Another Falcons draft has come and gone, and yet again the reviews are mixed with most Atlanta fans. Even with all the research in the world, GM Thomas Dimitroff proved to be his normal and completely unpredictable self, trading picks at will to get the players he wanted. Many fans predicted the Falcons would go cornerback and some even predicted they would take CB Desmond Trufant in the first round. That’s where the correct predictions ended.
In all, they took in 2 cornerbacks, 2 defensive ends, 1 tight end, 2 safeties, and 1 quarterback. Most are happy with the players selected, or can tolerate them, but the idea that the Falcons brought home exactly 0 linebackers, defensive tackles, or offensive linemen is perplexing to say the least. Even though many were initially upset at taking two cornerbacks with the first two picks, what was once one of the biggest weaknesses had immediately been transformed into a massive strength, not just for 2013, but for the next many years. Cornerback has been one of the most unstable positions the past 5 years, and it’s finally been solidified.
Many fans were OK with taking a defensive end in the 4th round, one of the most potential laden in the entire draft and definitely a good pick in that round, but then it veered off track for some fans. Perhaps the biggest reach of the entire haul was taking TE Levine Toilolo with the 4th round compensatory pick. Some sites had him slotted as low as the 6th or even 7th rounds. Then Dimitroff followed it up by doubling up on defensive end and even traded a 7th round pick to get DE Stansly Maponga. It was a brutal wait from the middle of the 5th round to all the way to the end of the entire draft.
The Falcons GM saved his most puzzling for last. He took safety Kemal Ishmael with the first one, a player not invited to the combine or even ranked by most scouting sites. He turned right around and took another safety in Zeke Motta, which was a great value pick. He finished up the draft with QB Sean Renfree from Duke, a highly intelligent player that’s had his work ethic compared to Peyton Manning from former coach David Cutcliffe. We’ll be analyzing and breaking down the draft in-depth over the next few weeks, but here’s your chance to grade the Falcons 2013 Draft Class. Feel free to use letter grades, numbers, whatever you like……….
How can you not like this pick? Some feel that Dimitroff pigeon-holed this pick long ago. While that may be true in some regard, Trufant is every bit worthy of his selection. He’s a unanimous selection as the 2nd or 3rd best corner, a first round talent, and an average taken from many scouting websites has him as the 25th best player in the draft. Only Jonathan Banks had more tackles than Trufant (195). He was a four year starter at Washington in the Pac-10 (a heavy passing conference). Only two CBs had more pass break ups (33), than Trufant (Dee Milliner – 36, Leon McFadden – 37).
He has prototypical corner size (6’0 – 190). The former Huskie was only bested by two CBs in the forty (Trufant – 4.38; Milliner – 4.7; Darius Slay – 4.36) and had one of the better performances on the bench. It works out perfectly for the Falcons being able to choose the best overall player and one of the biggest areas of need. Trufant is a prototypical Dimitroff player: 4 year starter, high production, and team captain. He’s never taken a CB before the 3rd round, and even he (Owens) is no longer a Falcon. He’s a great young man as well. He was extremely humbled and very emotional when getting the call. He has fantastic bloodlines with his brothers Marcus and Isaiah being NFL players.
Of course there’s the issue of what the Falcons GM gave up. It was painful to see the Falcons part with their 3rd round pick, and even their 6th as well, especially in such a deep defensive draft. Time will tell on whether the Falcons gave up too much in seeing how those 3rd round selections for other teams pan out, but also how well Trufant does compared to the other first round CBs in Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes. Some believe it was a mistake because there were so many good corners and that either Rhodes or Trufant would have dropped to them. Of course there’s no way of knowing now, but at a minimum it’s a pretty flimsy excuse because the Vikings took Rhodes with the very next pick, New England traded out of their pick, and the other main fan target, Jamar Taylor, didn’t go until pick #54. At a minimum, the argument is impossible to prove one way or another and it’s a wash.
