Do you smell that? The faint smell of pigskin in the air? No, it’s not BBQ from down the road, it’s the upcoming NFL draft silly. The time of year when we can finally put all the mock drafts away and see what our favorite teams decide to do. While most draft picks boom or bust penitential won’t be realized for at least 2 years the NFL draft is a great place to either begin building a winning organization or destroying it.
While destroying is probably a harsh term to use, any time a franchise chooses to trade away draft picks for single players in my opinion is kin to undermining the potential of a franchise and the end result is destruction of the franchise. Destruction meaning a cellar dweller, last place in the division, loser-ville, the stadium where faithful fans have either given up or they now have no alternative but to wear paper bags over their heads. Remember those days Aint fans? Yeah, you knew that was coming, especially from a die hard Falcon’s fan. However, you can put up that one finger, no not the middle on please, but the index finger, and with that you can boast about your single Super Bowl victory. Something it seems the Falcons are destined never to do. Now, why would I go all negative on my team? Well, perhaps they are about to make yet another draft day blunder.
To set the stage let’s jet back to the year Thomas Dimitroff became General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons. The year was 2008 and the Falcons were coming off yet another losing season. However, when it was announced across the air waves that the Falcons were getting the brightest mind in the business the city seemed to have hope once again. Dimitroff was touted as a scout guru and draft savvy player in the game that is the NFL draft crapshoot. One of the young, bright minds that helped put together the New England dynasty. So, with those kind of accolades who wouldn’t be excited and optimistic about the future of their favorite franchise, right? And every Falcon fan in the audience said, ‘wrong’! I know, I know, why so negative, right? Well, please allow me to give everyone a quick recap of the Dimitroff draft history.
In 2008 the Falcons had the number 3 overall pick, they also chose to jump back into the later part of the first round so in 2008 they actually had two picks. They drafted Matt Ryan, the franchise quarterback, and they also drafted Sam Baker to play left tackle. Baker was not a first round selection on anyone’s draft board and now 7 years later we know why. In 2009 Dimitroff drafted Peria Jerry, bust. In 2010 they drafted Sean Weatherspoon and while he may have been a great ‘locker room’ guy, he truly didn’t produce on the field, which in my book is all that matters. 2011 saw the ‘blockbuster’ trade for Julio Jones which sent the 2012 first round pick to Cleveland, bust. In 2013, the pick was Desmond Trufant, probably the best pick after Matt Ryan in my opinion. And lastly they drafted Jake Matthews at number 6 in the 2014 draft. So, in my overall tally and assessment of players I’d say Dimitroff hit on 3 players; Ryan, Julio and Trufant. Missed on 4 players: Baker, Jerry, 2012 and Weatherspoon and the jury is still out on Matthews. So the guy is 3-4-1, not a good record for a scouting and draft genius do you think? So what happened in 2014?
The 2014 season was abysmal not only for the Falcons, but pretty much the entire NFC South. However, regardless of the record or how close the Falcons came to grasping a playoff spot the deficiencies on the defensive line, linebacker core as well as the offensive line speaks volumes to how poorly Thomas Dimitroff has drafted the last 7 years. The one constant that could be heard all of last season regarding the Falcons was that they were the least talented team in the NFL. The least talented team? Wow, if I were Mr. Blank I think I’d be finding a new General Manager, and just for the record here: Mr. Blank, if you ever want to reach out to me, I’ll work for HALF of what Thomas makes currently and I’ll have you a playoff and Super Bowl bound team within 3 years. How about them apples? And I’m not kidding either. There are 2 things I’m serious about, following after my Lord and Savior Jesus and football. Ok, now you can commence with the jokes and sarcasm but allow me to share the current rumors regarding the 2015 draft.
Currently the Atlanta Falcons have the number eight over all pick. A pick in the top 10! A very coveted spot by any stretch of the imagination and yet, there are rumblings of a trade. Yes Falcon fans, the Dimitroff genius, plans on trading away yet another player or draft pick to move UP. Why? My opinion is the guy is less of a genius and more of an opportunist. Why else would you need to trade up? If you do your homework and study the players you should be able to put together a list of guys who will produce on the field, right? If anything, the Falcons would be better suited to trading DOWN this year and picking up multiple picks. So, what are the Falcons current needs and my suggestions?
The Falcons most pressing need is pass rush. They did a good job in free agency and brought in Adrian Clayborn whom I believe will be a huge upgrade at defensive end. They also brought in Brooks Reid to help shore up the linebacker core. However, that isn’t enough to heal the woes of the bottom of the heap defensive unit. They have to have a stud on the outside that can get after the quarterback and to that I would say draft Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree. The guy is a freak, size and speed wise and as far as his play on the field, all I can say is just study the film, the guys always hungry for the quarterback. The great thing about picking at eight is if all the quality pass rushers are gone you can pick up another quality offensive lineman. Now wouldn’t that make Matty Ice happy? Of course it would, and it would make the receivers happy as well because they’d be catching more passes than views of Matt getting knocked on his can. As for the rest of the draft?
In my opinion the first round is pass rusher OR offensive lineman. The second round should be devoted to either offensive lineman or linebacker. In the third round I’d be looking for either a running back, tight end, linebacker or offensive lineman. For the fourth round pick I’d look at wide receiver, running back or cornerback. And for the fifth through seventh rounds it would be the best player on the board regardless of position. If the best player is a quarterback, pick him. The name of the game should always be picking the best player as opposed to always selecting for a specific need. When you constantly pick for a specific need you back your franchise into a corner and never wiggle out. Then, you are forced to make stupid decisions like giving away draft picks as opposed to dropping back and gaining picks. The latter is the way the four time Super Bowl champs have done it year in and year out and I believe it’s a better route to a championship than mortgaging the future. So, what can we expect this year from the Falcons and Dimitroff?
The 2015 draft in my opinion will be the draft that will either make or break Dimitroff and his legacy as a draft guru. The Falcons have so many holes to fill that there is no way a single player can fill every void. They’ve done a fair job with free agency but they still have so much work to do. I understand Super Bowl winning teams aren’t made up of super stars but they are made up of talented players, something the Falcons don’t have the luxury of right now. What my hopes are as a Falcon fan is the genius Dimitroff at least stays the course and picks at number 8. Collects some solid talent in this draft, meaning either starters or solid backups on the squad, no practice squad guys in this draft class at all. Then, continue to build by collecting more and more talent every year. Football is not rocket science, although some would have you believe it to be, it’s a game. And the NFL draft doesn’t require you to be a genius, but it does require someone who is patient and is willing to do their homework on EVERY player that is entered in it. That’s how you land a franchise quarterback in the third or sixth rounds, you do your homework. One thing for sure, the draft is always entertaining and as a Falcons fan it will most likely be controversial. My only hope is this year that it becomes more productive than previous years or I believe Mr. Dimitroff will be looking for another sucker to buy that he’s a genius. If that happens, Mr. Blank you know where I am and the offer still stands. I’ll do it for half price! Until the first whistle football fans happy draft day to you!