The “2014 NFL Draft Spreadsheet” is still in the works, but should be finished very soon. It will certainly be done in plenty of time for the draft. Aiming for early next week at the latest. And don’t look now, but the countdown is officially under a month to go (22 days, 17 hours, 15 minutes, but who’s counting) until the NFL Draft commences. Even though it was painful to hear that the NFL moved it back two weeks, it’s seemed to sneak up a little bit this year, so the heads of the NFL 4th Arm of Government must be very pleased.
However, one thing that can get lost in the frenzy of names, combine numbers, stats, colleges, and pro day workouts heading to the draft is trends of general managers and front offices. In our case, what to try and look for in a Thomas Dimitroff draft. To put it mildly, you’d have more luck in not just winning one lottery in your lifetime, but two. Many in The Cage have adopted the “George Costanza Opposite” method: start by choosing what you think the Falcons should do, marry that with what would actually be good for the Falcons roster, and dabble a little common sense to the mix; and once you’ve done all that…..completely toss all of the above out and do the opposite. “If every instinct we draft amateurs have is wrong on Dimitroff, the opposite must be right.”
If you’re looking for a quick summary of how to approach this draft, Dimitroff Style, then head to this little instructional video for help: Thomas Dimitroff Opposite Mock Draft Methodology. While the spreadsheet nears its completion, here’s a few questions to get the conversations rolling as we near a meager 3 weeks away from the Big Day………….
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 100 some odd days, you know what “IT” represents and that’s only one thing: that Thomas Dimitroff will once again trade away the next 3 years worth of draft picks for one player, signaling once again that hubris is in firm standing up in Flowery Branch. That would be for one Jadeveon Clowney. He’s ranked as the #1 prospect in the entire draft by pretty much every expert and draft site, but he’s also one of the riskiest. The proposition has reached such a zenith that the transaction seems to not be a matter of “IF,” but rather how much the Falcons will give up.
Even though there’s more holes than a screen door on this roster (offensive tackle, pass rusher, free safety, running back, tight end, defensive tackle among many others), it appears that Dimitroff is set to unload as many 4-5 draft picks spread over the next several years. It’s anyone’s guess to how which ones or if he’ll trade with Houston or St. Louis, but good bets are that he’ll give up at least a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round pick or something close to it. Prepare yourselves Cage brothers and sisters, it appears the move is already in the works.
Fans should start developing some coping mechanisms as draft day approaches, which could just as easily be “Dread” or “Trade Away” Day for Falcons followers. It’s not as though the this hasn’t happened before. Dimitroff gave up 5 picks to move up and select Julio Jones: Two 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and a 4th for the former Crimson Tide star. Perhaps he’s become emboldened due to Jones hitting a 1,000 yds as a rookie, a Pro Bowl in year 2, and on the way to being an All-Pro in year 3 before he was injured in game #5. Will you accept right off the bat? Will you burn, break, or destroy something? Will you be stoked? The Cage’s Advice: take some credence from the 7 stages of grief: 1) Shock and Denial; 2) Pain and Guilt; 3) Anger and Bargaining; 4) Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness; 5) The Upward Turn; 6) Recovery and Working Through; 7) Acceptance and Hope. At least since you already know it’s coming, you can go ahead and skip steps #1 and #2. Not real sure on the hope part either.
The Falcons GM has 6 full drafts under his belt. And even though he gave away one 1st round pick in the Jones trade, he did select two 1st round picks in his first draft of 2008. Most fans agree that he’s batting right at the .500 mark six years in. Of the 6 first rounders, the homeruns are obvious: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. And even though there’s only one year of data, Desmond Trufant seems like a winner as well. Making almost every Rookie of the Year team, as well as ranking as the 5th best overall CB according to Pro Football Focus. Not only that, he’s earned high praise from the best CB in the game Richard Sherman. Not something that’s easy to get.
Likewise, the bad picks are just as painful. Easily the worst pick of Dimitroff’s career is Peria Jerry. Injury played a part, but he was injury prone coming out of college. His stat lines have him listed as pulling down 5.5 sacks in 5 years. Not only the lack of sacks, but his overall play has been next to terrible since being taken in 1st round. There was also some guy named Clay Matthews III available as well. Next on the list is Sam Baker. While he can’t be called a true bust since he was played every game on the OL of the Falcons two best years (2010, 2012), he’s barely started half of all possible games as a Falcon and has been put on the IR 3 out of 6 years (2008, 2011, 2013). Even at his very best, he’s hardly a franchise left tackle. Finally is Sean Weatherspoon. Once again, Spoon isn’t necessarily a bust because he’s been good to decent, but he’s hardly lived up to his first round linebacker status, where true playmaking LB’s like Von Miller, Luke Kuelchy, and Clay Matthews III are among the best in the NFL. Weatherspoon had one great year (2011) and has been pretty mediocre and injury-riddled the rest.
