For much of last season and deep into their NFC Championship Game loss to San Francisco, it appeared the Falcons were the best team in the conference. Sure they benefited from one of the easiest schedules in recent memory, but winning isn't easy and the Falcons accomplished that goal frequently in 2012.
With 11 draft picks Atlanta is in good shape to not only draft good players but package picks to move up when an opportunity presents itself. The Falcons are only $2.6 million under the salary cap, but should have the flexibility to be in good shape without shaking up the roster dramatically.
Last year Atlanta ranked eighth in the NFL in total offense and 24th on defense. The Falcons scored more than 26 points a game while allowing fewer than 19 a contest. They led the Niners 17-0 in the NFC Championship game before falling 28-24.
In a division with Drew Brees and Cam Newton finding defensive help in the secondary is vital. Atlanta wasn't great defending the pass last season and now they are without Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson. The Robinson move made some sense in an effort to get younger, and Grimes got more money than Atlanta wanted to pay with the Dolphins. Among impact defensive backs, only Asante Samuel is back in Atlanta. At age 32, Samuel has some tread left on the tires, but finding multiple young players for now and the future is necessary in the secondary.
Moving from the last line of defense to the middle, some help for Sean Weatherspoon at linebacker would be ideal. However, there is more urgency up front. With John Abraham gone, and Osi Umenyiora's productivity at best inconsistent, and perhaps more accurately in decline, an impact end would go a long way towards steadying the defensive front.
On offense Atlanta is in good shape at the skill positions. However, the offensive front needs some work. Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker might work out at tackle. Having another capable body to substitute if one of them goes down of fails to perform would be a good idea. At guard Todd McClure is gone. Peter Konz seems capable but who fills the other spot? Again, acquiring a player to start or provide quality depth is advisable.
It would have been easy for the Falcons to look at last year and role out the same roster in 2013. They recognized that some luck went into a 13-3 mark a year ago and made bold moves cutting Robinson and Abraham. Atlanta resigned Baker, safety William Moore, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. They also scooped up Steven Jackson to play a big role in the running game. If those moves and a couple key draftees work out, a trip to New York and the Super Bowl is well within reason.