Dimitroff takes us inside the draft room

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff (r) and head coach MikeSmith (l) welcome first round pick Peria Jerry. (KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff (L) and head coach Mike Smith (R) welcome first round pick Peria Jerry. (KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC)

THE WAR ROOM – Well, today Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff drops by the blog. This is about as close as I can get us to the real war room.

After all of the picks are made, Dimitroff comes down and does a de-briefing of the draft. I like to get his scouting break down on the lesser known second-day picks.

Here’s how the reigning executive of the year broke things down.

TD ON THIRD ROUND PICK CHRIS OWENS, CB, San Jose State: “Chris Owens for us is a combination of a very physical and aggressive corner. He comes to the table with a lot of speed. He’s a sub-4.5 guy. He’s actually a lower 4.4 guy. He’s around a 4.43 player. He’s increasing our speed in the secondary. Increases our physicality and has very good ball skills. He’s gotten his hands on a lot of balls. He definitely brings an element of urgency to our defense as well.”

TD ON FOURTH ROUND PICK LAWRENCE SIDBURY, DE, Richmond: “Lawrence was brought in here as a rush end type. He is a good athlete with what we believe is some serious upside. He as the ability to get off the mark quickly, to get up field. He has the (ability) to turn the corner and rush the passer. He is still a little bit raw and needs to grow in a number of areas. . . we were surprised to get him there in the fourth round. He ended up falling to us.”

Dimitroff and Smith set during Jerry's press conference. (KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC)

Dimitroff and Smith during Jerry's presser.

TD ASIDE on SPEED: “You guys are going to be seeing this theme. Everyone one of these guys except for the offensive lineman has speed. When you go on the field in the training camps and OTAs you are going to see an increased level of speed.”

BACK TO SIDBURY: “He’s a 4.54 in our books. If he can continue to learn to rush the passer and continue to learn you have a legitimate DPR – defensive pass rush guy. He’s still developing.”

TD ON FIFTH ROUND PICK WILLIAM MIDDLETON, CB, Furman: (He’s a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. — 1-07-Mu Pi. — so we know he’s tough!!!) “He’s a low 4.4 guy for us as well. He came here to our local workout. . . He’s another aggressive defensive back. . . He comes in aggressively to support the run. He’s aggressive to the ball and he has nice ball skills. Combine that with his speed and ability to transition, he makes good usage of his footwork. We think he’s got growth potential to add to our depth in the secondary.”

ASIDE ON LEADERSHIP: “These three guys that we just talked about, in their programs, they are deemed as captain types. Just like last year, each guy was at the top of their programs in terms of leading their team mates. We really feel strongly about the type of work ethic and character that these players have.”

Garrett Renolds in action.

Garrett Reynolds in action.

TD ON FIFTH ROUND PICK GARRETT REYNOLDS, OT, North Carolina: “Another player that we were happy to get in the fifth round. For us he has the ability to play right tackle and possibly swing to the left tackle in a pinch. Ideally, he’s a right tackle for us. He’s strong, stout, big offensive lineman who has got a good awareness about him. He is tough. He fits in with our style on the right side right now with (Tyson) Clabo and Harvey Dahl.”

ASIDE on Reynolds: (Falcons thought about adding another cornerback and flooding the position): “We were looking at our board and we brought over a couple of offensive linemen. We’d just taken Middleton and went, back-to-back corners. We didn’t want to take three corners. We wanted a guy who could compete for a roster position here and develop into a solid offensive lineman in the National Football League. We deviated from defense, but it was one of the positions along the offensive line where we felt we need to build depth.”

TD ON SIXTH ROUND PICK LAWRENCE ADKINS, LB, The U: “He was a part-time starter and player there. He’s been in and out of the starting lineup. We like his upside. He’s another fast guy who ran 4.49 for us. He moves well laterally . . . He flies around. He’s tough upon impact. We feel that we have an opportunity to have a player on the field who can help contribute on special teams as well and continue to grow in the linebacker role. He’s an outside guy. He has (weakside) ability.”

