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My Not So Scientific Grading Of The 2014 Atlanta Falcons' Draft Class


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First off, I think “Piolimitroff” brought some of that long awaited Patriots draft magic here in this draft. For once, the players picked are legitimate challengers to existing starters instead of just scrubs intended for depth. Granted this was a deep draft class, but to quote FFS1970 TD didn’t get too “cute.” Second, this draft seemed to have a bit more BPA approach than previous drafts. Maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t see the reaches to fill a position, but rather seeking value.

Lastly, my mock was focked. Not sure I got a single player right lol Although I got most positions right. But I’ll post that in FFS1970’s thread.

For my analysis I’m going to use the following criteria to score the player: Need, Value and Ceiling. These criteria are defined as:

NEED: Fits a hole on our roster

VALUE: Upgrades a position on our roster and didn’t cost a lot in trade or picked to early

CEILING: How good will the player be? Does he project as depth ? Starter?

RISK: This is all encompassing. I’m defining risk as anything from injury history, measurables lacking or character concerns. Risk is anything that may prevent the player from becoming a productive Falcon

STARTER: Self-explanatory. Either does the player have the potential to become a starter, or will he be a day 1 starter.

Although my criteria is far from scientific, I’m assigning numerical values to each criteria:

1-5; with 5 being the highest grade. The total of each value will correlate to a letter grade:

A= 21-25

B= 16-20

C= 11-15

D= 6-10

F= 0-5

So a player that grades out at 25 will receive an A+ grade or almost a perfect pick, a player with a total of 18 would get a B….etc…If the score is in the higher limit or lower limit of the numerical value range, I will subjectively assign it a +, - or just a A, B, C, D, F…

Please note that Risk is actually graded backasswords. If you see a high grade (5) there it means there is a high probability that player is not a risky investment. A numerical value of 1 actually means a higher probability that the player is a high risk prospect.

I also self-admit these rankings are subjective and my own opinion. So if you disagree—that’s cool J

Here goes my analysis and rankings:

Round 1 - Pick 6 (6) - Jake Matthews (OT) Texas A&M –

MY ASSESSMENT:

Excellent pick. Clear BPA and awesome value. Yes we didn’t get Clowney or Mack, but grabbing a franchise OT is a rare opportunity. Not too mention this kid plays every position on the OL like his pops could. Worst case scenario we end up with an All Pro Center or G. Best case scenario (which I think will happen) is we have drafted a perennial pro-bowler, possibly All-Pro LT that will one day have a bust by his dad in Canton. I can’t emphasize how lucky we were to get him at #6. This kid should have went earlier.

NEED: 4

VALUE: 5

CEILING: 4

RISK: 5

STARTER: 5

TOTAL SCORE: 23 (A)

SCORING REASONING:

While I love the pick I downgraded Jake slightly in two areas. Technically, he’s not a need as you usually draft LTs this high—not guys who start his rookie year at RT; that said I settled on a 4 in this category as he’s a clear upgrade over any RT on our roster. I also slightly downgraded Jake on Ceiling, as he may be maxed out physically; however, he has a high ceiling from a cerebral and technique perspective.

VERDICT: This could be the most impactful pick the Falcons have made since the Ryan pick in 08. It’s definitely one of the best value picks we’ve ever made—the kid could have went much higher. Look for Matthews to start at RT—unless Mr. Holmes has stepped it up in the off-season and we bid adieu to Mr. Baker a year early. In that case, our LT of the future starts there day one with Holmes at RT. I may be in the minority but I like Holmes as a RT. Odds are though, we’ll have opening day lineup of Baker at LT and Matthews at RT

Round 2 - Pick 5 (37) - Ra'Shede Hageman (DT) Minnesota –

MY ASSESSMENT:

I’ve chatted in posts with Knight of God (KOG) about this pick. I, like him, love this pick. While it’d been tempting to trade up for Lawrence, grabbed Ealy, maybe Van Noy to fill a need for a OLB/DE with pass rush skills; this was the right pick. For one Hageman has elite size and athleticism. Folks, you can’t coach size and athleticism. Two, he apparently did awesome for Cox. Thirdly and most important, Hageman is the prototypical Defensive Lineman for a Nolan coached team. He’s got length, strength and athleticism and can fit into multiple roles. He can play the Red Bryant role in the 43 (oversized DE); play UT or NT in 43; a true 5 tech in a 34; and in a pinch is strong enough to play an athletic 34 NT (prefer not of course). Most of all he presented value, as unlike the remaining pass rushers after Clowney and Mack; Hageman is a high ceiling prospect. Simply put: a first round talent that fell due to a deep draft into the second round. Also, Hageman provides pass rush albeit from an interior perspective. Can he be a JJ Watt type 5 tech? Not sure, but he certainly has the potential. Look for Nolan to get creative with this kid.

