ATLANTA -- Thomas Dimitroff will lean on a "needs specific" philosophy he learned in New England as he directs an NFL draft that is crucial to the Atlanta Falcons' future.
The philosophy is the same, but the teams are far different.
Prioritizing draft needs for Atlanta is more challenging.
Atlanta's draft needs are widespread. It is far easier to pinpoint the areas -- make that the one area -- that won't need help when Dimitroff has the No. 3 overall pick and four selections in the first two rounds on Saturday.
"A safe response would be placekicker," Dimitroff said, referring to the team's signing of free-agent veteran Jason Elam.
So from the narrow foundation of feeling good about his kicker, Dimitroff must make his first key decision early Saturday as he considers his options for the third pick in the draft.
Dimitroff's decision could greatly impact the rest of the first round.
Miami, which has the first pick, already has signed offensive tackle Jake Long.
The Falcons don't have to look far to be reminded of the dangers of picking a quarterback so high in the draft. One of the three starters for Atlanta last season, Joey Harrington, was the No. 3 pick for Detroit in 2002.
The team's other returning quarterbacks are Chris Redman, who revived his career to finish last season as the starter, and D.J. Shockley, who has never played in a regular-season game.
Another possibility for Atlanta is Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston.
The Falcons have 11 picks in the draft, but another option is to trade down in the first round if Dorsey is not available.
Dimitroff said he won't follow the draft strategy used by many teams of taking the best player available, regardless of position. But his needs-specific mantra learned in New England won't be very restrictive because the Falcons need help in so many areas.
Dimitroff will be looking for the player who can address a need while projected as a good fit in the Atlanta system.
"I can't stress enough the idea that if you find that right spot, the right position who plays a role in this defense or offense, it's definitely worth drafting the guy," he said.
"If it fits our system and we have a need, we'll definitely consider it."
Other needs include offensive line, cornerback, tight end and receiver.
The Falcons were devastated by the loss of Vick, now serving 23 months after entering a guilty plea on dogfighting charges. Dimitroff said he will not gamble on a player's character.
"Character is a big thing for us," he said. "It always has been. It's something that was sort of drilled in my head at New England and I feel strongly about. Going forward, we're very particular about the type of player we have in here.
"I understand not every player is going to have a clean slate but we want to make sure everyone has that common goal in mind to be a team player, to be a winner, to be a team guy. It is very important to us. It's not like every guy is going to be angelic in his approach, it's just important they have a common goal in mind and that's the direction we want to go in our character evaluation."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.