I was going to start this by saying what a stupid exercise it is for media members to “grade” an NFL teams’ drafts every year, and then I found something written by Rob Rang of CBS Sports that supplies the perfect analogy:
“Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before the meal has been served. Sure, the food might sound good (or bad) based on the ingredients listed on the menu, but the true review can’t be done until after the product has been tested.”
Think about it. I’ve had 17,000 plates of fettucini alfredo in my [ever-shortening] life. Sometimes, I wanted to marry it. Other times, I want to use it as spackle. Now, I may know my body NEEDS fettucini alfredo (go with it). But can I really give myself an A for making the right choice of fettucini alfredo on the menu, especially when the name of the restaurant is “Pedro’s”?
That didn’t come out right. But the point is, while I can know the Falcons need help at outline linebacker and on the defensive and offensive lines, I can’t know if Thomas Dimitroff picked the right players until after we’ve seen them play?.
You might’ve noticed: There’s no scoreboard at drafts.
And, dude: Please don’t come to the table with: “The guy shouldn’t have been drafted. EVERBODY knows it. I heard it on ESPN!”
Here’s what I know: The non-experts don’t know because the fact is even the experts don’t really know. Every year there are first-round busts and sixth-round Pro Bowlers. Drafts take three to five years to accurately judge.
All we can do is judge whether our team seemed to fill the right positions and didn’t do anything obviously stupid, like draft a player with five kids, seven DUIs or ever once uttered the phrase, “I see nothing wrong with dog fighting.”
So with that as a backdrop, I’ve compiled a list of “grades” from “experts.” They range from B to C-minus. They are for entertainment purposes only.
But before getting to the report cards, following is some actual serious analysis from a guy named Nolan Nawrocki, a respected draft analyst from Pro Football Weekly. Here’s his take on each of the Falcons’ seven draft picks:
♦ Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri: With Mike Peterson aging and playing undisciplined football, Weatherspoon adds youth to the Falcons’ linebacking unit. He is big, fast and flies to the ball. His play dropped off as a senior after he bulked up, but he looked much more comfortable after dropping weight at the Senior Bowl. The biggest challenge he will face upon entering the pros will be keeping his ego in check and not alienating veterans in the locker room.
♦ Corey Peters, DT, Kentucky: The Falcons concentrated on shoring up the the middle of their defense with the selections of Weatherspoon and Peters. Peters is a developmental three-technique with the quickness to add some value on third downs. With the injuries that struck the interior defensive line last season, depth was much needed.
♦ Mike Johnson, G, Alabama: With Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo restricted free agents and Justin Blalock entering a contract year, the Falcons needed some depth on the right side of their line, and Mike Johnson could provide it. He was a versatile performer on a national championship line and has the toughness and competitiveness to function ably in the NFL’s trenches.
♦ Joe Hawley, C, UNLV: The Falcons had a need in the middle of their line with Todd McClure aging, and they may have found a suitable replacement in Hawley . He may not look the part, but he is tough, scrappy and competitive and has the type of football temperament to play in the NFL a long time. He could also provide depth at guard, where he played as a senior.
♦ Dominique Franks, CB, Oklahoma: Hawley could bring the most value to the Falcons as a return man. He looks the part and has an intriguing physical skill set, but too many inconsistencies showed up on tape in college. He could compete for a job as a No. 4 or No. 5 corner.
♦ Kerry Meier, WR, Kansas: A converted quarterback, [Meier] has the dependable hands to stick as a No. 4 or No. 5 possession receiver with the Falcons, and could bring added value in the locker room with strong intangibles. He should earn a roster spot and has a chance to contribute.
♦ Shann Schillinger, S, Montana: [Schillinger] quickly came off the board to the Falcons and has the temperament to make the roster as a special-teams kamikaze.
And now, here’s are some of the grades:
♦ Mel Kiper, ESPN (C-minus): “ Sean Weatherspoon is a good outside linebacker and has the strength and size to start and be productive in this league, but after that, it’s a lot of wishful thinking. Corey Peters was a slight reach on my board even at 83 and has a ways to go to improve his skills. Joseph Hawley has a chance to develop, but a pair of guards and no tight end or even a shot at a defensive end surprises me. I don’t see an improved football team. (Note: Kiper also gave out C-minuses to Miami, Denver, Washington and Minnesota. The only team with a lower grade was Jacksonville with a D.”
♦ John Czarnecki, Fox Sports (B) (who’s solid and I’ve known for years, going back to NFL beat writing days in Los Angeles): “The Falcons concentrated on filling needs with Missouri OLB Sean Weatherspoon, possibly the most complete linebacker in the draft. He can cover and also rush the passer. To beef up the defensive line, Kentucky DT Corey Peters was taken with the 83rd overall pick and he should be a run stuffer. Alabama guard Mike Johnson is a physical run blocker and gives the Falcons some much needed depth at the position. Johnson started 41 consecutive games and played in a school-record 54 games. You have to remember, too, that the Falcons used a second-round pick on Tony Gonzalez, who paid huge dividends last season to Matt Ryan and the offense. Weatherspoon should be a starter. Guard Joe Hawley provided much-need depth. Oklahoma CB Dominique Franks knows how to play, but does he possess NFL speed and quickness?”
♦ Ross Tucker, Sports Illustrated (he didn’t give grades, just opinions): “What I liked: The selection of Sean Weatherspoon, ranked by some as the top linebacker in the draft, to immediately start at outside linebacker next to tackling machine Curtis Lofton. What I didn’t: The Falcons still don’t have a legitimate pass-rusher opposite John Abraham and even he isn’t the player he used to be. Moving forward: Signing Dunta Robinson in free agency and getting last year’s first round pick, Peria Jerry, back from injury gives this defense enough juice to compete with the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South division title.”
♦ Rob Rang, CBS Sports (B-minus) (who did this despite denouncing the exercise) “The Atlanta Falcons struck gold a few years ago with the selection of undersized linebacker Curtis Lofton in the second round. They went back to the Big 12 for another speedy playmaker with Sean Weatherspoon in the first. Expected to take over the weak-side position, Weatherspoon is ideal in Atlanta’s cover-two scheme, as is third-round pick Corey Peters, an underrated defensive tackle who several teams were targeting. Offensive guard Mike Johnson and center Joe Hawley provide solid depth. Cornerback Dominique Franks slipped to the fifth round, but has the length and straight-line speed to be effective in this scheme.”
♦ Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (B-minus): “Best pick: Third-round guard Mike Johnson is a tough guy from Alabama who will fit right in with the Falcons’ style of linemen. He is insurance for Justin Blalock, who has one year left on his deal. Questionable move: I wasn’t enamored with first-round pick Sean Weatherspoon as much as the Falcons were. I think he’s a bit overrated. Third-day gem: Cornerback Dominique Franks from Oklahoma is a talented player. He does have some character issues. But he could push for time as a nickel corner. Analysis: They were hoping a defensive end fell to them in the first round, but when the top ends went they took Weatherspoon. The rest of the draft was mostly spent trying to improve the defense. They landed some solid players.”
♦ Clifton Brown, The Sporting News (B-minus): “Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has a chance to fill a need. The defensive line could be improved if defensive tackle Corey Peters contributes, along with defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who missed last season with a knee injury. If they become better on defense, particularly against the pass, the Falcons could return to the playoffs.”
So those are some of the grades.
Care to grade the graders?
Earlier Falcons draft posts