For Dimitroff and his Falcons, the draft has no clear-cut course

Most  general managers work hard to give away nothing. Thomas Dimitroff is unlike most GMs. He’ll give you some hints, provided you know how to listen. No, he won’t say, “Write it down — we’re taking Tommy Tailback from Bugtussle U. in Round 1.” He won’t draw a map, but he will leave breadcrumbs.

To wit: His pre-draft briefing last week began with Dimitroff expressing his excitement. Why? Because, he said, “We’ve finally got an opportunity to open the draft board to both offense and defense.” That wasn’t just a boilerplate intro. Dimitroff doesn’t traffic in boilerplate. He’s precise with his words. He says what he means.

It has long been speculated — in this space and many others — that the Falcons would use the 19th pick of Round 1 to bolster a defense that ranked 21st among 32 NFL teams in yardage yielded last season. Makes sense, right?

But let’s also note that the Falcons’ defense improved from 24th in 2008, and that was with almost nothing from Peria Jerry and William Moore, who were the first two picks in April 2009. The Falcons are convinced both will be impact players soon, and they’ve already signed cornerback Dunta Robinson as a big-ticket free agent. Those three players should effect another defensive upgrade by themselves.

Let’s look now at another set of numbers: The Falcons’ rushing yardage fell from second-best in the league two seasons ago to 15th-best in 2009. Much of that can be traced to the injuries sustained by Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood — much, but not all. The Falcons’ offensive line, which was the hidden key to the giddy rise of 2008, wasn’t nearly as forceful last season. And this remains an offense predicated on the run.

Dimitroff on the possibility of taking an offensive lineman in Round 1: “I’d be comfortable doing that. It’s never a flashy pick, but if an offensive lineman has versatility, the ability to play dual positions would give him exponential value.”

The Falcons like Maurkice Pouncey, the Florida center who could swing to guard. They might also like Mike Iupati, the Idaho guard who could become a right tackle. If either is available, don’t be shocked if the Falcons, to employ Dimitroff’s war-room jargon, “pull his tag off the board.”

And what of Brandon Graham, the Michigan defensive end recently thought to be ticketed to Flowery Branch? The Falcons like him, too. He’s on their shortlist of possibilities at No. 19. And it’s true that Dimitroff wants to revive a pass rush that resembled a gentle breeze last season. “We would like to ramp up the pressure,” he said last week, and then he added a line that sounded like a throwaway but really was not: “And there are ways to do that.”

Who should be the Falcons' No. 1 pick?

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One way is to draft a defensive end. Another is to find an outside linebacker capable of wreaking blitz havoc. Two months ago I was certain Dimitroff would take a DE over an OLB; today I’m less sure. Today I think there’s a chance that if both Graham and Sean Weatherspoon, the linebacker from Missouri, are available, TD the GM would pull the latter’s tag.

A year ago it was all but a given that the Falcons would take a defensive tackle in Round 1. (They did — Jerry.) There are no givens this time, and that’s not a bad thing. This is a club coming off consecutive winning seasons and a key winter signing. There’s flexibility now.

When Dimitroff says he’s open to both offense and defense, we should take him at his word. He could be content with either a pass rusher or some sort of an offensive lineman. (The belief here is that the Falcons would take a skill player — Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas, say — in Round 1 only if preferred options have been rendered inoperative.)

Just guessing, I’d say the need for an DE/OLB still ranks 1A to the 1B of an O-lineman in Dimitroff’s fertile mind. But that’s only a guess, and it’s very close. Like 51-49.

95 comments Add your comment

mmgtfan

April 21st, 2010
2:20 pm

WhatIThink

April 21st, 2010
2:21 pm

WhatIThink

April 21st, 2010
2:21 pm

FalconsTransplant

April 21st, 2010
2:25 pm

FalconsTransplant

April 21st, 2010
2:25 pm

That’s the highest I’ve ever been. Now back to reading the article

Bird Watcher

April 21st, 2010
2:26 pm

THIRD I GUESS

EW

April 21st, 2010
2:26 pm

I’m guessing we take an O lineman.

Do you think our weak pass rush was due to missing pieces on the interior D-Line and could be helped with Jerry’s return? I’m going with that as my justification for taking an O lineman but I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Bird Watcher

April 21st, 2010
2:26 pm

WHY DON’T WE ALL READ THE ARTICLE BEFORE SHOUTING WHAT PLACE WE CAME IN?

Brownie

April 21st, 2010
2:28 pm

This is what is so great about the NFL draft, which seems to grow in stature/debate every year. The fact of the matter for the Falcons is that they have needs at various positions: DE, OLB, OL, RB, and WR. The 2 questions to ponder are: is there a “glaring” need at one position over any other? And, perhaps more critically, is there one PLAYER who stands well above all others they could select?

I really think that TD feels the answer to those questions is NO. Looking at it another way: if the answer to either question is yes, then does that selection appear to fill in the last piece of the puzzle to be a Super Bowl caliber team? Again, I don’t think they are that close.

