Falcons Land Guy They 'Targeted All Along'

Falcons Land Guy They 'Targeted All Along'

Published Apr. 23, 2010 2:33 p.m. ET

By D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

April 23, 2010

FLOWERY BRANCH --- Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon slipped into the back room to take the call from the Falcons.

He had about 20 family members and friends at his viewing party, when Falcons director of player personnel Les Snead called.

"I was smiling from ear to ear, but I knew it was about to go down," Weatherspoon said.

The Falcons decided not to make a trade down with Denver and chose to select Weatherspoon with the 19th pick in the 2010 NFL draft Thursday night.

"We really felt that a cover-type linebacker, who has speed and flies around the football, was in our best interest," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We got the guy we were targeting all along."

The Falcons also considered taking Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham and Florida center Maurkice Pouncey. After discussing the draft with Pittsburgh's Kevin Colbert, the Falcons knew the Steelers had zeroed in on Pouncey. Philadelphia made a trade up to get Graham at 13, and Morgan went to Tennessee at 16.

"We felt that we were zeroed in on Sean Weatherspoon," Dimitroff said. "We didn't want to try to be cute and creative. We decided to pull that tag off the board at 19."

The Falcons didn't use their allotted 10 minutes. They made the call to New York around the five-minute mark.

Tweet: 'I'm a falcon!!!'

"Spoon" was thoroughly scouted by the Falcons and built up a huge Atlanta following on his Twitter.com page. Before the pick was announced, Weatherspoon, who goes by SeanWSpoon12 on twitter.com, shot out a tweet.

"I'm a falcon!!!" was sent by SeanWSpoon12 at 9:30.

"I wanted to let my fans know," Weatherspoon said. "As far as Twitter, the Atlanta fans have been showing me nothing but love the whole time throughout this process. They have been tweeting me every day wishing that I became a Falcon."

Weatherspoon, who led the Tigers in tackles over the past three seasons, is considered an outside linebacker.

The Falcons believe that Weatherspoon can help them in pass coverage. Weatherspoon played in the Big 12 and faced a lot of pass-happy spread offenses. His coverage skills are solid.

"He was able to play out in space," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "I've said many times that the game is becoming a spacing game. I think it's definitely an advantage to have guys that can run and matchup with tight ends and running backs that we are going to face in our division."

The Falcons are hoping that Weatherspoon will compete with Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas for one of the starting outside linebacker positions. Peterson turns 34 in June.

Help needed vs. pass

The linebacker unit was strong against the run last season but had issues in pass coverage. The unit was 28th in the league (242.1 yards per game) against the pass.

The draft continues today with the second and third rounds. The Falcons do not have a second-round pick. They sent it to Kansas City as part of the Tony Gonzalez deal last season.

However, Dimitroff said they are exploring trade possibilities to get into the middle or lower third of the second round.

"We have gotten calls, we still have opportunities," Dimitroff said. "We just need to determine if that's worth it."

The Falcons have two picks in the third round, the 83rd and 98th overall picks in the draft.