NEED: 4

VALUE: 5

CEILING: 5

RISK: 3

STARTER: 3

TOTAL SCORE: 20 (A-)

SCORING REASONING:

While I absolutely love this pick, it is not without risk. Hageman has had nagging questions about his consistency of play during college. That said he was never god-awful, so the risk is medium. His ceiling and value scores are through the roof for the reasons I stated in my assessment. If I could score higher in these categories higher I would. I may have unfairly downgraded Hageman in the starter category, as we run a heavy D line rotation, and multiply and varied personnel in our multiple and varied defensive fronts. That said, I have no problem downgrading him in this category as we suddenly have a lot of talent in our interior DL. Jackson, Soliali, Babs and if he is recovered Peters will all be clamoring for snaps.

VERDICT: Cya, “Jellybelly” Jerry—we hardly knew ya! I honestly think no matter how many snaps this kid gets we are in for a lot of highs and lows early on. He’ll make just beautiful plays and some boneheaded mistakes. He’s got potential all pro ability but I’m not sure his transition will be as smooth as Jake Matthews’ transition to the pros will be. That said, in a deep rotation we have the ability to put Hageman in a position to succeed. Look for his snaps to increase as season progresses. Did I mention he improves our Pass rush as well?

Round 3 - Pick 4 (68) - Dezmen Southward (FS) Wisconsin

MY ASSESSMENT:

I must admit that this pick was a head scratcher. But the more I dug into this pick the more I like it. Obviously we needed a FS, but more importantly after Ha Ha, Pryor and Jimmie Ward were off the board, the FS draft pool thinned out considerably. This kid is raw, and his name was far less recognizable than say Brooks, Bailey or others, but his measurables and potential are great. Southward recorded a 4.38-second 40 time, a 42-inch vertical jump and 6.50-second three-cone time at his pro day workout. He also scored a 31 on the wonderlic, so he’s smart at a cerebral position. At 6’0” 211 he’s a powerful and willing tackler. And, let’s be frank, I may be better than Decoud was. That said, with Lowrey in the fold and the drafting of Allen later, we may have the flexibility to move Alford or McClain to FS if need be as well. Additionally this kid had a spinal injury, but supposedly it checked out. He’s a high risk/high reward type of pick. The puzzling part is why we grabbed a guy projected in the later rounds in the third. But the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m not an insider. For all we know another team had him in their radar.

NEED: 4

VALUE: 4

CEILING: 5

RISK: 2

STARTER: 2

TOTAL SCORE: 17 (B-)

SCORING REASONING:

Many will disagree with my scoring saying a B- is too high. You’ll cite injury concerns, limited experience as a FS and other relevant facts. That said, I personally think round 3 is where you take some risks and grab a high risk/high reward type player. With this kid’s measurables and smarts, there’s a great possibility we found a gem. I ranked him high in value for this reason. He’s ranked low as starter, as I think we start the season with Lowrey as our starter. If this kid matures look for him to challenge for the starting FS position.

VERDICT: Best case scenario we have an athletic and powerful and smart starting FS for a long time. Physically, Southward eclipses Decoud off the bat. Worst case we have STs help. Truthfully, I may have scored the risk category too low as Southward has played STs before and there is no shame in drafting a STs player—although you prefer not to do so I third round J I predict Lowrey opens the season at FS, and by mid-season Southward relegates him to backup. I like the pick.

