A study of Dimitroff’s last four drafts

Falcons head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff could get "some bonus" to go shopping with. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC).

Falcons head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff could get "some bonus" to go shopping with. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC).

 

FLOWERY BRANCH — Under the esteemed Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have taken a hoarder approach to the NFL draft.

Over the past few years, he made moves to amass picks and used them to create depth and competition.

After four years of drafting, a picture of Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s draft approach has come into focus. The Belichick disciple has taken a different path.

Dimitroff is not a draft-pick hoarder. He looks at his potential picks as valuable chips to slide up and down the draft board to get targeted talent.

A study of his draft moves reveals that the Falcons likely will move around the draft, which is set for Thursday through Saturday, at some point in order to address their needs. In each of the past four drafts, Dimitroff has made at least one trade.

Last season there was the 5-for-1 mega-deal with Cleveland to move up 21 spots in order to land wide receiver Julio Jones. Later, in the fifth round after the spotlight was off the Falcons, he sent two picks to St. Louis in order to move up 10 spots to scoop up running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

In 2010 Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks, who left school a year early, was slipping in the draft. Dimitroff sent two picks to St. Louis to move up 14 spots to acquire Franks, who ended last season as a starter.

In 2009, Dimitroff felt he could get his guy by going back 13 spots in the fifth round. The Falcons made a deal to send their fifth-round pick to Dallas. They moved back 13 spots and picked up a seventh-round pick for their troubles. They drafted offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds in the fifth and Vance Walker in the seventh. Both have been contributors.

There was a run on left tackles in 2008. With the Falcons needing protection for Matt Ryan, Dimitroff sent two second-round picks and a fourth-round pick to Washington in order to move back into the first round and pick Sam Baker with the 21st overall pick. They also received third- and fifth-round picks. The Falcons used those picks to select wide receiver Harry Douglas (84th overall) and defensive end Kroy Biermann (154th).

“If you feel that you want to package picks to go up and get the player that you feel can help the team, well, then you use your draft picks as fodder to go after that player,” Dimitroff said.

Dimitroff will enter this draft with six picks — second round (No. 55 overall), third (84), fifth (157), sixth (192) and two sevenths (229 and 249).

Given his record for gliding around the draft board, Dimitroff would not rule out making a move up in the second round.

“The draft is set for a team to be able to bargain and to be able to use what you have to pull in the players that you need, the players that you think you need to help your team be successful,” Dimitroff said. “We feel in the past that we’ve been able to utilize those picks more effectively by using part of them as trade bait.”

Under Dimitroff the Falcons have selected 32 players, and 26 of them are either starters or reserves, a retention rate of 81.25 percent. However, there has been only one Pro Bowler (Matt Ryan) and arguably two misses on first-round picks in Baker and defensive tackle Peria Jerry in 2009.

The Falcons knew Baker and Jerry were risky picks because of their respective injury histories. Both have struggled as they have suffered additional injuries. Baker has battled back and elbow woes, while Jerry tore up his knee in the second game of his career and has been a rotational player since.

The Falcons picked Jerry 24th overall. Two picks later, Green Bay found a gem in linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls. Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, was selected eight picks later by Pittsburgh. He has played in 48 games and started 16, with 5.5 sacks. Jerry has played in 34 games and started six, with two sacks.

“We are still very focused on building through the draft,” Dimitroff said. “We are sticking true to that philosophy. We are second in retention rate.”

The Falcons place a value on the players they draft.

“It allows us to build our team with players through the draft, educate them, school them on and off the field to be the type of players that we are looking for them to be as an Atlanta Falcons football player,” Dimitroff said. “I think it sends a very strong message to our locker room, and that’s something that is very beneficial in the team building process.”

This year the Falcons would like to address their offensive and defensive lines, add a tight end and possibly a potential backup quarterback. If they can’t address all of their concerns, they’ll aggressively try to sign undrafted players and look for salary-cap casualties during training camp.

The Falcons re-signed future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to a one-year contract. They have been preparing for his eventual retirement by developing Michael Palmer and Ryan Winterswyk.

