Grading Falcons’ draft picks, from Roddy (A) to Jimmy (ugh)

Falcons owner Arthur Blank had no idea at this point the money he was about to waste on Jimmy Williams (center in suit and tie).

Falcons owner Arthur Blank had no idea at this point the money he was about to waste on Jimmy Williams (center in suit and tie).

So in my last post, I explained why grading teams for their draft was a stupid exercise. It takes at least three years, sometimes longer, to get an accurate read 0n how selections panned out.  And then alert reader “David C” suggested: “A good idea going forward would be to note the grades of so-called experts and writers from 5 years back and then we’d all know who is the expert and who is the hack.”

That would be a good idea. But honestly, I don’t want to take the time to find what ESPN, SI, Fox or Bob’s Second-Guessing Blog Out Of My Mom’s Basement wrote five years ago. I figure we can do this ourselves. So following are the Falcons’ drafts from 2003 to 2007. (Technically, we’ve only had two seasons to grade the 2007 draft, the last one under former general manager Rich McKay, but former first-round pick Jamaal Anderson certainly has given us some early indication of what he is and isn’t.)

Now, before you launch into the McKay bashing, please note that the 2005 draft turned out to be as solid as they come. The 2003-07 drafts follow. I’ve listed all the players, comments and my final grade. Please weigh in with your own grades.

(Note that players still on the Falcons’ roster are in red.)

2003 (F)
2 – Bryan Scott, DB, Penn State
4 – Justin Griffith, RB, Mississippi State
5 – Jon Olinger, WR, Cincinnati
6 – LaTarence Dunbar, WR, Texas Christian
6 – Waine Bacon, DB, Alabama
7 – Demetrin Veal, DE, Tennessee

I guess this was kind of like when the two Axis powers briefly joined forces. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I guess this was kind of like when two of the Axis powers briefly joined forces. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Posting a correction here: McKay was not hired until late in the 2003 season. This draft was conducted by the team of Dan Reeves and Ron Hill.) Scott was a good kid, just not a great player. The Falcons gave him every opportunity but he couldn’t stick as a starter or even a backup. Now he’s in Buffalo, which usually means it’s the end of the line. Griffith managed to [play seven years in the league without really doing much (he's unsigned now after being releases by his last two teams, Oakland and Seattle). Veal has been a survivor: five seasons with four teams in the NFL and last season with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL.

2004 (B) (2 pro bowls)
1 - DeAngelo Hall, DB, Virginia Tech
1 - Michael Jenkins, WR, Ohio State
3 - Matt Schaub, QB, Virginia
4 - Demorrio Williams, LB, Nebraska
5 - Chad Lavalais, DT, Louisiana State
6 - Etric Pruitt, DB, Southern Mississippi
7 - Quincy Wilson, RB, West Virginia

Hall was a royal pain and isn't nearly as good as he thinks he is, but he did make two Pro Bowls early in his career (2005-06). A little more dedication and discipline and he could've been one of the league's best. Jenkins is serviceable as a No. 3 receiver. He hasn't proven to be a consistent No. 2, although the Falcons are going to give him another chance. In any case, he certainly wasn't worthy of being picked in the first round. Schaub developed into a starting quarterback for Houston. Williams has had a solid NFL career: four with the Falcons, two in Kansas City, where he has mostly started. Lavalais was a huge disappointment, largely because he was a fat schlub. Wilson didn't quite have the career of his father, former Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Otis Wilson,

2005 (A)
1 - Roddy White, WR, Alabama-Birmingham
2 - Jonathan Babineaux, DT, Iowa
3 - Jordan Beck, LB, Cal Poly
4 - Chauncey Davis, DE, Florida State
5 - Michael Boley, LB, Southern Mississippi
5 - Frank Omiyale, T, Tennessee Tech (starts for bears)
6 - Deandra Cobb, RB, Michigan State
7 - Darrell Shropshire, DT South Carolina

Roddy White (84) is a perfect example of why you shouldn't judge draft picks right away. But Michael Jenkins (12) still has a lot to prove. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Roddy White (84) is an example of why you shouldn't judge drafts right away. Michael Jenkins (12) still has a lot to prove. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

This was one of McKay’s best drafts. White, after a slow career start, turned into a Pro Bowl wide receiver. Babineaux has proven to be a strong inside force, but he has had off-field issues. He was accused of killing his girlfriend’s pitbull (charges were dropped) and he was arrested on marijuana possession charges last December (a suspension could be forthcoming). Beck didn’t stick and is out of football. Davis has contributed for five seasons. Boley turned out to be a strong player but personal issues and a decline in performance in 2008 led the Falcons to not re-sign him in 2009. He signed with the New York Giants but was suspended for the first game of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy (charged with battery on his wife). Omiyale spent only two seasons with the Falcons but he started most of last season with Chicago.

