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Thomas Dimitroff is prepared to go either way in the draft


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Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons are prepared to go either way in the draft

April 21, 6:06 PM · Add a Comment ShareThis Feed

Thomas Dimitroff (left) with Arthur Blank, AP Photo/John AmisLast year's offseason omen of good luck was a three-way coin flip that landed Atlanta the third pick in the draft and ultimately their franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan.

If general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes in such things (though it's unlikely--he seems far too calculated and cunning), his omen for this offseason may have come a few weeks back by way of a rare hole-in-one at the esteemed Augusta National golf course.

With good luck on his side or not, Dimitroff and his staff have done their due diligence and with the NFL draft a mere five days away, Dimitroff and the Falcons are in the final stages of making decisions.

Speaking last week on AM 680 (The Fan)'s Buck and Kincaid from the Atlanta Falcons-hosted "Hacks vs. Jocks" golf tournament, Dimitroff said he and his staff have worked late into the night for the last week whittling this eight-month process down to a field of players that fit the Falcons profile.

Dimitroff describes the entire process as intense and said "Towards the middle of next week, we pretty well should have the hay in the barn and we should be ready to know who we would have."

But, he added, there are a lot of "what-ifs" still in play, which possibly include trade offers or proposals from and to other teams. Those late hours in the office weren't spent just watching film of players. They were creating every scenario imaginable in order to be prepared to handle anything that happens.

The Falcons' spot at 24 lends itself a lot of possibilities and Dimitroff prefers that situation. "Being in the 20's like this, versus being in the single digits," the Falcons general manager said, "there's just wiggle room front and back. And I think you can be creative there, and I think the draft is strong enough where you're going to feel we're going to walk away with a really nice player whether it's at 24, back, or up."

However, Dimitroff does believe by getting "too cute," moving back in the draft with your fingers crossed a player you like will fall, can hurt you if you ultimately miss out on the player you like.

"I am a firm believer in you play the draft the way it is from year to year," Dimitroff said. It's that kind of play-the-hand-that's-dealt-us mantra that he observed to be successful with his previous employer, the New England Patriots.

The Patriots often found themselves picking in this range and their draft philosophy seemed to change year-to-year. Sometimes they'd select based on needs and other times they'd chose the best player available. Theirs is a style that works for them and Dimitroff has adopted it to a point. Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have not been shy about calling this draft "needs based," leading many to assume much of the early portion of the draft will focus on defense.

But "needs based" may mean different things to different people and Dimitroff cleared up some of the confusion.

"If we're sitting there at a certain pick, and there's an offensive player and a defensive player and the offensive player is exponentially better than the defensive player, and it's a point of need, then there's a very good chance that we might take that player."

The general manager picking there has to be calculated. No GM wants to miss on his first-round player and Dimitroff, as most GMs do, will have to trust his intuition. If he believes tight end Brandon Pettigrew is better than any other defensive player available (and if Atlanta even believes tight end is a position of need) and there are no trade-down partners, fans could very well hear his name called with that selection.

Trading back is still a possibility and one that many believe will happen. The level of talent in the second round and the end of the first round does not drop off considerably and an astute GM could find great value there. The recent trading of wide receiver Laurent Robinson for higher seats in the fifth and sixth round sets up Dimitroff well to move around in the second or third round.

"We moved up about 42 spots in the draft and it really, if you look at it and if you look at the point chart, it changes the whole back end of our draft," Dimitroff said of the Robinson trade. "And it gives us a little bit of movement if we want to do something and be creative. If not, we're at the top of both of those rounds."

He uses the term "creative" a lot when discussing draft-day activity. You get the feeling that for this general manger the two days of the draft are his Super Bowl, the two days when all the work he and his staff have done for months prior manifests itself.

Creativity is all too often associated with improvisation or instantaneous. It can, however, be the result of months or planning, research, and careful consideration. The latter is the creative approach Dimitroff employs. In addition to creating every scenario imaginable, they're reaching out to every team to gauge their interest in anything and everything.

Dimitroff cited a conversation with a team very recently that amounted to nothing because the two teams were at odds on the value of draft picks. Surely his fellow former Patriots compatriots that are slowly spreading out all around the league are on speed dial. He won't hesitate to deal within the Patriots fraternity. He considers them allies and a group with which he knows he can do business in a fair manner.

Those types of allies are important because on draft day general managers are quick to swindle, always wanting to come out on top of a deal. They all know their jobs are on the line and their picks have to be right--at least more right than wrong.

Dimitroff got a lot right last year, starting with that coin flip in February. Now, as the team is full-speed ahead toward the draft, he's looking to go two-for-two and begin to clear up some uncertainty on his team.

There is one thing for certain in the 2009 draft for Dimitroff and his crew: They won't be drafting a quarterback.

I always love to hear what you've got to say. Leave a comment or email me: jdanielcox@gmail.com. Click "subscribe" to receive emails whenever a new article is posted. Or you can email me to be added to my contact list. Follow me on Twitter.

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"If we're sitting there at a certain pick, and there's an offensive player and a defensive player and the offensive player is exponentially better than the defensive player, and it's a point of need, then there's a very good chance that we might take that player."

What's so hard for people to understand about that?!


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