ON SEVENTH ROUND PICK VANCE WALKER, DT, Georgia Tech: “We saw a guy who has some versatility to him. He has some natural leverage ability about him, to be able to hold the point. But also combines that with some upfield ability. He can be a one-gap guy which is very important in Mike Smith’s scheme and his

Vance Walker in action at Georgia Tech.

Vance Walker in action at Georgia Tech.

scheme going forward. . . Vance was another top notch leader in his program.”

TD on THE OVERALL THEME: “We wanted to get more urgent. We wanted to get more faster. We wanted to build with all-in, leadership-type guys that are dedicated to the program. We accomplished all of those things.”

TD ON THE DALLAS TRADE: (After taking Middleton, the Falcons pulled off a trade with the Dallas Cowboys. They sent the 143rd pick to Dallas for the 156th and picked up the 210th pick, the first pick of the seventh round.) “At that time we continued to think that we could move down and get another pick and still get who we were looking for in the fifth round.”

TD GIVE UPDATE ON THE LINEBACKER UNIT: ” We were happy to have (Michael Peterson) come in along with Curtis Lofton inside. We targeted a couple of linebackers in the draft that didn’t fall to us. (Brian Cushing was the only true LB taken before the Falcons picked 24th.) They went off the board a little early. We understood that we were not going to come away with every need early on in the draft. We were pretty calculated in our approach. We felt by getting a defensive lineman, pulling the safety off the board and then corner off the board that we addressed three of the four areas on defense. With Stephen Nicholas stepping up, in our mind, to be a legitimate contributor in the base defense, we feel like we are sitting quite sound in our linebacker group.”

TD ON THE CROWDED CORNERBACK MEETING ROOM: “We want competition going into training camp. Our feelings are that the more competition and the more speed, the better. We feel we have with our present

Omegaman Middleton putting his pads on some poor receiver.

Omegaman Middleton putting his pads on some poor receiver.

players and the players coming in, a great forum for a very competitive training camp. I feel we are going to come out of that with a good solid group of cornerbacks.”

TD ON THE SAFETY SITUATION: Is it Moore, DeCoud and Fudge competing for the strong safety spot? “It will be up to Mike Smith. William is more of strong safety given his size and ability to come up and light up the ball carry. But he also has the range and he has more versatility than what was presented at the Senior Bowl. We really believe he has the ability to be in the deep part of the football field. There is some versatility there. We are happy to have Erik Coleman here with his veteran leadership and veteran status. He’s going to be a nice mentor for this young safety group. Thomas DeCoud, we are excited about his upside. We think he is going to continue to grow. He’s got nice speed and ability to cover the field. In my mind there are going to be three or four safeties on this team who can be legitimate contributors no matter who is called upon. ”

So there you have it, Dimitroff takes us into the war room and gives us a retrospective inside look on the Falcons draft? Do you have any post draft concerns? Like the second-day guys? Wonder if Reynolds has any insight on why his uncle sawed the car in half? Can Owens win a starting cornerback spot or are you comfortable with the Houston/Grimes tandem?

181 comments Add your comment

Jesse

April 30th, 2009
1:06 pm

“At that time we continued to think that we could move down and get another pick and still get who we were looking for in the fifth round.”

Well, was Reynolds that guy? Or was it the linebacker from Ohio State (Freeman?) who went a few picks earlier than Reynolds?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

April 30th, 2009
1:07 pm

Had to be Reynolds.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

April 30th, 2009
1:08 pm

I called Freeman’s agent leading up to the draft and there had been no contact with the Falcons.

G State Ben

April 30th, 2009
1:35 pm

Especially helpful considering Tyson Clabo will be an UFA next season. If Reynolds can step in, great. If not, he provides quality depth and that’s what you want from a late round pick.

Reno 911

April 30th, 2009
1:36 pm

Good insights. It’ll be interesting to see all of those corners competing for roster spots. A young secondary, standing out among a very young team overall. Along with the schedule, another reason why I think the Falcons are contenders in 2010 much moreso than 2009. Not that I’m hoping they won’t have a winning season this year; I just think they’re too young to really shut offenses down this fall. Just my opinion, though. Gotta love the fact that the Falcons have excellent coaching, across the board, and will likely maximize what talent and ability all of these players have and turn them into contributors, a la the offensive line last year (a relatively sub-par collection of talent playing together way above their heads.)