I don’t know that Brandon Graham would end up being more critical than say Weatherspoon, than Pouncey, than Griffin, than D. Thomas, than Iupati, etc.

Having bored you with all of this, I don’t have a clue what pick TD will make (but I’ll wager he already does). It wouldn’t bother me to see them trade down to the end of the 1st round and pick up a second rounder in return….deep draft this year.

Stat Man

April 21st, 2010
2:29 pm

So being first and a dollar will buy you an AJC, right. Seriously – you “first” people need to get a life.

Back to the issue at hand – Improvement on either side of the line is my opinion on where they should go.

Running backs can’t gain yards without blocking and DB’s are amazingly better when they don’t have to cover for 10 seconds because the QB has all day in the pocket!

Carl

April 21st, 2010
2:31 pm

Pouncey won’t be there at pick 19.

out of the box

April 21st, 2010
2:32 pm

I looked into my crystal ball and the Falcons trade back with New England and wind up taking Jermaine Gresham.

Brownie

April 21st, 2010
2:37 pm

Carl, I agree with you. I also would think that Spiller, Kindal, Graham, Iupati and maybe Griffin are are likely gone. So, Weatherspoon may be the guy.

BravesFan79

April 21st, 2010
2:42 pm

Am i first!?? Wait.. whats this article say? lol

Lowcountry Bulldawg

April 21st, 2010
2:45 pm

I am just for them to take somebody, anybody! Tired of reading the same old articles, with the same old polls, with the same old speculation. This is getting painful, the Falcons are not going to make a splashy pick, because the team is to good to have a high pick. This is finally a blessing! Let them do there job and lets assume its solid no matter who it is.

out of the box

April 21st, 2010
2:48 pm

come on lowcountry, jump into the pool with the rest of us, the water is fine. Make a guess, win a prize.

out of the box

April 21st, 2010
2:50 pm

wait a minute, now my crystal ball says reply hazy try again. Ugghhh…

SOUTH GEORGIA DAWG FAN

April 21st, 2010
2:52 pm

i think when its the falcons turn we will hear the words , there has been a trade !

Lowcountry Bulldawg

April 21st, 2010
2:52 pm

I did, I am a sucker for polls I guess. I keep my vote with one guy the Mizzou kid at OLB. I like the weapons on offense already and I think athletic OLB is a nice piece to the puzzle on D.

Willy

April 21st, 2010
2:53 pm

Bradley, what are you on speed today or something?

Willy

April 21st, 2010
2:54 pm

And I think you’re right, SG Dawg Fan. This draft has trade down written all over it.

Hooter Girl

April 21st, 2010
2:54 pm

I think they should trade the 1st choice for Big Ben.

DC Dirty Bird

April 21st, 2010
3:00 pm

Brandon Graham will not be our pick. We have to continue to show interest to reinforce New England’s fears we will take him. I can envision a swap between ATL and NWE for the 19th and 22nd pick. Linebacker is not a need for the Texans and Bengals so we can comfortably take NWE’s picks and get Weatherspoon at 22. Why, the running backs in the NFC South are fast and we need a WLB that can run with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spiller or Bay Bay are taken though. What’s the use in having a franchise QB if you don’t surround him with weapons.

Willy

April 21st, 2010
3:00 pm

BECAUSE< BIRDWATCHER

Willy

April 21st, 2010
3:03 pm

Enter your comments here

Willy

April 21st, 2010
3:04 pm

Because, Birdwatcher, if we did that, you would be first. And it would be really annoying to have someone who posts in all caps be first.

Ted M

April 21st, 2010
3:19 pm

I don’t like the all caps garbage either. It reminds me of falconsorry which makes it even worse.

GeoffDawg

April 21st, 2010
3:21 pm

What’s your favorite name on the board Mark? Last year, I remember you were enamored with the idea of drafting a DT named Ziggy.

SOUTH GEORGIA DAWG FAN

April 21st, 2010
3:35 pm

DC Dirty Bird I agree with the point about the weapons I just don’t see one of the weapons being there at 19 but maybe

Dan

April 21st, 2010
3:38 pm

Flying tommorrow to NY for the NFL draft ( Radio City Music Hall) …..cant miss me I be the one in the Falcons shirt getting pummled by the JETS fans !!! If that happens always remember Haskel Stanback and Bubba Bean…now those were Falcon names to always remember !!!

south ga boy

April 21st, 2010
3:44 pm

Mark, there is one other possibility that you forgot to mention and that’s the very real chance we trade down to try and pick up a round 2 pick. According to D. Ledbetter, your fellow AJC brethren, that TD has, because this draft is suppose to be the deepest in 25 yrs, been working the phones with his former HOODIE boss and others to try and work a trade that allows us to pick up a 2nd rounder. Of course, if this happens, it will probably only while we are on the clock and someone with a mid-20’s pick wants to move up to 19 to get a particular player they covet that they are afraid will not last until they pick. Im so hopeful we can swap No. 1’s with someone (Philly,NE) and pick up their No 2 and throw in our No. 3 or No. 4, since we have 2 picks in the 3rd round. Again, with this being such a Deep draft, I would love to pick up a No. 2 even if we only keep a total of 8 picks. Have you heard anything, Mark, on any trade possiblities.