This likely will be all for naught if he trades up to get Clowney, but if for some strange reason he decides to keep his 3rd round draft pick and take a player accordingly, he’ll need to seriously buck an ugly trend he’s developed over 6 years. This is not to say that every single one of his 3rd round picks have been terrible or busts, but most consider 3rd round picks to be eventual starter material, particularly in deep drafts. That, however, has not been the case. A list of Dimitroff’s 3rd round selections: Harry Douglas, Chevis Jackson, Chris Owens, Corey Peters, Mike Johnson, Akeem Dent, and Lamar Holmes. Corey Peters is the only one that’s developed into a legitimate, or at least productive, starter. Douglas has been a very good role player as well, and stepped up big time in Roddy White and Julio’s absence. The rest, not so good. Owens started 12 games in 4 years and half of those were as a rookie. They deemed him so unuseful that they wouldn’t pay him $1 million to stay and went on to draft not one, but two rookies last year. They decided that Dominique Franks was more worthy. Funny enough, he ended having a pretty decent year for the Browns and later the Dolphins.
Chevis Jackson was cut after his second year in the league and never played in the NFL again. Mike Johnson couldn’t win a starting job at a vacant right guard position two years in a row, getting beat out by a 6’7 tackle who never even played guard in his career. He was brought back only for a very cheap, backup minimum this off-season. Akeem Dent was supposed to take over for Curtis Lofton, but ended up getting benched in favor of undrafted free agent rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. And Lamar Holmes was thought to be 5th or 6th round project material before Dimitroff gobbled him up in the 3rd round. He wasn’t AS terrible at right tackle, but he was beyond atrocious at left tackle, literally ranking as one of the worst tackles in the NFL according to PFF. Perhaps 3rd round players are closer to being 4th rounder production, than 2nd round, but Dimitroff has flubbed more than he’s gotten right and can only count one halfway productive starter (Peters) and a good role player (HD) out of 7 3rd round draft picks in 6 years.
Most fans assume there’s the “Big Four” in play for the Falcons, which would greatly fit either of their biggest two needs: offensive line (Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson) or pass rush (Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, with Anthony Barr close behind). Even if the Falcons don’t trade up, as crazy as that sounds, the Falcons will likely have their shot at one of the Big Four or Five. However, there’s always a chance, even unlikely, that a wild card could be in play. Some of those names include WR Sammy Watkins, TE Eric Ebron, DT Ra’shede Hageman, or even trading back in the first round, which is a Dimitroff no-no. Yes, it’s insanely improbable, but you just never know. Not many saw the Falcons giving up the moon to go get a wide receiver after being pummeled on both lines of scrimmage for years either.
As mentioned above, there’s only a handful of prospects the Falcons will likely target, even if they stay pat at #6 overall. That list includes DE Clowney, LB’s Mack and Barr, OT’s Matthews and Robinson, and many are including WR Sammy Watkins in the mix as well. They obviously won’t be taking a QB, so what is your order of the Top 6 and who you hope falls to the Falcons?
If the Falcons either wait until the 3rd round or they trade up and away most all of their picks, recent statistics say no. At least not in terms of being productive right out of the gate. In the last 6 drafts, there’s been a slew of safeties taken in the 3rd round, but hardly any of them played very much and weren’t very productive when they did. The only example of a player that did slightly above average was Duron Harmon for the Patriots last year and he was faintly above average according to PFF.
That doesn’t mean they won’t get a stud going forward (Morgan Burnett became super after his rookie year), but in terms of year 1, the expectations shouldn’t be very high if they wait until the 3rd round or later. You may very well see Dwight Lowery as the Falcons starting free safety come opening day. Or perhaps either Zeke Motta or Kemal Ishmael are ready to blow up. Seems they could have either kept DeCoud until the draft or use their plenty of cap money to get a stud safety in free agency (TJ Ward, Donte Whitner come to mind).
