Friday, February 7, 2014
MVP replacements: Atlanta Falcons
By Vaughn McClure
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
The loss of wide receiver Julio Jones to a season-ending foot injury in 2013 showed just how vulnerable the Atlanta Falcons can be without their most valuable player.
Jones’ explosiveness and ability to stretch the defense was sorely missed. In just five games before the injury, Jones caught 41 passes for 580 yards with two touchdowns.
Of course, Jones won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. He means too much to the organization and is sure to be rewarded with a lucrative contract once he returns to full strength. Falcons coach Mike Smith said Jones is on track to return this spring.
But what if the unthinkable happens and Jones is lost to another injury? Who will the Falcons turn to then, particularly with tight end Tony Gonzalez now retired?
The Falcons might want to consider the possibility or even prepare for the possibility of Jones not returning to full strength after foot surgery. Roddy White, 32, is capable, but has had injury problems of his own. Harry Douglas is coming off a 1,000-yard season, but is best suited to fill a complementary role.
This is not to say the Falcons need to go out and get a high-caliber receiver in free agency, although they might want to investigate some pass-catching tight ends. And drafting a receiver early probably wouldn’t be wise based on the needs along the offensive and defensive lines. But grabbing a speedy receiver at some point in the draft wouldn’t be a bad idea, just in case.
An MVP-caliber player is hard to replace. Regardless, it’s better to be prepared for the unexpected.
Potential pick: Mike Davis, WR, Texas
The 6-foot-0¼ and 193-pound Davis’ hands are inconsistent, and he can drop passes he should catch. He’s also lean and gets pushed around at times, but he has room on his frame to bulk up and get stronger. Plus, he has the top-end speed to make plays downfield, and enough quickness to separate underneath.
-- Steve Muench