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Was This A New Species Of Draft?


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We're all familiar with the concepts of 'drafting for need' and BPA. We all know there can be overlaps of the two, which is generally a good thing, and I think we saw a fair amount of that in this years draft. But I feel like we also saw something entirely new - I'll get back to that in a minute.

What we didn't see this year - something we've been accustomed to - was a gambler's mentality on TDs part. The injury-compounded-by-lack-of-depth monster that raised its head in 2013 was clearly on his mind. The result was that with the exception of the small move up for Ricardo Allen, he was driven by the draft this time around rather than vice versa.

Matthews at 6 was an excellent pick, but if Mack had fallen, Matthews would be playing somewhere else this season. So to my eye, the Matthews pick looks like a perfect blend of need and BPA. And as the half-hearted play for Dee Ford showed, getting an edge rusher really was the top priority in this draft. The difference this time around was that if getting his guy called for a painful level of sacrifice, TD wasn't going there. I certainly didn't expect to see the Falcons keep all ten of their picks, but nine is surprisingly high. Almost equally surprising is that the 2015 draft remains intact - makes me think TD will admit to no fear for his 2015 job security, which is a good thing.

The Hageman pick felt like a clear-cut BPA move at first glance. But this is also where the notion of a new draft 'species' starts gaining traction with me. I'll call it drafting for scheme. Part one of the scheme calls for tons of beef up front on defense. Three guys who can soak up four or five blockers. Part two of the scheme calls for all kinds of speed and athleticism running wild behind the line, which brings us to the third round.

The Southward pick feels like a previously unseen hybrid of speed/athleticism/upside married to position need and scheme need. The Falcons were shocked to see the four safeties at the top of their board go between the 18th and 30th picks. And none of the remaining free safeties with name recognition, guys like Brooks, Huff, Bailey, Reynolds and Ladler (two of which went undrafted) had the skill set and upside TD saw in Southward. I agree wholeheartedly with the Southward pick, especially when seen in the above light. I'll also agree wholeheartedly with anyone who says the pick carries a high element of risk. Feel free to blame the Saints here. This pick is a direct result of them matching the Rafael Bush offer sheet.

Devonta Freeman at the top of the fourth felt like another perfect blend of need and BPA. I'd have preferred a bellcow back, but Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill were the only two I saw in this draft. Freeman probably falls into the RBC category, but that's a given as long an Jackson and Rodgers (watch your six, Jacquizz) are on the roster, so I'm fine with that.

The Freeman pick also marked a transition point in this draft. It was the last one that looked anything like a traditional 'need' pick. After that, roster holes like tight end and edge rusher received no attention (unless you classify Shembo and Spruill as edge rushers, which is stretching things). The new theme was scheme, and TD chased it with a vengeance.

With plenty of up-front beef already on the roster, it was all about speed and athleticism in the back eight. There were elements of a dart board philosophy here as well - the more darts you throw at a given target, the more likely a hit. This would explain the absolute glut of corners and linebackers now on the roster. The competition in camp should be ferocious and I think we'll see some very familiar and high-profile players fall. If you think in terms of speed and athleticism, its not hard to come up with the names. There'll still be plenty of spots available in the back eight because at the end of 2014, I think we'll see that the Falcons defense played more 3-3-5 sets than any other. But if you're not fast and athletic, you need not apply.

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I think that tried to keep a theme going of the type of players they wanted, and applied that to BPA, and at times looked like they were reaching, reality is they came away with some really good players, and I dont think we'll be sifting through UDFA's this year trying to find starters.

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Good and well written post. There are too frequently emotional threads posted based upon immediate gut reactions and this bucks that trend. BPA is a great approach to the draft, but if the top player on Indy's board when they finally picked was Aaron Murray, would anyone consider them wise to draft him with holes to fill everywhere else before QB? Of course not. So, while BPA is a good guideline, it cannot be a hard and firm rule for every pick. There will be some misses in this draft, but I think that there are enough likely contributors that I think TD did very well.

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nice analysis Phoenix Joe. I agree. While I would have loved Clowney - we definitely got the depth and competition that this draft demanded that we get.

The offensive line could not go into 2014 with the only significant change being Jon Asamoah - you and I both know that was not going to be enough. Now we have replaced the entire right side of the line - and with Baker coming back and presumably healthy - Matt might get to say the word "two mississippi" before being planted in the turf - in other words, he will have a fighting chance.