The Falcons grab one of the best corners and overall players in the draft. A four year starter from a heavy passing conference and an absolute plug-and-play player. Only reason this isn’t an A+ is due to giving up a 3rd round pick.
Immediate reaction for most fans was disbelief. Why and how could Dimitroff go back-to-back CB in the first two rounds, especially after not having another pick until the end of the 4th round? The idea of not taking an linebacker or another position in this deep defensive draft will leave Dimitroff open to questions from fans until the end of 2013 on whether or not it was the right move to strengthen the secondary.
However, the player Robert Alford and the end result of turning cornerback (and secondary overall) from an unstable position and major weakness to an overall team strength is hard to question. It was the greatest area of need after free agency, and Dimitroff just set the CB position as an extremely strong one for years to come. If Trufant, Asante Samuel, and Robert McClain are the top three, than Alford could be one of the best 4th corners in the NFL. It’s not out of the question for him winning the nickel job either. The SE Louisiana product had a very productive career notching 137 tackles, 20 pass break-ups, and 10 interceptions.
He’s 5’10, 188 lbs and had a fantastic combine performance. He ran a 4.39 forty, did 17 reps on the bench, and had one of the best vertical leaps and broad jumps of all cornerback prospects. In addition to being a great corner, he’s also fantastic on special teams and has to be considered to be a leader for the return man position, an area the Falcons were woefully inadequate. He was slotted to go somewhere in the 2nd round and he surely did. The corners that were ranked ahead of him (Jamar Taylor, David Amerson, Jonathan Banks) all went before him in the 2nd and only Darius Slay went earlier than he did that wasn’t roundly ranked ahead of him.
Cornerbacks in the second round was arguably the strongest of the draft, at least in terms of value and quantity and Dimitroff struck. The player Robert Alford should earn an A grade, but deciding to pass on a linebacker or defensive tackle in the 2nd after giving up a 3rd will be questioned for awhile. However, the Falcons now have an extremely deep, young, and talented cornerback corps for years to come. When’s the last time you could say that?
It’s hard to argue with this pick at all. The media, both local and national alike, have beaten the “pass rush argument” to death for the last several years. They’ve not been saying anything untrue as the Falcons have been downright criminal in developing ANY pass rush whatsoever. They even made an enormous blunder in free agency with Ray Edwards. In short, it’s been pitiful. While Goodman may not turn into the next John Abraham, he has all the tools to become dominant at the next level.
Even though the former Tiger had pretty good production, it’s his measurables that pop out. He’s 6’4, 276 lbs, has arms that are almost 37 inches long, and hands that are 11 inches long. He also ran a 4.87 and put up 26 reps on the bench at the combine. He’s has that prototypical defensive end size and frame, the likes of which the Falcons have not drafted for in a long time. He had decent production, if not stellar while at Clemson. He pulled down 136 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, and 12.5 sacks. He has issues with consistency and pre-snap awareness. Perhaps the best part is that utterly dominated one of the best offensive lines in LSU in the Chick-Fil-A bowl in December. Dimitroff mentioned that he can either play a 5-technique in the 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive end. The value is unquestioned as almost every single scouting site had him going in the 3rd round.
It’s a great pick for need and for value. Goodman addresses one of the biggest problems and areas for need the last 5 years. He’s a specimen the Falcons haven’t drafted in some time. His ceiling is enormous. Only reason it’s not an A+ is the Falcons inability to develop any other DE to date.
Here’s where fellow Cage Members favorite mugs, TVs, or remotes were broken. If fans were already shaky due to the back-to-back corner picks and giving up a 3rd rounder, this one sent them hurling over the edge. Many thought the Falcons would take a developmental tight end, but surely not reach for one this early. The fact that Alabama NT Jesse Williams was sitting right there for the taking doesn’t help.