Round 4 - Pick 3 (103) - Devonta Freeman (RB) Florida State –

MY ASSESSMENT:

This is an interesting, but not completely surprising pick. We all knew the Falcons would draft a rb—but not all of us knew who. I had Andre Williams slotted as the pick. He went to the Giants in the 4th. Honestly, when the pick was first made, I associated the 5’8” 206 pound Freeman with the word “scatback.” Initially, I saw him as no upgrade from Quizz…but watch him play for a bit, you see a back with great vision and patience, who hits the hole hard and has deceptive speed. Don’t let the 4.58 forty fool ya—he’s not Chris Johnson, but he’s got an extra gear. Back to patience, on more than one occasion in my “film” (you tube and live games) I saw the kid wait for a hole, get a crease and take off like greased lightning. He also has great hands.

He’s also has rave reviews about his off-the-field activities and is a known gym rat and scrappy guy who takes nothing for granted. He definitely passes the Falcon Filter

In some ways he’s like quizz, but the big difference is he does have an extra gear. And in my opinion has better hands. I see a potential starter after Sjax leaves.

NEED: 5

VALUE: 5

CEILING: 4

RISK: 5

STARTER: 3

TOTAL SCORE: 22 (A-)

SCORING REASONING:

Freeman got a 5 in value due to the retirement of Snelling, who despite not having a ton of carries, still played an integral part in our passing game and spelled Sjax and Quizz. Like Sjax, Quizz and the departed Snelling, Freeman can pass protect. Freeman is bigger threat to rush and receive than Snelling was so in theory all three of our top backs are dual threat which disguises our offense. His ceiling is limited to 4 because he’s not a true speed back—which isn’t bad, but it does limit him. I see zero risk in this pick, and he has starter potential post-Sjax.

VERDICT: Best case we drafted Sjax’s successor. Worst case we added complimentary back to our stable. I think Quizz should worry about his soon to be reduced role. Quizz could get cut depending on how things turn out. Great pick. Great value in the round, and instant contributor.

Round 4 - Pick 39 (139) - Prince Shembo (OLB) Notre Dame

MY ASSESSMENT:

Of all the picks this one surprised me the most. Not because of his talent—shembo is a good player who can play inside or out, but because he has noted off-field issues. Apparently , the Falcons Filter has loosened up. I’m glad. Not a ton of sacks, but a lot of QB hurries and consistent pressure. In the right scheme with the right coordinator he has the potential to be human heat-seeking missile. Very physical and rugged player who fits into our current theme of get tougher and more physical. There is very little finesse to his game. He reminds me of Jarrett Johnson, one of Nolan’s past and favorite players, who’s still in the league. In case you don’t know of Johnson, he’s a guy who’s lined up in multiple positions throughout his career, provided some pass rush, excellent run support and generally been a reliable defender for 10 years in the NFL. Shembo IMO is actually more gifted than Johnson. I can see the potential of a 6-8 sack guy out of shembo.

NEED: 5

VALUE: 5

CEILING: 3

RISK: 2

STARTER: 3

TOTAL SCORE: 18 (B)

SCORING REASONING:

Freeman got a 5 in value due to the retirement of Snelling, who despite not having a ton of carries, still played an integral part in our passing game and spelled Sjax and Quizz. Like Sjax, Quizz and the departed Snelling, Freeman can pass protect. Freeman is bigger threat to rush and receive than Snelling was so in theory all three of our top backs are dual threat which disguises our offense. His ceiling is limited to 4 because he’s not a true speed back—which isn’t bad, but it does limit him. I see zero risk in this pick, and he has starter potential post-Sjax.

VERDICT: Best case we drafted Sjax’s successor. Worst case we added complimentary back to our stable. I think Quizz should worry about his soon to be reduced role. Quizz could get cut depending on how things turn out. Great pick. Great value in the round, and instant contributor.