2006 (D-minus)
2 – Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech
3 – Jerious Norwood, RB, Mississippi State
5 – Quinn Ojinnaka, T, Syracuse (serviceable)
6 – Adam Jennings, WR, Fresno State
7 – D.J. Shockley, QB, Georgia

Williams defined the word “bust” in three ways. He was a bust as a cornerback: He couldn’t cover. He was a bust as a professional athlete: He lacked dedication and discipline. And he was “busted” by commissioner Roger Goodell. Williams was suspended for the first five games of 2008 after being arrested for marijuana possession and spent the entire season out of football. He was signed by San Francisco in January of 2009 but cut five months later, then was suspended for the entire season for a second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Norwood has speed and big-play capability, but he lacks consistency and hasn’t stayed healthy. Ojinnaka is a serviceable player in the offensive line rotation. Jennings played three seasons here, primarily as a returner. Shockley couldn’t win the No. 2 quarterback job last season when it was wide open.

2007 (D)
1 – Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
2 – Justin Blalock, T, Texas

2 – Chris Houston, DB, Arkansa
3 – Laurent Robinson, WR, Illinois State
4 – Stephen Nicholas, LB, South Florida
4 – Martrez Milner, TE, Georgia
6 – Trey Lewis, DT, Washburn
6 – David Irons, DB, Auburn
6 – Doug Datish, C, Ohio State
6 – Daren Stone, DB, Maine

Anderson was serviceable when he was moved inside last season because his height allowed him to get into a quarterback’s vision and possibly bat down passes. But he was a first-round pick – serviceable won’t cut it. He’s not an impact player. Blalock starts at left guard. Houston was burnt often last season and traded. Robinson flashed some talent early but ultimately washed out. Stephen Nicholas started most of last season, but that may change this year. Lewis is barely hanging on.

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128 comments Add your comment

Tucker T

April 26th, 2010
10:57 am

Jeff Schultz

April 26th, 2010
11:08 am

Tucker T — Yes.

ATL Fan

April 26th, 2010
11:16 am

Good article, thanks Mr. Schultz.

Ron

April 26th, 2010
11:18 am

Jeff – Don’t encourage the “First” nonsense.

DeepDiver

April 26th, 2010
11:20 am

4th. The nonsense is here to stay.

torgo

April 26th, 2010
11:21 am

Jeff, you’re leaving out some of the most important players of the 2006 draft (the trade for John Abraham) and 2007 draft (Jason Snelling).

While the rookies selected in 2006 might only be a D- grade, the draft as a whole (Abraham, Norwood, Ojinnaka, plus filling a hole at safety by trading the 4th round pick for Chris Crocker) wasn’t so bad. Abraham should vault that grade to a B-.

Likewise, Snelling makes a difference for 2007. Factor in two current starters (Blalock and Nicholas) plus Snelling in spite of drafting the entire class for Petrino’s alleged systems, and that one ought to be a D+. Perhaps even a “gentleman’s C”.

Two other noteworthy players that won’t change your grades: add undrafted free agent Michael Koenen to the class of 2005, and that class gets even better. Factor in that we traded 2003’s first rounder for Peerless Price, and that one gets even worse.

chc4

April 26th, 2010
11:26 am

An “F” for ‘07? That’s a bit harsh. Blalock and Nicholas are solid starters. That alone should earn something other than a failing grade.

Mike Jay

April 26th, 2010
11:28 am

Little tough on the ‘07 draft imo. We got two starters out of it. Nicholas and Blalock. Trey Lewis is a servicable back up and Robinson was off to a great start last season starting for the Rams before he got hurt. They are still big on him as they did not draft any WRs iirc.
Anderson was a big whiff for sure but I don’t think the draft deserves a F. it looks much better than the ‘06 draft which got a d minus with zero starters.

retread

April 26th, 2010
11:28 am

Thanks Jeff. I posted under DLED – “Dimitrof Post Draft Briefing” at 9:09pm Sat. if you care for an opnion on some of Dimitrofs picks.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
11:28 am

Jeff – Shockley didn’t win the 3rd QB job last year.

