It stands to reason that a Falcons run defense that ranked 21st last season, allowing 123 yards per game, could improve for 2012.
One way to do that is by getting bigger along the front lines of the defense, employing players who use their mass to simply take up space and fill lanes. Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins is one of those types of players and that's who this week's spotlight shines on.
As always, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller (@NFLDraftScout) joins us with his take on Hankins, a player he believes can only provide one skill.
"This may surprise people, but I have Johnathan Hankins as my No. 86 overall player," Miller said. "He has prototypical size and strength, but in Hankins I didn't see the consistent motor needed to make plays in the backfield. Hankins isn't a pass rushing 4-3 defensive tackle, which to me devalues him quite a bit. He will likely be there at No. 30 unless a team running a 3-4 defense drafts him early to play defensive end."
As a junior at Ohio State this past season Hankins was a full-time starter, securing 55 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and one sack and earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors. After that junior season and a sophomore year with similar success, "Big Hank" opted to skip his senior season for the draft.
Miller isn't sure that was the best decision for Hankins, who was perhaps a little hotter of a commodity after the 2011 season.
"It's tough to argue with Hankins coming back to school with the team Ohio State had this past season," Miller said. "His draft stock was higher for me last year at this time, but more film study of the junior could have led to the same results we're seeing this year. On the surface it looks like a poor decision, but it's unpredictable to know what would have been discovered on film last year had he declared."
At 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, Hankins is a big body in the middle of any defensive front. Using a strong first step off the ball, Hankins can get into the backfield as a run defender, and once there his size, strength and quickness can cause havoc, but at times Hankins appears to lack 100 percent effort. Miller, like many scouts, thinks Hankins may be only a run defender in the NFL, a two-down tackle in the middle of a 4-3 defense or an end in a 3-4 setup. Wherever he's deployed, he'll be most effective with solid linebackers behind him who are able to fly around the field and get to the ball, relying on the space and linemen Hankins can occupy.
"Opinions may vary on what Hankins was asked to do versus what he can do, but I see a run-stuffing defensive tackle only," Miller said. "He doesn't have the quickness to beat blockers through a gap or the agility to get by blockers who do cut him off."