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NFL draft: Falcons add fullback, depth on defense

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Atlanta Falcons fleshed out their draft Saturday by picking a potential successor to fullback Ovie Mughelli and adding depth to their defense.

Bradie Ewing, a fifth-round pick from Wisconsin, could replace Mughelli as the starting fullback. The Falcons could decide to release Mughelli, a respected team leader and nine-year veteran, to create room under the NFL salary cap.

Seven spots after picking Ewing, Atlanta added Troy pass rusher Jonathan Massaquoi in the fifth round. The Falcons chose Mississippi State strong safety Charles Mitchell in the middle of the sixth.

Mughelli was named to the Pro Bowl two years ago, but his 2011 season ended with a Week 7 knee injury. Despite the many roles he plays on Atlanta's special teams, Mughelli could become expendable because Ewing played a similar role at Wisconsin.

After walking on at Wisconsin, Ewing became an offensive captain as a senior and contributed heavily to the Badgers' coverage and return units on special teams.

According to information released by the university, Ewing's blocks resulted in 30 touchdowns last season. He caught all 28 passes targeted to him in his four-year career. He was a Wisconsin teammate of Peter Konz, an offensive lineman drafted by Atlanta in the second round Friday.

"Obviously, drafting me as a fullback, I can block, I can catch, I can split out as a receiver," Ewing said. "I think it's my versatility and I'm just excited to get down there."

Massaquoi, a cousin of Cleveland Browns receiver and former Georgia standout Mohamed Massaquoi, left Troy after his junior year. He started 25 games and finished his Trojans career with 19.5 sacks.

When Atlanta begins its mandatory, three-day mini-camp June 19, Massaquoi will work behind starting ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards and compete for snaps with Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury.

Massaquoi grew up as a Falcons fan in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville, where he played at Central Gwinnett High School. He spent the 2008 season at Butler (Kan.) Community College, helping the school win a junior college national title.

"I have a non-stop motor," he said. "I want to get to that ball no matter the depths of the field, and I believe the Atlanta Falcons see my relentless spirit and how bad I want to get to the quarterback."

Massaquoi hopes to follow in the footsteps of other former Troy standouts that became NFL stars.

"With them producing Osi Umenyiora, DeMarcus Ware and now me, hopefully I can be put into that conversation of our powerful tradition," Massaquoi said. "Only time will tell."

The Falcons, who will work under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan this season, upgraded their secondary Wednesday by trading for cornerback Asante Samuel.

The only starter not returning from last year's defense is middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who signed with New Orleans.

Mitchell, who graduated in December, played in all 50 games of his career and was a senior team captain with Mississippi State. He likely will compete with reserve safety Shann Schillinger for a roster spot, but must show Atlanta coaches that he can contribute heavily on special teams.

Mitchell credits his success at safety with understanding how to watch film and break down opponents' strengths and weaknesses.

"I'm a pretty physical guy," he said. "I pride myself on making tackles and I always try to be around the ball."

Atlanta's defense finished 18th in points allowed and 20th in total yards last season.