Toilolo the player isn’t necessarily a bad player or project to take on. His biggest defenders will immediately point out that he beat out 2nd round TE Zach Ertz before injury. However, it’s where he was drafted that was bothersome. Predicting what would and would have not happened is impossible, but most scouting sites had him pegged around the 7th round territory and even others had him not being drafted at all. Toilolo’s height (6’8) is very intriguing, especially in the redzone. He also enjoys blocking, but will have major work to do if he wants to be considered as a #1 tight end. He will need to work on his hands, route running, and overall play. Even though he may get to a point of being a feature TE, right now he seems nothing more than a #2 / complementary tight end.
Although it’s irrelevant now, this seemed like a major, big-time reach by Dimitroff. Of course, projections were all over the place in general, but Toilolo was roundly considered a late round project. This pick will get the most scrutiny, and if he contributes and progresses, it could sway the overall draft, but right now, it doesn’t look very good.
At this point, fans knew that the double-dip was Dimitroff’s theme this year (even though they likely didn’t think it would happen again in the 7th round). Of all the picks, this is the most interesting, and not necessarily in a bad way. Maponga is loaded with potential and had great production as a sophomore before an injury filled year that saw him double-teamed a ton. He ended up with 23 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
Beyond his production is his measurables. He’s the opposite of Goodman in that he not your typical NFL defensive end. He’s 6’2, 256, and did 30 reps on the bench at the combine. He didn’t run the 40 due to injury. Some see Maponga as somewhat of a hybrid and Dimitroff described him as a pass-rushing specialist. He may be able to drop in space and is probably a good fit for Nolan’s defense.
However, like Toilolo the player, Maponga seems to be a very good pick since he was slotted almost exactly where he was taken, but the selection creates more questions than answers. For instance, why would they take Maponga after already having Osi Umenyiora, drafting Malliciah Goodman, and even having Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews on the roster? And then there’s the case of Biermann. Most believe him to be the incumbent opposite Umenyiora. Does this mean that Biermann would be moving to linebacker more exclusively, or at least to some type of Nolan “joker / amoeba” role? Or is it just another young pass rusher for the competition?
This will sound like a major copout, and to a certain extent it is, but this depends on the future of Kroy Biermann. If the Falcons intend to keep Biermann at defensive end, this has to be a pick that makes no sense when you already have 4 players (Biermann, Matthews, Massaquoi, Goodman) competing for one spot. Don’t forget that Biermann is making starter level money @ $3 mill per year. (D)
But, if the Falcons taking Maponga creates more opportunities for Biermann to have his own special role, much as he did last year, it would kill two birds with one stone: creating more competition and pass-rushing prowess to the DE competition, but also moving Biermann to more of an LB role would strengthen an apparent weakness as it stands now (B).
After seeing the Falcons give up their original 7th round pick and waiting from the beginning of the 5th round all the way to the end of the 7th, this pick was baffling. Ishmael was completely unknown or unheard of by most fans. He wasn’t invited to the combine (which doesn’t necessarily mean anything) and wasn’t even ranked by most scouting sites. The player may be a diamond in the rough, but it’s the next pick that makes this one more questionable. Safety actually was one of the Falcons strongest and deepest positions on the team with two returning Pro Bowlers (Moore, DeCoud) as the starters and promising Charles Mitchell in the 3rd spot.
Ishmael had 386 career tackles, which is nothing to sneeze at. He was also chosen as the 2012 Conference USA Player of the Year by conference coaches. He’s got good size and speed and, like Maponga, could help transform the defense, but until the results are seen on the field, taking two safeties, one of them completely unknown, this has to be seen as a highly questionable pick at best.
If this pick is looked upon in a vacuum, it probably would be much higher, but the fact they took another safety with the next pick and took someone who was completely unheard of in an area that’s one of the Falcons biggest strengths, this one will be guilty until proven innocent.