No GM is perfect and if you look at even the best GM’s in recent memory, they’re going to have their fair share of whiffs up and down the board, even the Ozzie Newsome’s, Ted Thompson’s, and John Schneider’s of the world. However, they have way more hits than misses, particularly in the early rounds and top to bottom of each draft, they have find some studs. That can be said of Dimitroff if you pick and choose, but in terms of singular drafts, not so much. His 2008 stands as his best: Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, Sam Baker, Harry Douglas, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann. They inexplicably let Lofton go to the Saints and DeCoud just signed with the Panthers. But top to bottom, it was a very good draft. Contrast that with some of the other ones, and it gets ugly really quick. 2009: Peria Jerry, William Moore, Chris Owens, Lawrence Sidbury, Garrett Reynolds, William Middleton, Spencer Adkins, Vance Walker. That is easily his worst draft top-to-bottom. In fact, he only gained one starter out of the whole draft and only two of them are still on the roster (if you count Jerry’s late, very low re-signing). They stupidly let Vance Walker leave, which was the best pick of the whole draft after Moore.
If 2009 was bad, 2012 might have been even worse. Without a 1st or 4th round pick, the Falcons selected the “best center in the draft” Peter Konz in the 2nd round. Come to find out he was pretty much the ONLY center in the draft. He lost his job and looked really terrible doing so last year. He was dinged with weak upper body strength coming out of Wisconsin and guess what? That’s exactly what reared it’s ugly head. Lamar Holmes struggles have already been documented. Bradie Ewing, a fullback, was taken in the 5th. The Falcons were in such luxury that they could afford to take a fullback with one of their only 3 picks in 5 rounds. He was cut a few months ago. Jonathan Massaquoi looks only the legit pick. Charles Mitchell played one year for the Falcons and Travian Robertson might as well be a ghost in Atlanta. If you want to further your depression, check out the 2010 draft: Weatherspoon, Peters, Johnson, Hawley, Meier, Franks, Schillinger.
“Don’t Count on It” or “Believe It when you See It” are two phrases that come to mind. Dimitroff’s OL: Baker (1st), Konz (2nd), Johnson (3rd), Holmes (3rd), Hawley (4th), Reynolds (5th), Andrew Jackson (7th). What a list! Maybe it’s unfair to use 20/20 hindsight, but in at least two instances, Dimitroff passed on a Pro Bowler (Duane Brown) for Baker and future Super Bowl winning guard (Kelechi Osemele) for Konz. He could of course correct that by taking Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, or maybe even Taylor Lewan, but……….. “Don’t Count on It!”
Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers make up the only forms of offensive firepower that Dimitroff has brought to the Falcons offense in recent years. There’s been a few UDFA’s step up at receiver, namely Drew Davis and Darius Johnson and same goes for running back with Antone Smith before Mike Smith knee-capped him. Other than that, the Falcons haven’t added anything in terms of speed or explosiveness through the draft at all. There’s a ton of talent in the mid-rounds at running back, tight end, and receiver. It would be nice to bring in some fresh offensive talent for change.
It’s almost as certain as Dimitroff trading away picks, and that’s reaching on a player at some point on the draft. Again, it should be said that a look at all GM’s, even the best ones, will miss on player’s all the time. But at least in terms of draft projections, TD always reaches for a player sooner or later, thinking he’s found a gem, but most of the times it’s just a reach. 2008: trading two second round picks to move up and get Sam Baker. 2009: Chris Owens in the 3rd round. At the time even the most well-researched fans said, “Who?” 2010: Even though not the most glaring of reaches, Joe Hawley, Kerry Meier, and Shann Schillinger were all considered to be taken well-after Dimitroff took them. It’s unfair to just cherry-pick the best that were available (Geno Atkins, Kam Chancellor, Greg Hardy), but there were several other mid-range guys that were on the board as well (Marshall Newhouse, Arthur Jones, Riley Cooper, Trindon Holliday).
2011: It ends and begins with Akeem Dent. Slotted as no higher than a 5th or 6th rounder, Dimitroff took Dent even though he had no 2nd round pick or 4th round pick due to Julio trade. He was so smart as able to replace Lofton a year in advance, even though the Falcons had the same coordinator in tow. Pretty much the entire 2012 draft was a reach: Konz, Holmes, Ewing. But the worst was Lamar Holmes. He had late-round project written all over him and sure enough, that’s what the Falcons got.
Even though it’s only a year old, the Falcons took tight end Levine Toilolo in the 4th round. He was slotted as a unanimous 6th or 7th round pick. Hindsight’s 20/20, but 5th rounder Luke Willson (20 rec, 272 yds, 1 TD), 6th rounder Mychal Rivera (38 rec, 407 yds, 4 TDs) had way more production than Toilolo. Even 7th rounder Chris Gragg (5 rec, 52 yds) had almost the same production as Toilolo (5 rec, 55 yds, 2 TDs). This is not to say that Toilolo won’t be good, but it’s insane that he’s the only TE of note on the Falcons roster. They decided not to even get a vet TE for insurance.