“When Tony is ready to move on, we’ll have a player ready to step it,” Dimitroff said.

The Falcons’ personnel department suffered a blow when Les Snead left to become the Rams’ general manager. David Caldwell has stepped into his role, and Lionel Vital’s responsibilities have been increased.

“The rest of the staff has been working diligently to continue to provide the information for myself and [coach Mike Smith] to get our board intact and ready to roll at 55, ostensibly at 55,” Dimitroff said.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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76 comments Add your comment

dean

April 23rd, 2012
8:13 am

“In Dimitroff we trust”

(You’re a busy fella this morning DLED.)

jay

April 23rd, 2012
8:27 am

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Sid

April 23rd, 2012
8:29 am

Hey, TD, please leave our 2013 picks intact.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Atticus

April 23rd, 2012
8:41 am

Dmitroff hasn’t drafted ONE Pro Bowl player. Not one. Just think about that. Julio and Weatherspoon may turn our to be them but the best player he drafted (Lofton) is already gone. He signed Tony, Turner Donta and Ray Edwards as free agents. Two very good, two way too much money. We are a better overall organization but missing on Baker, Peria Jerry, William Moore’s injuries, nothing out of Mike Johnson, Decoud and Owens didn’t make a difference and Matt Ryan is still developing. No good OL draft picks either to protect Ryan. This is a big year.

GDawg

April 23rd, 2012
8:51 am

@Atticus Matt Ryan, Brent Grimes and Eric Weems all went to the Pro Bowl.

Saber

April 23rd, 2012
8:55 am

Is Aundray Bruce still playing? Surely not… he must be in Canton by now.

Head Mo Fo

April 23rd, 2012
8:56 am

This years Falcons draft will be used primarily for depth players.

At pick #55 we will surely be able to find a player that will contribute later in the season however this years 2nd rounder may not start day one (unless the player is an interior lineman).

TD, it may benefit the Falcons this year to move back to the bottom of the second round, this action will enable us to pick up a 4th round player for our trouble… We could use the extra pick on a punt returner to replace Eric Weems (TY Hilton out of FIU appears to have a nice skill set)

I'm Gumby, Dammit!!

April 23rd, 2012
9:02 am

Atticus is practicing revisionist history. His glass must be perpetually half empty, as he obviously can’t recall how moribund this franchise was before TD and MS.

The Real Falcon

April 23rd, 2012
9:06 am

It’s not the number of picks, it what you do with them!

1-4 DRAFT PICKS 2008-2011

2008
1. Matt Ryan. 3rd pick overall Starter
2. 1A Sam Baker 21st overall Underachiever. Lost job BUST
3. Curtis Lofton 37th overall Lost to Free Agency
4. Chevis Jackson 68th overall Out of football in 2011 Bust

2009
1. Peria Jerry 24th overall Underachiever. Can’t get in as starter BUST
2. William Moore 55th overall Starter
3. Christopher Owens 90th overall Spot Starter Inconsistent play
4. Lawrence Sidbury 125th overall BUST

2010
1. Sean Weatherspoon 19th overall Starter
2. No pick
3. Corey Peters 83rd overall Starter
4. Joe Hawley 117th overall Spot starter inconsistent play

2011
1. Julio Jones 6th overall Starter
2. No pick
3. Akeem Dent 91st overall Special teams player
4. No pick

The Living Legend

April 23rd, 2012
9:11 am

The NFL Draft is a “crap shoot” to begin with. There have been great players taken later in the draft (Tom Brady) and some not so great ones taken very early (Leaf and J. Russell). I think it is really based more upon how the player fits into your system and how you develop that player. Brett Favre ring a bell? I would be more impressed if the Falcons took a developmental player and molded him. The risks on the often injured (Baker and P. Jerry) seem to never work out because they are always injured. Kroy Biermann was a quality pick, just because they come from smaller schools does not mean they cannot play. With no first round picks, I would have had scouts searching the smaller schools for hidden talent, you cannot tell me there isn’t a beast of on OL hidden some place like Montana, South Dakota, Mississippi Valley, etc. But that is just my opinion

Mr. Costanza

April 23rd, 2012
9:25 am

TD has no clue. But maybe he can find a good often injured player in the second round.

