Flowery Branch — Thomas Dimitroff insisted Thursday the Falcons are not, as has been widely speculated, bound and determined to grab Brandon Graham with their first-round pick. Said Dimitroff, winking when Graham’s name was mentioned: “Who’s that?”
Then, more seriously: “We’re not locked in [on Graham]. But 19 of the 20 mock drafts I’ve seen have us taking him, so I’d say everybody else is locked in Brandon Graham.”
The Michigan defensive end is indeed a subject of much consideration here at 4400 Falcon Parkway, but in Dimitroff’s pre-draft briefing he emphasized that this draft, unlike his first two as general manager, isn’t targeted to address one specific unit. “We’ve finally got an opportunity to open the draft board to both offense and defense,” Dimitroff said.
Translation: Don’t rule out the possibility of the Falcons taking an offensive lineman in Round 1. Asked if he’d be comfortable spending the draft’s 19th pick on a O-lineman, Dimitroff said: “I’d be comfortable doing that. It’s never a flashy pick, but if a offensive lineman has versatility, the ability to play dual positions would give him exponential value.”
Is Maurkice Pouncey, who played center at Florida, capable of playing more than one position? “Yes,” Dimitroff said.
About those mock drafts: Dimitroff admitted he checks them, and he also allowed that the Falcons have designated a front-office person to keep track of such Internet listings. “It’s very clear that Mr. Blank wants his mock drafts,” Dimitroff said.
As mentioned in this space last week, some of the latest mock drafts have defensive ends who are rated higher than Graham — Tech’s Derrick Morgan and Jean Pierre-Paul of South Florida — slipping into the teens. Were that to happen a week from now, would the Falcons be tempted to trade up and pluck such a pass rusher?
Dimitroff: “If we determined that kind of player was the heir apparent [to a position of impact] and would take us to another level, we would consider that. But we have to be very cognizant of the money value. If you’re moving up five to 10 spots, you’re talking about $10 million more in guaranteed money. We’d have to make sure it’s worth doing from both a skill and business standpoint.”
That said, Dimitroff conceded the Falcons “would like to ramp up the pressure” of their pass rush. He also admitted that the signing of free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson “did change our approach to this draft drastically.” And he made no secret of his desire to acquire a second-round pick — the Falcons sent theirs to Kansas City in the Tony Gonzalez trade last year — and mentioned New England and Philadelphia as teams that might be looking to serve as a trade partner.
He also noted he hadn’t been home — Dimitroff lives in Buckhead — in a while. He has been spending nights in the GM’s suite (yes, there is such a thing) at the dormitory on the grounds here. He arrived for his briefing wearing a shirt and tie not because he wanted to appear businesslike, he said, but “because this was literally the only thing I had clean.”
Oh, and about Brandon Graham: “He’s a good football player. He’ll be effective in this league.”
One man’s interpretation: If the Falcons wind up with Brandon Graham, they’ll be happy. But there are other players in this draft who might make them happier.