Dawgwild

April 26th, 2010
11:29 am

Loved the article. Kind of tells you why we actually needed a good GM. We would still be the laughing stock of the league if MCkay was still drafting. Hope these picks turn out better.

Bossman

April 26th, 2010
11:32 am

At first this list looks pitiful. How would it compare to other teams draft history? I suppose in reality there are a lot more players who don’t make it than do.

Ben Roethlisberger

April 26th, 2010
11:33 am

DEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

BEN WANT WOMAN!!!!

BEN WANT WOMAN NOW!!!!

RAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

torgo

April 26th, 2010
11:33 am

I should also mention that Roddy was only the sixth WR drafted in the first round in 2005 and has turned out to be the best receiver of the draft class. Babs has become the best DT drafted after the first round. Michael Boley is one of only three players in that year’s fifth round to become a starter for at least half the games over the last five seasons.

Throw in that the draft class as a whole was a weak one, that the Falcons drafted late (after a record of 11-5 in 2004), and that they landed one of the league’s best specialists (Koenen) without even using a draft pick, and Atlanta clearly had one of the top five drafts in the league that season.

Resign or Resign?

April 26th, 2010
11:33 am

Robinson was traded after one year to the Rams; and the Falcons would have loved to have him last year when Douglas got hurt. That is hardly “washed out”!

Resign or Resign?

April 26th, 2010
11:36 am

torgo:

two good posts. Agreed!

washedup

April 26th, 2010
11:36 am

Good stuff, Jeff. But the Count is going to have to come through with some nice lookin’ honies to make up for that picture of Petrino & Hall. We’re all trying to forget that duo. I like this year’s draft better than most, it seems. I’m a little worried about Weatherspoon’s mouth, but I don’t have any plans to invite him for dinner, so as long as he hits the other guys on a regular basis, I’m good. I just remember that the coaches got pretty tired of him at one of the All Star games.

F-105 Thunderchief

April 26th, 2010
11:36 am

Tony Pauline (girl’s name) writes this on SI.com: “Jonathan Dwyer/Rd 6 No. 188/Pittsburgh: Dwyer’s off-the-field exploits from the combine were well documented prior to the start of the draft. Transgressions aside, he’s a terrific interior ball carrier who produces on the football field and was worth a roll of the dice in round six.”

My question is this: What off-field exploits? I don’t remember Dwyer being anything but a good guy on or off the field. Is this a guy who is confusing the ADD medication thing with Dwyer being a druggie? If so, he needs to be called on it … big time.

torgo

April 26th, 2010
11:41 am

One other correction… You said about the 2003 draft that “McKay will try to leave this draft off of his resume.”

That’s pretty simple for him to do, since he was still with the Buccaneers. Dan Reeves gave us that stink bomb of a draft (and the ones in 2000 and 2002), not McKay.

FP Santangelo

April 26th, 2010
11:43 am

2007 can’t be given a grade of F when it produced one player (Blalock) who has started 2 straight years on the offensive line and another player (Nicholas) who started all of last season. Jamaal Anderson is a huge disappointment, but there must be some reason TD keeps him on the roster, so even Anderson isn’t a total failure. At least Chris Houston made the team and started several games, even if he wasn’t very good.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
11:44 am

Nicholas has made some big plays stuffing runs. But then there were those games where it looked like the Falcons were running a 4-0-4 defense against the run.

Mr. Phil

April 26th, 2010
11:44 am

Wow Jeff. Kinda rough on the 2007 class weren’t you. I think anytime at least half of your picks make contributions on a playoff team, you gotta rate at least a D. As far as the rest of your analysis, you would think you have a true personal dislike for some of these guys. A certain loud mouth cornerback perhaps?

Mystikal

April 26th, 2010
11:45 am

Heard Adalius thomas was released from Pats, at 32 yrs think he has enough left or is worth it for a year or 2 with us?

ChippersLoveChild

April 26th, 2010
11:46 am

We here at Bob’s Second-Guessing Blog Out Of My Mom’s Basement are offended that you wouldn’t want to seek out the time to look back at our thoughts… oh well, back to my World of Warcraft game.

F-105 Thunderchief

April 26th, 2010
11:49 am

Jimmy Williams ranks up there with Aundray Bruce as an epic failure for the Birds.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
11:49 am

Chief – Thanks for that post. I’ve got to look up some additional definitions of “exploits” to try to figure that out. Looks to be incredibly sloppy journalism.