Another question to mull: will the addition of Gonzalez and another year of seasoning for Ryan add up to reduced carries for Turner? I can’t see how he has another 350+ carry year and is the dominant runner that the Falcons will need for a SB run in 2010. The numbers don’t lie, and history shows that rbs that rack up that many carries over a year almost never sustain their productivity. (I believe Turner had 370 carries last year). Combined with the ability of the defensive line to produce pressure with the front four and the maturation of the secondary, the reduced carries for Turner (and a distribution of balls to Brown, Norwood, and in the short game to Gonzalez) will be the key to whether the Falcons are in striking range for a conference or league championship.

mountain_jim

April 30th, 2009
1:43 pm

Jesse asked my question and thanks DLed for answering. Great blog!

Whopper Dawg

April 30th, 2009
1:43 pm

I feel better. Logic there. It seems miles and miles from Mr. McKay. Especially like the emphasis on high character guys, I think that will pay a lot of dividends.

Marcus

April 30th, 2009
1:46 pm

Looking the collegiate SR and JR classes for 2009-201-, are there any studly LBs to address that need?
Reading other draft coverage (SI, ESPN, Sporting News), some folks felt this year was deep with DBs, talent across the range but a lot of good-to-decent prospects. In the total scope of the available DBs, how do Middleton and Owens measure up?

JMar

April 30th, 2009
1:47 pm

A bit early for predictions, but who do you think is going to make this team at cornerback? Are Grimes, Hutchins, Houston, Owens, Middleton, and Jackson all going to make the team? Is Irons out? Who starts and who plays nickel? With the return of Hutchins, Grimes, and two new draft picks, we’re going to have some serious talent riding the bench if we can’t work out a trade in the preseason.

gdg73

April 30th, 2009
1:52 pm

Please Ledbetter, stop it with the Cushing lovefest. TD was not talking about drafting Brian Cushing when he mentioned LBs that failed to fall to us. This guy had DT on his mind in the first round. LB was what he wanted in the third, fourth and fifth. When the particular LB he wanted wasn’t there, thats when TD started picking corners.

MiltonDawg

April 30th, 2009
1:53 pm

Great draft overall. I liked Grimes last year but felt like he missed a lot of plays. Should be interesting back in the secondary..so do we have Moore/Coleman as Safeties and a toss up for CBs?? Still think we could’ve drafted another LB instead of add’l corners.

dee

April 30th, 2009
1:55 pm

This is a damn good article! Thanks Orlando! Thomas Dimitroff really knows his football!

Left to Right

April 30th, 2009
1:58 pm

I wish the Falcons had more help at OLB, but next year’s draft seems to be fairly deep with them, so perhaps next year is the better year to draft for that position. Because the Falcons are, of course, still in “the process” of building up the team.

Pen

April 30th, 2009
2:02 pm

Orlando, did you get any insight on the UDFAs we signed? The one I am most excited about is Aaron Kelly, particularly since he is a local Walton boy.

Matt

April 30th, 2009
2:02 pm

My boy in Chicago said that freeman has a bad knee or knees and it could be a problem in a few years thats why he dropped to the 5th.

Terrible Truth

April 30th, 2009
2:04 pm

Glad to see we have people in charge who know that defense wins championships. We could still use some more beef on the O-line but…

Falcons Lost in space then and now

April 30th, 2009
2:08 pm

only time will about the draft the rest is only hope!

leggomyego

April 30th, 2009
2:12 pm

What’s the word on Von Hutchins these days? I know that Grimes/Houston was our best option last year, but won’t Hutchins be in that conversation now as well? I know initially he was acquired as a veteran nickle guy for us, but I just wanted to throw it out there. And what about Chevous Jackson? He played a decent nickle for us, was opportunistic on occasion… Speed for him could be a factor, but watching him I recall he had no problems playing the role of ‘physical corner.’ Both are larger corners in comparison to Grimes, i’m wondering if that fact has any play at all. Like you, i expect the men to beat will indeed by Grimes/Houston, however i do think there might be a little room for speculation here. Just call me the guy who’s stirring up all the CB stink on the boards today…

