It’s been a few days since the 2014 NFL Draft, and that means we’ve have a little time to let all of the selections sink in. Today though, I’m going to take a look back at what the Atlanta Falcons did this year to improve the team and (because I’m such an NFL expert) grade Thomas Dimitroff accordingly.
Let’s jump into it.
Best Pick: Jake Matthews
When the Falcons were on the clock with the sixth pick in the first round and Matthews still on the board, I knew it was going to be a good draft. This guy was the surest bet at tackle in the entire class and by taking him without trading up, the Falcons were able to fill their biggest need without reaching.
Greg Robinson (who was taken second overall) might have higher upside than Matthews, but when you look at how bad the pass protection for Matt Ryan was last year, it’s a relief to know that Matthews can jump right in and make a difference.
Worst Pick: Dezmen Southward
It should say something about what I think of this year’s class when I put Southward as the worst pick. I don’t think it was terrible, but given where he went, and who else was still on the board I think this was as close to a real reach as the team had this year.
Southward is has some good upside and potential, but I’m not sure if it was worth taking him over Florida State cornerback Terrence Brooks–whom I like a bit more. Southward is extremely raw for a safety taken in the third round and started playing football as a senior in high school. Scouts don’t like his lateral movements and fluidity moving backwards, and they also say he is a bit unreliable in man-coverage.
Still, he’s got good size and speed, and set a school record for games played at Wisconsin. With many other teams going for size at receiver, I can’t be super critical of taking him over the smaller Brooks.
But, I still felt like the Falcons should have further addressed the pass rush in the third round and for that I’ve got to put this as my worst pick.
Final Grade: B+
I thought this was a really solid draft for the Falcons, and that seems to be the consensus among most of the experts around the sport. The team filled it’s biggest hole at tackle with the best player in the class at the position, and while they might not have gotten as much help in the pass-rush as I would have liked to see early in the draft, they found some outside linebacker depth in the later rounds in addition to getting an uber-talented guy in the second round (Ra’Shede Hageman) who could turn into a beast.
One of the sneakier picks in this draft was for Florida State running back Devonta Freeman in the fourth round, ahead of Andre Williams of Boston College. Williams put up ridiculous numbers this year, but is basically a non-factor in the passing game, is a questionable pass protection and durability. On the other hand, Freeman might not be as dominant a runner inside the tackles, but he is a tough runner who can benefit the team in pass protection and in the passing game out of the backfield.
The last thing worth mentioning in this draft is that the Falcons didn’t take a tight end. Many thought that was an area of need for the Falcons given the loss of Tony Gonzalez, but it seems like Smith and Dimitroff are confident in Levine Toilolo.
Falcons 2014 Draft Class:
- Jake Matthews – Offensive Tackle – Texas A&M
- Ra’Shede Hageman – Defensive Tackle/End – Minnesota
- Dezmen Southward – Safety – Wisconsin
- Devonta Freeman – Running Back – Florida State
- Prince Shembo – Linebacker – Notre Dame
- Ricardo Allen – Cornerback – Purdue
- Marquis Spruill – Linebacker – Syracuse
- Yawin Smallwood – Linebacker – Connecticut
- Tyler Starr – Linebacker – South Dakota