In the aftermath of any draft in any sport, there is never a shortage of opinion on how various teams fared during the process. With that in mind, we dive in on what the experts had to say about the 2014 NFL Draft from the view of the Atlanta Falcons.
Mel Kiper of ESPN graded the Falcons draft as a B-, and had this to say ($) on the selections:
I was a big fan of the Jake Matthews pick when it happened, and I’m not changing my tune now. Big need, good player and you add the bonus of his versatility. The Falcons also got a pretty good safety prospect in Dez Southward, hitting another need. But there were also a couple areas I think they missed, and maybe it had to do with the way the board was breaking. For instance, they really need pass-rush help, and Demarcus Lawrence could have been an option at No. 37, but Dallas moved up and grabbed him. Atlanta ends up with a high-upside talent in Ra’Shede Hageman, but he ran really hot and cold at Minnesota. Devonta Freeman gives them an underrated running back, which is something they need, and maybe Prince Shembo can provide some value as a pass-rusher. Ricardo Allen is a solid player and gives them added depth at CB. Tyler Starr is also a sleeper as a pass-rushing addition. The question for me is whether they did enough to really help the pass rush, which was a big need, and I also think a tight end made sense given the departure at that position. Not bad, overall. Matthews will be good.
To be honest, this is virtually in line with my thinking throughout the process. The Southward pick stands out as a bit of a reach, but Dimitroff and company clearly identified something they liked there, and Hageman’s upside is certainly valuable despite concerns that he will never reach.
Kiper’s counterpart, Todd McShay, weighed in on his “favorite” pick for the Falcons ($), and he chose 4th-round RB Devonta Freeman:
I thought the Falcons made a can’t-miss pick with Jake Matthews at No. 6 overall, as he is a plug-and-play starter at either left or right tackle who can help keep Matt Ryan upright (career-high 44 sacks last season). But I’m going with Freeman for this one, as he was a great value choice near the top of the fourth round. He runs like his hair is on fire and possesses very good acceleration and lateral agility. Second-round D-lineman Ra’Shede Hageman brings good versatility to Atlanta’s defensive front.
This was a selection that I thoroughly enjoyed. Freeman presents the type of value that you would love to see at that point in the draft, and Atlanta filled a relative need without going crazy by drafting a running back in the early rounds. Freeman could be a starter and/or a platoon piece in the near future.
Finally, Vaughn McClure (who works exclusive on the Atlanta Falcons for ESPN) ranked the selection of Jake Matthews at the team’s “best move”:
Offensive tackle Jake Matthews with the No. 6 pick. The Falcons had to resist the temptation to move up and really focus on getting an NFL-ready pass protector with the ability to clear holes in the run game. Matthews was no question the most technically sound of the top three tackles, and the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews should be solid for years to come. Matthews will start off at right tackle, but expect him to be the team’s left tackle of the future. He should provide immediate results for quarterback Matt Ryan, who was the league’s most pressured quarterback last season.
Overall, the general consensus for the pundits is that the Falcons did a solid, yet unspectacular, job with this season’s draft. What does it all mean? Virtually nothing at this stage, but there is real talent on the way to Flowery Branch and that is an overwhelming positive.