If you tell anyone you hope the Falcons draft a defensive end from LSU, the name Barkevious Mingo is probably who most will assume you're thinking of. While the raw brilliance of Mingo can be mesmerizing, it's his teammate, Sam Montgomery, that had the better 2012 season for LSU and may just be the better all-around player. Mingo may not last until Atlanta's pick at No. 30 in the 2013 NFL draft, but Montgomery very likely could and he's the focus of this week's spotlight.
Matt Miller from Bleacher Report (@NFLDraftScout), the sports site's NFL Draft lead writer, is back this week to give us the goods on Montgomery, a South Carolina native.
Miller likes the game that Montgomery could bring to the Falcons and altthough he was overshadowed by Mingo at LSU, Montgomery's fantastic '12 season, highlighted by his team-leading seven sacks, has put the 6-foot-5, 260-pound end in the first-round discussion. Compared to Mingo, Miller sees a player that lined up opposite of most team's left tackle and wasn't just a pass-rushing specialist. A true three-down player, Montgomery is the more ready-to-play player compared to Mingo.
"He's an ideal fit as a 4-3 defensive end on the right side of the line where his speed and strength allow him to impact the game no matter the offensive game plan," Miller said.
In addition to his sack total, Montgomery ended 2012 as a third-team All American with 12 tackles for loss and 32 total tackles. In just two full seasons of playing time, his 18 sacks ranks eighth in school history and his 31.5 tackles for loss ranks ninth. Montgomery was a redshirt freshman in 2009 and redshirted again in 2010 after playing in the first five games (all starts) of the season before a knee injury brought him to a stop for the year.
Montgomery bounced back in 2011 and began to emerge as one of the top defensive ends in the country. He also showed some of his intangibles, coming back from his knee injury bigger, faster and stronger and not allowing the injury to slow him down. Although the Falcons have traditionally focused much of their drafts on seniors under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, Montgomery is a prime candidate to buck the trend. The two redshirt seasons make him an interesting case and his draft profile make him a junior that is tough to ignore.
"The team may prefer a senior pass rusher here, but the available defensive ends from the senior class are likely to be off the board by pick No. 30," Miller said. "The Falcons can roll the dice on this junior because he comes from a high-profile school where he was asked to produce early and often."
While there may be better value at other positions in this year's draft, defensive end and the role of pass rusher will be a tough position to ignore for the Falcons during the offseason. Montgomery could infuse the Falcons' defensive end position with not only youth but also a big and imposing player with the speed, quickness and strength to make a difference.
There don't appear to be many concerns with Montgomery's character off the field and Miller says the film of the 22-year-old points to a player that works hard, seems to enjoy the game greatly and consistently makes plays.
As for his comparison already in the pro ranks, Miller sees a player that was on the Falcons' free-agency radar a few seasons back.
"I compared Montgomery to Charles Johnson of the Carolina Panthers," Miller said. "Both players have exceptional length and are able to influence the game on running and passing downs. Johnson is stronger at this point in his career, but that is the type of NFL defensive end that Montgomery could become."