ATL Fan

April 26th, 2010
11:50 am

It goes to show that you can draft good prospects and have bad outcomes i.e. Hall and Norwood. Here’s a tally of the current players that were drafted during 2003 – 2007 and are still with the Falcons.
First Round: 3 of 4
Second Round: 2 of 5
Third Round: 1 of 4
Fourth Round: 2 of 5
Fifth Round: 1 of 5
Sixth Round: 1 of 9
Seventh Round: 0 of 4

HUH?

April 26th, 2010
11:51 am

Denver trades 3 picks and gives first round money to get Tebow????????????? You gotta be kidding me?!?!?! For any college player that is ridiculous but especially for a system, duel threat QB who isn’t going to be able to run whose also working on a new throwing motion. Good riddance Josh McDaniels. Have fun coaching high school football in about 3 years.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
11:57 am

That was easy –

Exploits: “An act or deed, especially a brilliant or heroic one.” (www.thefreedictionary.com)

Exploits: “a provincial electoral district for the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.” (en.wikipedia.com)

I’d say the first one fits the real situation, but the si.com writer probably meant it in a negative light to apply to Dwyer’s “off the field exploits.”

Reid Adair

April 26th, 2010
11:58 am

People questioned the Roddy White pick in 2005, but having seen him play in college several times, I knew he would be the proverbial real deal. It just took getting a passinq quarterback in the system to allow him to show his abilities.

The 2006 and 2007 drafts were horrendous – as Jeff has indicated with his research and his grades.

F-105 Thunderchief

April 26th, 2010
12:00 pm

No doubt he did. But, I’ve never heard of Dwyer ever being in trouble, being a bad teammate, or any other negative thing.

torgo

April 26th, 2010
12:02 pm

ATL Fan – you might also want to factor in whether the players no longer with the team were traded (getting significant assets in return) or released outright (getting nothing).

That makes a huge difference when you’re looking at the 2004 class. Hall and Schaub are no longer here, so the press typically says we came up empty – by the 2008 season, the only remaining player from that class was Michael Jenkins.

But Schaub and Hall were traded for other picks, some of which were traded for yet more picks. Once you get done tracing the transactions, those picks ultimately became Justin Blalock, Sam Baker, Harry Douglas, Garrett Reynolds and Vance Walker.

Another way of putting it is that the main reason why we had so many picks in 2008 and 2009 (19 players selected plus another pick traded for Domonique Foxworth) was because we traded those two players from the class of 2004.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
12:08 pm

Well, let’s look at the 2008 draft anyway:

1-Matt Ryan
1-Sam Baker
2-Curtis Lofton
3-Chevis Jackson
3-Harry Douglas
3-Thomas DeCoud
5-Robert James
5-Kroy Biermann
6-Thomas Brown
7-Wilrey Fontenot
7-Keith Zinger (acquired by trade for Allen Rossum)

Looks like some proven keepers in there.

old man

April 26th, 2010
12:09 pm

Help me with my math. What’s an average career? Guys that don’t stick, 0-2 years; even supurb running backs might be done from injuries in 6-7 years; Jim Otto and lots of other OLs play 18-20, as well as some kickers and QBs. If you are good enough to be one of the 22+2 kickers starters then the average is maybe 8 years. So, on average, you need to plan on replacing 3 starters every year (that’s 24 divided by 3, guys), either through trades, draft, or free agency. Not roster spots, but starters.

Our new FA DB is clearly one. Spoon is another. Are there two more buried among the 20 or so draftees and FAs in the class of 2010? Are we still in the FA market?

My point is that the difference between a bad offseason and a really good one is a matter of maybe two players. I’m thinking that given 20 or so chances, TD is good enough to find two more in this bunch.

old man

April 26th, 2010
12:10 pm

I meant 24 divided by 8.

Joe

April 26th, 2010
12:11 pm

I am not aware of Dwyer having any Canadian connections- maybe he did- quality family and quality young man who should do well – probably a combination of a reason not to take him (the add thing) and struggled in big games (small o oline). We shall see.

smokemonster

April 26th, 2010
12:13 pm

Hey AJC stop obsessing over BIG BEN. Ray Lewis murdered someone and he is less scrutinized.