While on first blush, drafting 4 linebackers seems odd, sometimes, like you said - you gotta get more than one dart at a problem - thus significantly increasing you chances of solving a problem - and a scheme change. I am sure not all 4 linebackers will pan out - but if just 1/2 of them do - then Falcons will have gone a long way towards getting quality players at a need position. Moreso than most positions, I think the back half of the draft tends to yield "gems" at the linebacker position - this is anecdotal but feels true to me.

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Good and well written post. There are too frequently emotional threads posted based upon immediate gut reactions and this bucks that trend. BPA is a great approach to the draft, but if the top player on Indy's board when they finally picked was Aaron Murray, would anyone consider them wise to draft him with holes to fill everywhere else before QB? Of course not. So, while BPA is a good guideline, it cannot be a hard and firm rule for every pick. There will be some misses in this draft, but I think that there are enough likely contributors that I think TD did very well.

I know there are plenty of people upset about passing on Murray for a lesser known commodity (it escapes me which guy it was now), but I agree, when you're a team who has a franchise QB but a lot of holes to fill, then it's just really tough to pass them up in favor of a guy you're hoping never ever has to play.

Teams with aging QBs and questionable starters usually have to invest in solid backups because of necessity, not preference.

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if mediocre equals a new species... then yes.

Otherwise it was pretty uneventful. Nothing major, no bold moves by TD... we addressed needs but only from what was left on the board after the other teams made the "bold moves"

LOL, Seattle built their team off of understated moves......no fancy trades, no marquee names coming out of college.

  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman
  • Michael Bennett (f/a sign - Bucs did not want anymore)
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Earl Thomas (drafted safety that 12 teams passed on)
  • Marshawn Lynch (uneventful career in Buffalo and was 1 strike away from being bounced from league)

grabbing the headline was not winning the day for the Falcons - you cannot run a franchise like a fantasy football team ;)

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if mediocre equals a new species... then yes.

Otherwise it was pretty uneventful. Nothing major, no bold moves by TD... we addressed needs but only from what was left on the board after the other teams made the "bold moves"

You couldn't be more wrong

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I loved the draft. I thought everything was great. The only pick that surprised me was the corner, but I think with Southward and Arenas capable of playing FS and NB, it gives us a ton of flexibility to disguise our secondary and hearing his tape alone would've made him a second rounder makes me excited. I think this team is back to the level of being stout all the way around and our depth is replenished. That also gives us a ton of flexibility to move for our guys in next year's draft. I know Dimitroff wanted to work the board this year, but I think it will be a blessing because sticking to the board made him go BPA for the scheme.

Next year I truly think we'll only be looking for SJ's replacement, possibly Roddy's replacement, and a star pass rusher. With all of our picks and free agency we'll be primed to have an awesome team going into the couple of years before our new stadium.

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Unless we go 4-12 or 3-13, I think Smith is here for a few more years. This draft was so scheme specific, these guys were drafted to come in and spend several years in this specific defensive system. Matthews is a stud any coaching staff could plug in and play, but the rest of the guys, FA and draft picks, would not fit the schemes of a lot of coaching staffs.

I think Blank put the fear of Yahweh into Smith and TD this offseason, but this entire offseason to me signals that the current staff will be here for a while.

Had we taken Clowney or Mack and traded picks, I think it would be an absolute make or break year, and a new staff could have worked with those guys. These defensive guys have Nolan's name branded on their *****.

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Unless we go 4-12 or 3-13, I think Smith is here for a few more years. This draft was so scheme specific, these guys were drafted to come in and spend several years in this specific defensive system. Matthews is a stud any coaching staff could plug in and play, but the rest of the guys, FA and draft picks, would not fit the schemes of a lot of coaching staffs.

I think Blank put the fear of Yahweh into Smith and TD this offseason, but this entire offseason to me signals that the current staff will be here for a while.

Had we taken Clowney or Mack and traded picks, I think it would be an absolute make or break year, and a new staff could have worked with those guys. These defensive guys have Nolan's name branded on their *****.

Also, Pioli's influence was all over this offseason and draft, and that was very apparent.

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We're all familiar with the concepts of 'drafting for need' and BPA. We all know there can be overlaps of the two, which is generally a good thing, and I think we saw a fair amount of that in this years draft. But I feel like we also saw something entirely new - I'll get back to that in a minute.

What we didn't see this year - something we've been accustomed to - was a gambler's mentality on TDs part. The injury-compounded-by-lack-of-depth monster that raised its head in 2013 was clearly on his mind. The result was that with the exception of the small move up for Ricardo Allen, he was driven by the draft this time around rather than vice versa.