JFLA

April 30th, 2009
2:13 pm

Great article, Orlando…..it’s great that TD is willing to give you the time to give some insight to what the thought process is and how it played out….Some GMs would rather have their eyes put out than give a candid, insightful answer….Of course, what we would REALLY like to hear are the candid comments about the ‘higher rated” players we passed up and why…..Those judgements are confidential and rightfully so, but I guarantee that TD could give you a direct answer on each seemingly ‘higher rated’ player who was bypassed…..

leggomyego

April 30th, 2009
2:14 pm

I’d also like to state in advance, for the record, that i think Grimes did a heck of a job last year considering his size and more importantly, lack of experience. He’s appears to be a smart kid with some grit, and you know us Southern boys and our grits… gotta love that. I got no prob with Grimes taking that side, especially if we can get a pass rush to help those boys out.

G-HooK

April 30th, 2009
2:25 pm

Great blog D-Led, thanks.

Thought this was interesting: “With Stephen Nicholas stepping up in our mind to be a legitimate contributor in the base defense, we fell like we are sitting quite sound in our linebacker group.”

So the Falcons must like what they see from Nicholas. I guess he’s the favorite to start over Wire?

clthurman

April 30th, 2009
2:27 pm

If these new CB’s cant beat out Grimes/Houston who flat out suck then we got a good 5th on the Tackle from NC and maybe on the Tech lineman. Anybody who was impressed with Grimes, Irons and Houston must have been high when watching the games. And this whole Nichols is ready to make an impact….sure hope he does better in practice than what he has shown on the field..cuz it aint been much.

Olskool

April 30th, 2009
2:27 pm

good article JLed. I take back most of the things I’ve thought and said about you. anyway, i look forward to not only these picks developing but last years picks to continue to develop and step up. My sleeper player is S Nichols at OLB. People keep bringing up how we lost Boley and Brooking but Peterson and Nichols along with an improved Lofton could make it a stronger unit in 09

uga_b

April 30th, 2009
2:27 pm

D-Led, my biggest unanswered question is how they feel about the guys coming back from IR? We hear about Trey some, but we are also getting Robert James (LB), Thomas Brown (RB), and Renardo Foster (T) back. Are they expected to compete? Any plans to cut them?

As far as corner goes, three are pretty much guaranteed spots: Houston, Jackson, and Hutchins. I think Grimes may have to fight but has inside track. Owens should make it unless Middleton or Irons seriously outplays him.

My guess is Irons is gone; I think I remember some issues with the staff. Middleton would have to beat out Grimes, which would be the battle to watch. Owens would have to fall flat on his face as a 3rd rounder.

Poor McKay

April 30th, 2009
2:27 pm

If Hutchins was brought in to be the nickel CB last year, then doesn’t Chevis get first crack at starting opposite of Houston? I won’t pretent that I know jack about the second CBs, but hopefully they will fuel some competition with Houston, Jackson, Grimes, Irons & Hutchins.

uga_b

April 30th, 2009
2:29 pm

G-Hook, Wire is WLB (weakside) and Nicholas is SLB (strongside). Nicholas may be able to slide inside but that’s manned down by Lofton. So they aren’t competing. Everyone is competing with Peterson who can play all 3. Probably going to be relegated to competing for SLB and backing up MLB.

bushwacker

April 30th, 2009
2:33 pm

Did I miss it or did he not speak on our first pick Jerry?

Khao$

April 30th, 2009
2:34 pm

Dled,do you teach at any of the schools at the AUC? Off subject, I attend the ITC and I was going through Robert Woodruff online library. I looked under instructers and low and behold, I saw Orlando Ledbetter. Coincidence?

D Money

April 30th, 2009
2:35 pm

I’m excited about the team and I believe that we did get a couple of steels in this draft. However, I was thinking LB instead of the second corner we took from Furman. But there are always cap casualties that become available.

country boy

April 30th, 2009
2:35 pm

Thanks for the info in the article. Hate to be a bit negative but I seldom hear about a GM or coach talking down the players they drafted. I do agree with the picks as Dimitroff and Smitty earned my respect last year – however I just cann’t get comfortable with our LB’s. We seem thin and I thought we should have looked at more than a part time starter with upside.