PMC

April 23rd, 2012
9:26 am

It’s important to note that the Patriots are a different team in a different situation and the Falcons have had almost the same level of success in the time period that Dimitroff has been here including breaking in a new QB while the Pats have had Tom Brady.

The Pats haven’t exactly drafted out of the park with all those picks either.

Larry

April 23rd, 2012
9:34 am

“We are second in retention rate.”

Thomas, this is not necessarily a good thing if your coaches continue to “retain” the wrong players.

Perhaps a more pertinent measurement is how many regular starters have you retained (still a coaching lone influence) or how many pro bowl selections (influenced by others) have you made or retained as compared to other teams the past four drafts. Then you will know genuinely how you are doing with the draft.

Our federal government and the Atlanta City Council have high retention rates too..how well is this working for us?

PMC

April 23rd, 2012
9:35 am

Seriously I’ve been as hard on TD as anyone at times (within reason) he’s doing a fantastic job of building a team. Consistency from year to year is probably the most difficult thing to achieve in the NFL outside of success in the playoffs. Just because it’s been very gradual success doesn not mean there hasn’t been success.

Sidbury is not a bust, he was a project. He was always a project, and he’s had success rushing the passer despite extremely limited playing time. No one gets all the picks right.

We simply need more impact playmakers on defense and front line protectors on offense.

DawgDad

April 23rd, 2012
10:05 am

Two solid picks with the #2 and #3 would be just fine, one on the o-line and one on defense. No need to get carried away with all the draft-industry hype.

I thought the expectation was Baker would heal and be competitive again, that he never really was fully recovered last year? Since the depth” on the o-line didn’t pan out last season, I’m expecting that second round pick to be on the offensive line, but I could see the picks flipping the other way.

Pete

April 23rd, 2012
10:14 am

We’ll have to wait to see how many games this year’s picks will play before ending up on IR.

JSS

April 23rd, 2012
10:17 am

Ah, the once touted draft of 2008, wow did that one slide away really quickly! And did I read that they feel comfortable with the two developmental TEs on this roster? Wow!

JSS

April 23rd, 2012
10:20 am

GDawg…
Weems and Grimes were Rich McKay acquisitions…

Big Crimson 75

April 23rd, 2012
10:54 am

I hope Dent can play, especially considering We could have picked him in the 5th Round last yr!!!
Rd 2 — OL
Rd 3 — OL
Rd 5 — DT
Rd 6 — QB
Rd 7 — RB
Rd 7 — S

Falcons 4 Real

April 23rd, 2012
11:08 am

Good column DLed, nice analysis. I have faith that Dimitroff will get us some quality players out of this draft.

chuck

April 23rd, 2012
11:13 am

I don’t care if we use some of next year’s picks to help get an impact player this year since with the expected success we have we’ll probably be picking near the end of each round.

SawThat1nce

April 23rd, 2012
11:26 am

Improve that OLine, should be #1 priority.
Improve pass rush #2.

Falconfiend

April 23rd, 2012
11:27 am

I think we trade into the 4th with Cleveland and give them our two sevens. We can have picks in the 2,3,4,5,6. Falcons scouts do well with Undrafted free agents.

riggo

April 23rd, 2012
11:34 am

Samuel for a 5th round pick- move Dunta to safety

mark

April 23rd, 2012
12:05 pm

Dimitroff has done an excellent job of rebuilding a team that after loosing Vick showed what kind of talent they had. He cuts guys lose that are good players and “nice guy” e.g. Brookings & Lofton because he realizes with spread formation I guy that cover is not worth big money and he is right. The Jerry and Baker pick have hurt but the reality is anyone can through a teams draft board year to year and find picks that do not pan out. We have had three picks in the top 20- Ryan, Spoon, and Jones so far so good. Good luck going forward please pick up an offensive linemen.