Big O

April 21st, 2010
3:45 pm

Two months ago, I was all for “Spoon’ at #19. Then I wanted to trade #19 for early round #2, 3, 4, 5, @6 to get more picks. Now I like trading down a bit to get a late 2nd and pick Jerry Hughes with the later first round pick. Hughes is bigger than “Spoon” and just as fast. A much better pass rusher. With his athletic ability, he can be coached out of weaknesses.

Next, the Falcons only have three strong DTs for rotation(Babs, Jerry, Walker). They need one more – like Atkins, or Linval Joeseph, or Lamar Houston. Then they need a guard/center like Tennant, Walton or Olsen. Take WR Roberts to push Jenkins. Then for LB depth, get another OLB like Edds or an ILB like Chaney. Then an OT. Then for depth pick safety Myron Rolle with a late pick.

co

April 21st, 2010
4:02 pm

Marky boy I think you are throwing darts at a dartboard by writing that an OG will be Falcons #1 pick.

waynester

April 21st, 2010
4:05 pm

BUGTUSSLE!
Haven’t heard that since Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies–good one! I may have to eat pickled crow gizzards over this but I don’t see us taking Iupati–not after he was taken to the woodshed by Geno Atkins in the Sr Bowl. To quote Jed “he whooped the tar out of ‘im”. We’d have to be dumber than Jethro Bodeen
to take D Thomas at #19. Now if I could figure out a way to get Ellie Mae and Dash Riprock in here, this might qualify as a jim-dandy post…Ya’ll come back now y’hear……

FALCONS SORRY SORRY

April 21st, 2010
4:13 pm

I CAINT REED SO I TAWK LOWD!!11

Steve Bartkowski

April 21st, 2010
4:25 pm

waynester, grab a brewski and meet me out at the cement pond, we’ll watch the draft with Ellie May’s critters and eat us some possum stew!

Balderdash

April 21st, 2010
4:41 pm

Let me be the first to say that anti-first people are jealous girls.

Tony Gonzalez

April 21st, 2010
4:44 pm

Seems like the Falcons have already made their second round pick … last year.

Luke M

April 21st, 2010
4:57 pm

Thirty-Ninth

Tman

April 21st, 2010
5:12 pm

If the Falcons can’t get Brandon Graham or one of the other premier DEs, I’d like to see them trade down some for a second round pick- possibly one of the Patriots’ or Eagles’. This would make perfect sense because this draft has several linebackers bunched together who could benefit Atlanta. They could take one of those, then use the second round pick ona very good DE or O-lineman. Don’t be surprised if this happens.

Wildebeast

April 21st, 2010
5:13 pm

I’d like to take Ellie Mae out behind the woodshed!
Spoon’s the pick.

Mike Jay

April 21st, 2010
5:14 pm

Bugtussle University graduate of ‘98 here and I just wanted to chime in that Tommy Tailback is one helluva good runner but a finer young man. Any team would be happy to have him. I hope that Sam Linebacker gets picked up by somebody too. He kinda flew under the radar but he is a hidden gem.

chris o bomb

April 21st, 2010
5:18 pm

any tech player

Mike Jay

April 21st, 2010
5:24 pm

Any chance we trade next years #1 with Ne for a second rounder this year? maybe swap positions in the first round and give them our #1 next season for a second and a fourth this year? That seems somewhat fair :)

SHO-NUFF

April 21st, 2010
5:32 pm

Does that south ga boy @ 3:44pm keep all that figuring in his head or does he have to keep it written down, either way, how does he do all that figuring?

cwltank

April 21st, 2010
5:46 pm

I am certain we wil pick a D. Thomas or spoon. Who ever is left standing.
Get er DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNN T. D.

falcon fan

April 21st, 2010
6:05 pm

Forty fifth….WHOOPEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Screw the draft, lets all play silly little games like internet tag and hide n` seek. YEE HAW!!!!! Get real guys. Grow up.

Loyal Falcon

April 21st, 2010
6:12 pm

I agree with (out of the box). I think the falcons trade down with New England and get a second round pick. I also think they grab gresham. I think they wanted him last year before he decided to return to the Univ. of OK

joey boy

April 21st, 2010
6:21 pm

I hate how the NFL is doing the draft this year!!!!

M Franklin

April 21st, 2010
6:37 pm

This has to be the craziest year for mock drafts in the history of said mockery. No two mockers agree on anything and when you start getting into the nuts & bolts mechanics of the thing, you realize that the Falcons are a truly a cusp team.

Oh yes, balanced as if on the head of a pin, one player here or there and they could fall directly into a Super Bowl. But the wrong move… or perhaps, one that is simply less perfect, and they fall the other way and end up as just another also-ran in the playoffs.

My opinion? Thanks for asking. I think the D needs some genuine depth to allow Ryan and the O the luxury of playing their game for the whole sixty minutes.

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt even a little bit if there was another running threat to keep Matty’s arm cold as ice.

Is it July yet?