Matthews at 6 was an excellent pick, but if Mack had fallen, Matthews would be playing somewhere else this season. So to my eye, the Matthews pick looks like a perfect blend of need and BPA. And as the half-hearted play for Dee Ford showed, getting an edge rusher really was the top priority in this draft. The difference this time around was that if getting his guy called for a painful level of sacrifice, TD wasn't going there. I certainly didn't expect to see the Falcons keep all ten of their picks, but nine is surprisingly high. Almost equally surprising is that the 2015 draft remains intact - makes me think TD will admit to no fear for his 2015 job security, which is a good thing.

The Hageman pick felt like a clear-cut BPA move at first glance. But this is also where the notion of a new draft 'species' starts gaining traction with me. I'll call it drafting for scheme. Part one of the scheme calls for tons of beef up front on defense. Three guys who can soak up four or five blockers. Part two of the scheme calls for all kinds of speed and athleticism running wild behind the line, which brings us to the third round.

The Southward pick feels like a previously unseen hybrid of speed/athleticism/upside married to position need and scheme need. The Falcons were shocked to see the four safeties at the top of their board go between the 18th and 30th picks. And none of the remaining free safeties with name recognition, guys like Brooks, Huff, Bailey, Reynolds and Ladler (two of which went undrafted) had the skill set and upside TD saw in Southward. I agree wholeheartedly with the Southward pick, especially when seen in the above light. I'll also agree wholeheartedly with anyone who says the pick carries a high element of risk. Feel free to blame the Saints here. This pick is a direct result of them matching the Rafael Bush offer sheet.

Devonta Freeman at the top of the fourth felt like another perfect blend of need and BPA. I'd have preferred a bellcow back, but Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill were the only two I saw in this draft. Freeman probably falls into the RBC category, but that's a given as long an Jackson and Rodgers (watch your six, Jacquizz) are on the roster, so I'm fine with that.

The Freeman pick also marked a transition point in this draft. It was the last one that looked anything like a traditional 'need' pick. After that, roster holes like tight end and edge rusher received no attention (unless you classify Shembo and Spruill as edge rushers, which is stretching things). The new theme was scheme, and TD chased it with a vengeance.

With plenty of up-front beef already on the roster, it was all about speed and athleticism in the back eight. There were elements of a dart board philosophy here as well - the more darts you throw at a given target, the more likely a hit. This would explain the absolute glut of corners and linebackers now on the roster. The competition in camp should be ferocious and I think we'll see some very familiar and high-profile players fall. If you think in terms of speed and athleticism, its not hard to come up with the names. There'll still be plenty of spots available in the back eight because at the end of 2014, I think we'll see that the Falcons defense played more 3-3-5 sets than any other. But if you're not fast and athletic, you need not apply.

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I agree with much of this. IMO had Dallas not traded up to get Lawerance we would have taken longer to phone in our selection.

Speed was sure the theme on the back side of the line. All the LBers we drafted move very well.

Here is a response from another post on the safety we selected thought I would copy and paste it here.

Exactly plus the reason he was slotted 4th-5th was the injury concern. All the draft gurus do not have access to all those medical records. Brooks and Southward were originally slotted very close in the draft 3rd to 4th range. No one anticipated 4 safeties going in the 1st round, It was a pretty thin position in this draft though so some teams reached early. We were quite lucky that no one grabbed one in the 2nd because there really was only 2 to 3 more with decent grades. We knew that both of them would be gone before we picked again in the 4th so we may have reached a few picks but I think it was well worth the risk considering his upside.

You can bet the staff spent time with him at the Senior Bowl and knew exactly what we were getting and deemed him worth the pick. Now that we have him I certainly hope that they are right about him and he does prove to be worth the pick. You can bet that we were not getting a better safety in this draft than Brooks or Southward and both would have been gone before we selected in the 4th.

That interview makes me feel much better about the pick though. He seems like a very smart well spoken likable kid. Being able to pick up scheme and learn positions quickly is a big plus and seems to be a favorite trait of our staff.

Brooks was the guy I originally hoped we would get in the 4th but the way it played out there was no chance he was making it to the 4th. Also considering the Senior Bowl I believe they had this kid targeted for a while and they believe he will be a good fit in our defensive scheme. Reaching a round for a talented player you think is a good scheme fit and have a plan for is worth a bit of a reach when you know you dont have another left to fall back on.

I'm hoping Starr can stick on special teams long enough to emerge as the best edge rusher we selected from this draft. He has some talent but still a little football inexperienced but seems to have some very good upside.

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