Khaos

April 23rd, 2012
12:05 pm

Instead of Charlie Sheen, Thomas Dimitroff should have been cast to take Michael J. Fox’s role on “Spin City.” Hopefully Weatherspoon, Julio and perhaps William Moore will become Pro Bowl caliber players. Ryan is his only Pro Bowler draft pick. Fact. Dimitroff is overrated and misusing the resources Blank has provided him.

You know the song by now…

Fire Smitty and Dimitroff

Jay

April 23rd, 2012
12:11 pm

Not much of a draft review posted in here, how much “studying” got done? I got more of a review by looking at the comments.

Cal Bowdler

April 23rd, 2012
12:20 pm

William Moore can’t stay on the field. He’s in provisional bust status. The great Belichick “draft O linemen late” strategy has utterly backfired, with no starters and few backups/taxi squad guys. TD is middle of the pack at best. Of course he looks like a genius after McKay.

[...] behind during the final four Falcons [...]

[...] behind during the final four Falcons [...]

[...] behind during the final four Falcons [...]

[...] behind during the final four Falcons [...]

falconfiend

April 23rd, 2012
12:51 pm

guys i like in the late rounds:
FOZZY WHITAKER RB/SP TEXAS
CAMERON CHISM CB/SP UNDRAFTED
TANK CARDER LB/SP TCU
CORYELL JUDIE CB/SP TEXAS A&M

ArkT

April 23rd, 2012
1:07 pm

I wouldn’t expect much from the Falcon’s this season. They have a very good track record for signing unproven or overrated players that really don’t bring much value or difference making ability. And they lack an understanding of player development or ability in the draft. I’m settling in for another “okay” season.

We should have made more of an effort to sign Mario WIlliams.

DePort

April 23rd, 2012
1:18 pm

Why would we pick a QB in the 5th round and a safety in the 7th? That doesnt make sense to me. You can find linemen late in the draft who turn out good. You basically never find a safety after the 3rd round who turn out to be anything. QBs seem to be good in the 1st round or undrafted. Crazy how that works out.

DePort

April 23rd, 2012
1:19 pm

William Moore cant stay on the field cause he goes all in to play for you inconsiderate fans. How could you call him a bust? I wish half the team would care as much as he does.

DePort

April 23rd, 2012
1:21 pm

Move Duanta to safety? Ok I quit. I have lost all hope for smart ATL fans.

Atticus

April 23rd, 2012
1:46 pm

GDawg, do some homework will you.

Grimes was signed as a free agent in 07. Eric Weems I will give you credit for even though I meant one of 22 starters. Ryan was the 3rd pick and has made one ProBowl and has won 0 playoff games.

Let me re-phrase for you and Gumby Dammit……Dmitroff sucks as a drafter but is good as a GM. He has not drafted one player who is an elite player making multiple Pro Bowls. I don’t think you can find too many teams that in 5 drafts can say that.

Is this franchise light years better than before in terms of consistency? Absolutely. Is the draft a crap shoot when looking at each year and especially after the 3rd or 4th round? No doubt.

But lets be clear, the summary of ALL his drafts is average at best, I am sorry if that hurts your feelings. It is either his fault or his scouts.

