range. He is a mid 4.4 guy so he has speed for us. This guy definitely brings speed and urgency to our football team and this defense.”

The Falcons continued to focus on the defensive side with the selection of cornerback Chris Owens in the third round (90th overall). The San Jose State graduate started 38 contests and tallied 228 career tackles (132 solo), one sack, seven tackles for loss, 20 passes defensed and 13 interceptions. Owens finished his collegiate career ranked fourth on the school’s all-time interception list with his 13 picks, one shy of the top spot.

In the fourth round, Atlanta selected defensive end Lawrence Sidbury with the 125th overall selection. Sidbury started in 31 of 52 games recording 145 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 38 tackles for loss. His 20.5 sacks rank fourth in school history and his 11.5 quarterback takedowns in 2008 rank third on the school’s single-season records list. Sidbury helped Richmond earn the school’s first NCAA Championship in any sport with a win against Montana in the FCS title game and set a NCAA record for the most sacks in a playoff contest in that same game (four). For his efforts, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

Following a trade with the St. Louis Rams in early April, the Falcons moved up in the fifth round and selected cornerback and Atlanta native William Middleton with the 138th overall pick. As a starter over the last three seasons at Furman, Middleton totaled 186 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions and 15 passes defensed. He graduated high school from Marist, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Falcons then traded their 143rd overall selection (fifth round) to Dallas in exchange for the Cowboys’ fifth (156th overall) and seventh round (210th overall) picks. With its second selection in the fifth round, Atlanta selected its first offensive player of the draft, huge offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds. A graduate of North Carolina, Reynolds was a second-team All-ACC selection by the Associated Press in 2008. He has notable size, agility and speed and started the last 26 games of his collegiate career at right tackle. Reynolds was also selected as the ACC Lineman of the Week following a performance against the Miami Hurricanes in 2007.

Atlanta moved back to defense once again in the sixth round with the selection of linebacker Spencer Adkins (156th overall). Adkins saw action in 31 collegiate games and finished his career at Miami (Fla.) having totaled 72 tackles (42 solo), 10 tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception. In 2007, he recorded a career-high 52 tackles. Of the five previous defensive selections, Adkins was the first linebacker taken by the Falcons.

With their final selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Falcons selected local collegiate product Vance Walker, a defensive tackle from Georgia Tech. Walker was voted a 2008 first-team All-ACC selection by the ACC Sports Journal after collecting 33 tackles, three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. His 8.5 sacks in 2007 is the 12th-highest total for a single season in Georgia Tech history.

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