Nookah

April 30th, 2009
2:38 pm

Great article D LED. Thanks for the incite from the man himself. There is obviously one theme going through the talent we are assembling….SPEED…. at all positions bar none.

I am actually very excited when I look at the CB and Safety positions. There is so much competition and the aforementioned speed there that I think we will put a much improved product on the field. Apart from that, when you look at the additions on the front line (DT) and the added depth in the LBacking corpe, we are going to be a significantly improved defense.

The record we achieve from this tough schedule that we now face this season, will be defined by how good our defense plays as we will be facing some teams that can put numbers on the board. It is therefore imperative that our defense performs at a high level consistently. I know we will be putting numbers on the board also but we will have to be able to stop the likes of the New England offense with the return of Brady, we face Drew Brees and the pass happy offense twice, Carolina always has good close games against us and we have them twice and the list goes on and on. Furthermore we face some very tough teams on the road, and not to mention those we face after they come off bye weeks. Notwithstanding all of that, I think we will go 10-6 or at worst case 9-7.

Good job TD and the drafting crew. Again I can’t emphasize enough (did it in an earlier blog) the job done by our Scouting Crew. Nuff respect to them!!

Go Falcons!!!!

Nuff respect everytime!!!!

Falcon Devil

April 30th, 2009
2:41 pm

Great article, temporarily quneched my desparate Falcons thirst. Grimes is a scrub and belongs on the practice squad. I have alot of faith in Houston making great imporvements, he has flashes of elite ability but his young age shows in his blown coverages last year. I’m starting to feel our defense could easily be in the 10-20th rankings and our offense being top 3.

Falcon Devil

April 30th, 2009
2:42 pm

Falcon Devil

April 30th, 2009
2:53 pm

Even though our schedule is tough I am not worried. Might be unjustified confidence but I see 9-7 winning the conference this year. Bucs will suck, Carolina will be mediocre and the Saint will be the real competition. I can see them picking up Edge which will really make them dangerous but their defense is still suspect. Take care of business in the division and we will go deep in the playoffs.

**Frederick(Bailey)Douglass**

April 30th, 2009
2:56 pm

DOL,

I like the ENTHUSIASM TEAM!!!

Very good article. This is what the fans want: some insight into what the GM is/was thinking. Clearly, he wants to create some intense battles on the defensive side of the ball this year at CB, S and SS. This is GOOD!! These positions make or break a game/season. I want us to find some CBs that don’t mind mixing it up a little.

This may be the two best consecutive drafts in Falcons history. This stuff makes sense! There are no random TEs or premadonna WRs/CBs…no project lineman or weirdo punters. This draft is filled with competitors..and not all of THEM will make the team.

The Birds are stockpiling talent. Period.

Question Que: Do you think that we will consider signing the linebacker from the Steelers??? He would be a great addition to our group…albeit costly.

FBD
Talented Tenth D

Mac

April 30th, 2009
3:07 pm

Good stuff, Darryl. Keep up the good work.

J-Mo

April 30th, 2009
3:16 pm

Has TD mentioned anything about signing the next wave of free agents to upgrade our LB position? Traditionally, there are a number of players cut around June 1 (of course, we don’t know who that will be yet). What about Derrick Brooks? He’d be a great leader on the Defensive side and a great mentor.

As for our schedule … remember, Carolina, New Orleans, and Tampa (Tampa doesn’t worry me at all next year) also have very tough schedules. We might not finish 1 or 2 in the conference, but we absolutely can win our division. Anything can happen in the playoffs!!! You just gotta make it there first!!

ron moody

April 30th, 2009
3:19 pm

It appears that TD and Coach Smith had a great draft because they don’t look for athletic self-centered headliners. They look for players who earned the respect of their teammates whether in Division 1 or div2, as TD says “The Team Captain Type”, who also possess the tools and desire necessary to bring the high effort and consistent results on every play they are on the field. This may sound to some to be a no brainer, but when you look at who passed on the players we picked, maybe all GM’s and coaches haven’t broken the code yet. We will win again this year because our leadership functions with a sense of unity and our coaches are knowledgeable,experinced, and focused on developing a champion.The program starts with Mr.Blank’s trust and support of his management team and now a coaching staff that has spent a challenging season together, and players that have given their all to one another. Without having to endure a change in coaches,offensive schemes,defensive schemes and etc., and with the addition of more urgency and speedy new players this team will exceed our expectations. GOOOOOOOO FalconSSSSS

D. Orlando Ledbetter

April 30th, 2009
3:24 pm

Was working the Schultz plan today. Get the blog up in a hour, then spend two hours correcting. Sensed y’all needed something to munch on.