It may sound hypocritical to criticize the Ishmael pick, while turning around and lauding the Motta pick, but that’s what will follow. Motta was extremely productive at Notre Dame is one of the surest tackling defensive backs in the draft. A slow forty time dropped him down pretty far. However, in his press conference, Dimitroff talked about how Motta isn’t a straight line runner, but his quickness as evidenced in the 3 cone drill, has very good football speed. He’s 6’2, 215 and actually improved his 40 time at his pro day to 4.71 from 4.83. Motta was one of Mayock’s favorite players and expects him to not only make the team, but also to contribute.
At a minimum, Motta is a good backup depth to Thomas DeCoud at free safety, but Mike Nolan may have more in store for him. Some are speculating that Motta could possibly be the answer to the Falcons TE and 3rd down woes. Motta can cover tight ends, but isn’t afraid to come up in the box and lay the wood on someone either.
Motta was slotted in this area and could hold some deep potential for Mike Nolan’s defense both for his coverage skills and his ability to wrap up and tackle, a big problem area for the Falcons secondary in 2013.
Sure, the Falcons could have used this pick on an area of higher need, such as linebacker or defensive tackle, but at this point in the draft you looking for potential, and Renfree has a lot of it and compares to Peyton Manning’s work ethic from coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both Manning brothers. At a minimum he’s a solid #3 QB that could finally stop the rotating backup QB turnstile. If he develops, they could possibly do what the Eagles did with Kevin Kolb and the Packers did with Matt Flynn, where they turned a backup QB into draft picks in a trade.
Of course we as fans don’t know what schemes or plans Mike Nolan has cooked up and it may make complete sense when the season starts, but right now the LB corps is criminally thin. Besides the starters of Weatherspoon, Dent, and Nicholas, there’s Robert James and newly signed Brian Banks. Pat Schiller is still on the practice squad and make make a push, but overall a position that needed as much help as any other position got absolutely zero. This could change if Biermann moves to a more permanent LB role.
Like linebacker, defensive tackle was completely overlooked in the entire draft, and one that seemed to hold a lot of talent. As it stands currently, the Falcons lost one of their best rotation guys in Vance Walker and did not fill the void at all. As it stands, the Falcons only have 4 DT’s on the roster (Babineaux, Peters, Jerry, Robertson), and two of them have major injury troubles. They have Micanor Regis hanging around on the practice squad, but it’s hard to understand what’s going on here.
It was tough trying to decide between a B- or a C+ and if there was anything in between that would be the grade. If you break down each pick and look at the entire draft as a whole, it looks to be more strong than questionable overall. The picks of Trufant, Alford, Goodman, Motta, and Renfree are hard to argue with. Truant and Alford will immediately help. Goodman has immense upside, especially for where he was picked. Motta will definitely contribute on special teams and likely lock down the back up free safety spot, and even could move into some type of safety / linebacker hybrid role. The Renfree pick is extremely low risk with a potenial high reward. Also, it will likely stop the revolving door at 3rd string QB.
The questionable and / or suspect picks include Levine Toilolo, Stansly Maponga, and Kemal Ishmael. Toilolo will be one that could either swing this draft much higher, or keep it around middle to average. If comes in and contributes and finds some production as the #2 TE, than it was a good pick, but if Coffman or Palmer take most of the snaps, than it likely was a major reach. Maponga was a good pick and if it helps change the direction of the defense, it was even better, but if it’s just another body in the competition at DE with Biermann still there, it doesn’t make any sense. The same goes for Ishmael. Right now, you have to think he’s somewhat of a long shot to even make the team, but if he does and the direction of the defense as a whole improves, it makes sense.
The most difficult for fans to swallow, at least currently and on the surface, is the decision not to pick up any help at either linebacker or defensive tackle, two of the most dangerously thin spots on the entire roster. And to be honest, two positions that could have used an injection of talent. Of course the true assessment won’t come until the final roster cutdown and the final return won’t be until the season gets underway, but for now it looks like a slightly above average haul.