FalconsFan284

April 23rd, 2012
1:58 pm

I love the Falcons and I trust in Thomas Dimitroff. This man has won Executive of the year twice and still half of this message board is adamant that he has no clue what he’s doing. This is what it’s like being a Falcons fan. The sky is always falling or it’s getting ready to fall. I live in Kansas City and these fans are eternal optimists. No, they don’t think their team is going to win every game but they always talk about their team with hope. I think those fans are better.
Some of you guys look at Chris Owens and call him a bust but he was drafted in the third round. He has also had his moments like getting the pick while defending Terrel Owens. If anything you all should be looking at Coach Smith and saying why do we continue to play a guy in nickle that has shown he isn’t capable of playing there but has shown some ability to play outside? Owens has not been great, in fact he has probably been lousy, but look at all the picks that came before him and see how many have done nothing. I’m not talking about Atlanta’s picks I’m talking about the entire NFL!
Do you honestly believe that every pick has to be a starter and that they have to go to the Pro Bowl? Some of you seem to say that you measure success by Pro Bowls. Well I like to think we measure success by wins and loses. I know having watched this team for nearly 30 years that Atlanta is a much better team than at any point in our history. I feel that we are not very far away from consistently challenging for the Super Bowl. So, you can take your Pro Bowls and whine about a GM any team would feel lucky to have or you can sit back, shut up and enjoy the ride. I don’t know how long the ride is going to be, or where we’ll end up, but I am going to love watching this team whether they are good or bad. I am also going to be thankful to have such great leaders, Thomas Dimitroff, Arthur Blank and Coach Smith, leading this organization.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 23rd, 2012
2:45 pm

Falcons are looking at DT Aubrayo Franklin. Would be a good complement to Babineaux on the D-line.

jerry

April 23rd, 2012
2:52 pm

Well, hell. Let us ponder if it was or is the coaching and not TD’s draft picks. An enignma if ever I saw one.

single white dove

April 23rd, 2012
3:01 pm

look, keeping bad picks, high retention rate, blah blah blah. Look the two ones that got away were the ones that could of got us a trophy. Why in the world would you pick two guys with injury problems. Thats like picking a woman when you know she has an STD??? I will always be relectant about this organization and on how they go forward.

Wow

April 23rd, 2012
3:18 pm

Aubrayo Franklin, the former Saints DT visited with us today?

Any words Dled?

NFL.com got this up.

dmr

April 23rd, 2012
3:21 pm

If Arthur Blank is sold on the bill of goods that this team can “WIN NOW”, then someone working for the Falcons should call the proverbial Eskimos with Ice next. This team will be good, not great. Good won’t necessarily translate into wins in my opinion. This team has had Ryan for four good seasons. However, the Falcons have failed to address or realize the importance of a dominant front line on either side of the ball. The Falcons will face some of the best qb’s this league has to offer next season. I am predicting a no show for the playoffs or perhaps another one and done.

Dimitroff did not bring the Patriot’s penchant for collecting draft picks to build depth. Instead, he gave us the second coming of the Herschel Walker trade when he dealt for Julio Jones, and we were Minnesota. Not that Julio is a bad player; on the contrary, he is an exceptional player. He just plays one of those positions where he cannot impact a game ALL the time.

I said, and still say, that I would wrap up a declining Turner and a sometime empty headed Roddy White, and see what the market will bring. Snelling can do a one year fill in. Julio can move to the one. Douglas can stay at the three. The Falcons could find themselves a solid two somewhere (draft or trade).

I know everyone wants to WIN NOW. However, you cannot win when you don’t have the pieces and sometimes you have to look to the future. If you don’t, you will be in the same position next season.

PMC

April 23rd, 2012
3:26 pm

43 wins in 4 years. Somebody doing something right.

Atticus

April 23rd, 2012
3:44 pm

PMC, you forgot one item. This article isn’t about building a consistent division contender, Dmitroff has done that and deserves a lot of credit. But that is not the point of this piece. This is about his success as a draft evaluator.

And let’s be clear, using the pathetic past as an excuse for settling for a team that 4 years in has 0 playoff victories….that is an excuse for further mediocrity. Winning the division, winning playoff games and winning titles is the goal.

Atticus

April 23rd, 2012
3:47 pm

Falcons Fan, the point many fans are making is not “scrap the coaching staff, scarp the GM” etc….it is merely the guy deserves some scrutiny or accountability for the way they have handled the draft. A few different choices could have made the difference in this team playing for a Super Bowl. Its that fine a line.

Wee Willie Keeler

April 23rd, 2012
3:50 pm

Ledbetter is proff that wearing a bowtie doesn’t mean you are smart. One can’t trade comp picks, thus the second 7th rounder is off the table.