Champ

April 30th, 2009
3:26 pm

“Increases our physicality and has very good ball skills. He’s gotten his hands on a lot of balls…” sounds like he is describing Esera Tuaolo. HEY NOW! I’ll be here all week…

Mike

April 30th, 2009
3:28 pm

Good work team, I’m anxious to see how the competition at corner plays out. I also would’ve been interested to know why we passed on Duke Robinson. I didn’t know about Middleton at first, but good to know he’s frat. I hope he can cover. Roo Team- 7-2005-A

gabuldawg

April 30th, 2009
3:42 pm

It is great to see a bloc on AJC that sticks to the point and actually has people who know the sport. I’ve been a fan since the mid 70’s through thick and thin. I’m new to blogging though so help me out! I had to watch this draft out on the ocean while back on another combat deployment. I got up at midnight to watch all of the first day but missed the 2nd day since they decided not to show it out here. I was impressed but also surprised that we addressed as much as we did with quality players and quality men. We need to lock up TD for another 10 years. I’m looking at who we selected as well as well as who we signed as free agents and I’m concerned still about linebackers. We just don’t have many. There will be little competition in camp and we don’t have any cushion for injuries. After Loften, Nicholas, Wire & Peterson, we are really thin. Do ya’ll see anyone that we might go after to sign going into camp.

PMC

April 30th, 2009
3:45 pm

Thanks DOL for the interview. Great stuff.

Unca' Bob

April 30th, 2009
3:58 pm

gabuldawg

According to the Falcon’s current roster there will be at least 12 competing for the LB slots.

AGTFan

April 30th, 2009
4:00 pm

Thanks D-LED. Great Blog today. It was really nice to get inside the mind of one of the best GMs in the game today.

Brian Hunt

April 30th, 2009
4:03 pm

Anybody know what Hutchin’s cap number is this year? I think that he may be the odd man out if the draft picks show they can play. Hutchins is probably as good as he’s going to get, while the others show more potential. If there isn’t a big difference in their level of play his salary will become a factor.

Thor Hiney

April 30th, 2009
4:06 pm

I haven’t see this mentioned….The Reynolds kid is the son of Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds. Reynolds played Mike linebacker for the Rams for 13 years I think.

Also, I believe that the Falcons still have Will backer Tony Taylor and RB Thomas Brown on their injured reserve (both had season ending injuries pre-season last yr) and Smith liked both of them…especially Tayor….and it looked like both were going to make the team. Taylor is a versatile OLB type that made plays against the run and the pass at UGA so he should be able to provide good quality depth for the Falcons.

Chelsea Alpharetta Blues

April 30th, 2009
4:10 pm

Thor – I think they cut Tony Taylor and signed another Dawg Tony Gilbert.

gabuldawg

April 30th, 2009
4:23 pm

Unca Bob, I see what you are saying. I only see 10 on the roster but I may have missed the other 2. Of those 10, the only one I forgot about was Tony Gilbert. The other 5 are the one LB from Miami and 4 undrafted LB’s. Maybe one will surprise us but if the injury bug hits, I’m not sure TD doesn’t start looking around.

froggy

April 30th, 2009
4:27 pm

Good stuff…Sidbury is an intriguing pick, if he delivers on his promise my boy Biermann could be gone, which I’d hate to see. Kroy does need to get bigger and stronger if he is going to stick long term (what John Runyan did to him in the Philly game was just brutal to watch). How many situational pass rushers will you carry — probably just one out of 4 DE’s? KB had the same number of sacks (2) as Jamaal last year, but there seem to be no indications our #1 underachiever is on the bubble or likely to be cut — any thoughts on that ?