Flowery Branch – It was the aerialist Karl Wallenda who (supposedly) said: “To be on the wire is life; the rest is waiting.” For an NFL general manager, the essence of vocational life is the draft. It’s the time when a GM, who ordinarily works behind the scenes, takes center stage.
Pick a winner, and you’re the most sagacious human since Socrates. Pick a bum — or pick somebody your constituency doesn’t like — and you’re the bum. The draft is the equivalent of opening night on Broadway, and Thomas Dimitroff of the Falcons had to sit out this opener.
Granted, he had himself to blame. The five-for-one Julio Jones trade last spring shipped the Falcons’ 2012 first-round pick to Cleveland. Asked last week if it felt weird being sidelined for the draft’s Round 1, which is held on a Thursday night to much fanfare, Dimitroff said this:
“I’m not sure if ‘weird’ is the word. It’s something that we have set out since the beginning of last season knowing that we were going to be picking at 55 … It’s not as much of an impact for me during this time that I thought it might have been when we first made the [Jones] pick or in the few days after. I have enjoyed the process of being involved, thinking 55 over in the 20s, or 22 in our specific case, because it really forces an organization to come together.”
Then Dimitroff, bowing to cold reality, said: “At 55, we are a long way down.”
Well, yeah. An NFL active roster includes 53 players. A whole team’s worth of talent would be gone by the Falcons got around to choosing someone, and Dimitroff, try as he might, couldn’t really hype the product.
“It is very difficult to project what is going to be there in and around 45 to 55. That element of uncertainty adds an element of excitement, if you will. ”
Then, smiling: “I am trying to make this sound very, very positive for the masses. Suffice it to say we won’t be messing up any draft parties this year.”
A case could be made that the Falcons had trumped their draft by trading for the Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samuel on Wednesday. No matter who the Falcons took with the 23rd pick of Round 2, he won’t be, figuratively speaking, the biggest new man in shoulder pads when minicamp rolls around.
Not to say that the 23rd pick of Round 2 isn’t be a big man. He’s Peter Konz, who played center at Wisconsin but who was labeled a guard by the Falcons. He’s 6-foot-5. He weighs 314 pounds. He missed games in all three of his college seasons: Once with blood clots in each lung, twice with sprained ankles. For those holding memories of Peria Jerry, the Falcons’ No. 1 pick of 2009 who’d been injured at Ole Miss and whose NFL career hasn’t taken flight, you have your quibble.
On the plus side: Konz is a value pick who could help fill a crying need. He was ranked the draft’s best center. (Sorry, Ben Jones.) ESPN ranked Konz the 41st-best player available; NFL Draft Scout 300 slotted him 37th. Both Pete Prisco and Clark Judge of CBS Sports had him going in Round 1. When you’re sitting at 55, that’s not a bad find. And it’s better still when you recall the three failed fourth-and-1’s that defined the Falcons’ 2011 season.
The knocks on Konz are that he’s not particularly strong or fast — Konz did say he’d improved his bench press since a weak showing at the scouting combine — but this was a pick for need over want. Even if Dimitroff didn’t say it publicly, offensive line was always his target for the double-nickle choice. (And the Falcons took another O-lineman, tackle Lamar Holmes of Southern Miss, in Round 3.) The Falcons, see, have enough skill players; they’d gotten light on the big nasties.
Konz’s name rhymes with Fonz, who was all the rage in Milwaukee, which is likewise in Wisconsin, back in the ’70s. (Kids, ask your parents. Or watch “Nick At Nite.”) An offensive lineman from the Big Ten is never going to cut the same dashing figure as Henry Winkler in his leather jacket, but this wasn’t a nod to style. To have nabbed such a player two-thirds of the way through Round 2 could yield a substantial gain.
By Mark Bradley