Mr. Phil

April 26th, 2010
12:13 pm

Joe: Maybe Dwyer owns a Labrador

Man Ray

April 26th, 2010
12:16 pm

Ray Lewis is less scrutinized now, a decade later. I like the detailed report about what happened in Milledgeville. Now, I’d like to find out what went on in Remerton.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
12:17 pm

The worst thing I ever saw Dwyer do was express frustration by slapping his head with his hands after running into the back ends of the Tech OL for losses (near the end of the game he Georgia and Iowa games).

Danclot

April 26th, 2010
12:19 pm

Schultz: In response to that terrible 2003 draft(and it was terrible), I believe that draft was not conducted by Rich McKay. Correct me if I am wrong, but McKay was hired shortly after Christmas in 2003, thus making his first draft with the Falcons the 2004 draft.

mountain_jim

April 26th, 2010
12:20 pm

Since the blogs march on, wanted to repost this info for those who think TD reached big time taking the DT Peters in round 3, saying on the previous and many other blogs that TD should have waited until round 4 or 5:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/peter_king/04/25/draft/1.html

“At number 83, two spots before the Browns were going to pick, Atlanta GM Dimitroff picked Peters, the defensive tackle the Browns had in their sights at 85.”

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
12:21 pm

Boy, I screwed up the editing on that 12:17 post. I swear the keys move around on this keyboard.

Mr. Phil

April 26th, 2010
12:22 pm

“Ray Lewis murdered someone” Really. We still there. O.J. I will give you. But there was never anything on Ray-Ray. Where does this statement come from?

P. Bull Terrier

April 26th, 2010
12:24 pm

I think you were a little harsh on the ‘06 & ‘07 classes. Obviously you place a lot of weight on the success of the first pick, but given the percentage of players in each class who are still expected to contribute for the Falcons, or another NFL team, they weren’t that bad.

With only 5 picks and no first rounder in 2006, the fact that 3/5 of the picks are still on the roster and 40% of the picks have a meaningful role for the team (Norwood & Ojinnaka), McKay didn’t do so bad with the limited number of picks he had to work with. Williams may have been a bust, but at least he wasn’t a first round pick bust. Even though Shockley has never been much of a factor, he was a great 7th round pick at the time. He generated excitement among the fan base, and probably would have stood a better chance to step up into the QB2 spot if Vick was still the starter since he seems to be better suited to the type of offense the Falcons ran with Vick at QB. Plus, as torgo noted above, if you factor in Abraham, the 2006 draft worked pretty well for the Falcons. I’d give it a “C” based on the picks and a “B” factoring in Abraham.

In ‘07, if you consider the fact that the Falcons picked up 3 guys who are still starters and one who is part of the D-line rotation, that class is worth more than an “F”. Anderson may not be the pass rushing DE we’d all hoped, but his ability to help stop the run at both DE and DT is of some value. Laurent Robinson didn’t help the Falcons much, but he was the top receiver for the Rams for a little while last season. That’s not saying much, but it’s still the NFL. If you look past the disappointment of Anderson not being a pass rusher and simply consider him a useful D-line utility man, the class of ‘07 is worthy of a “D+” or maybe even a “C” if Anderson, Blaylock and Nicholas hold on to their starting positions in 2010.

Balderdash

April 26th, 2010
12:25 pm

Apparently, those two people died of natural causes while fighting with Ray Lewis and his crew, seeing as NO ONE was ever convicted.

Mr. Phil

April 26th, 2010
12:28 pm

Exactly P-Bull. Well put.

I think Jeff let some emotion slip in-all the so called draft analyst do.

if I recall correctly, didn’t Blalock have somthing to do with an offensive line that produced the number 1 rushing attack in the NFL two seasons ago?

Paddy

April 26th, 2010
12:28 pm

Didn’t hear of any off field or on field issues with Dwyer. This writer must have him confused with someone else? His Ritalin issue proved to be an error by the NFL doctors in charge of that issue.

JSS

April 26th, 2010
12:28 pm

Roddy is still a B+, I’m still waiting for him to go all Larry Fitzgerald and carry this team on his back for a season and demand double coverage on every single play… Then he goes to an A…

Sorry F105, Jimmy Williams still is no one where near being as big of a bust as Bruce Pickens, Bryan Scott, Michael Booker,T.J. Duckett or Reggie Kelley! Dan Reeves was a horrible person to have running a draft, 3 of the 5 were on his watch!

Mr. Phil

April 26th, 2010
12:30 pm

Balderdash: I am not saying Ray is not culpable for something. Just we can’t go around calling people murders without something to back it up. Not necessarily a conviction, but some evidence would help.