Round 5 - Pick 7 (147) - Ricardo Allen (CB) Purdue

MY ASSESSMENT: Feisty and undersized with good athleticism. I like the pick if nothing else more than to upgrade from Franks. Per NFL.COM: Showed a knack for making plays, returning four of 13 career INTs for TDs. This is key as he demonstrated playmaking skills. He was rated as rd. 6-7 on some draft sites, but getting him in 5th didn’t bother me terribly, as getting a guy with demonstrated ball skills and decent nickelback size is never a bad thing

NEED: 4

VALUE: 3

CEILING: 4

RISK: 4

STARTER: 1

TOTAL SCORE: 16 ( B-)

SCORING REASONING:

You can never really have enough cb competition, so I completely get the pick. I thought we should have went for a backup NT like Ryan Carrethers—which was a bigger need IMO. So I went a bit lower on the need scoring. He’s decent value for round picked, and his ceiling is fairly high if his college production is foreshadowing of things to come in the NFL. He has very little risk in terms of off-field, but some risk in making the roster and contributing (he’ll have to beat out McClain and other incumbents for playing time). He has virtually no chance to start. That said, if our FS pick doesn’t pan out and something happens to Lowrey, having Allen in the fold could allow either Alford or McClain to move to FS if necessary.

VERDICT:

Good, but not great pick. I still think adding a NT would have been good here, or even a TE—neither of which we drafted. That said, cbs are always a valuable commodity..

Round 5 - Pick 28 (168) - Marquis Spruill (ILB) Syracuse –

MY ASSESSMENT:

High energy, undersized guy who at first glance seems to fit better as an OLB in a 43. But after watching him play I can understand the move for him. He’s a good blitzer and very athletic and ran a 4.59 forty. He could possibly compete with Worrilow for playing time, and certainly could get some looks regardless. Nice STs addition as well, as he plays with a fiery temperament and seems to motivate his teammates. 4 year starter, and durable.

NEED: 5

VALUE: 3

CEILING: 2

RISK: 5

STARTER: 2

TOTAL SCORE: 17 (B)

SCORING REASONING:

The need is obvious, as we need LBs both for competition and depth. I downgraded his value a bit, as most draft sites indicate he could have been taken later. His ceiling is limited as I thought him a bit stiff-hipped and limited in coverage. I did notice that he played bigger than his listed size of 6’1” 230 lbs and his frame seems adequate to add good weight.

VERDICT:

Good pick at an area of need. And he seems motivated. Not sure he’ll unseat either worrilow or spoon, but he could end Dent’s playing days. Regardless he provides depth and STs help with his sure tackling and durability.

Round 7 - Pick 38 (253) - Yawin Smallwood (OLB) Connecticut –

MY ASSESSMENT:

One of my favorite picks and my darkhorse to earn his way into either designed plays or possibly starter. He’s a third round talent, that fell due to a terrible 5.01 forty. That said he’s a team captain who played very fast in pads on a terrible team. Making plays and looking good in coverage. He’s the type of guy that maybe you upgrade one day, but find a spot to keep him involved in the game. It must be noted that his poor 40 may have been to lingering hamstring issues.

NEED: 5

VALUE: 5

CEILING: 4

RISK: 5

STARTER: 4

TOTAL SCORE: 23 (A-)

SCORING REASONING:

VERDICT:

The need is obvious. The value is extreme anytime you get a guy that fell at a position of need. He’s stout and plays faster than his forty. I see zero risk, and at the worst you have a depth and STs guy. I think he could push for either a starter or major contributor role. If he pans out, he’s the type of smart drafting that the Falcons need—high ceiling guys that fall for various reasons.

Round 7 - Pick 40 (255) - Tyler Starr (OLB) - South Dakota –

MY ASSESSMENT:

Getting A 6’4” 250 guy who runs 4.58 forty (at pro day) and can keep pace with TEs in coverage as well as rush the passer in the 7th round is never a bad thing. He’s a former Buck Buchanan Award finalist who has a relentless motor. He kinda reminds me of a longer Kroy Biermann to be honest. He’s raw and just attacks every play, so he’ll need refinement and may have to linger on STs a bit. But in the 7th you’re looking for guys to develop, not necessarily a future starter. Definitely has frame to add weight as well.

NEED: 5

VALUE: 5

CEILING: 4

RISK: 5

STARTER: 1

TOTAL SCORE: 20 (B+)

SCORING REASONING:

Definitely a need to bring in more pass rushing guys to compete in our move towards more 34 looks. He’s long and athletic, so represents great value in the 7th. I like his ceiling as the more I watched him play the more I see a very hungry player. He also seems to be that Kroy type of selfless player that will do whatever it takes to play, and can be used in a variety of ways. May be stashed on PS or relegated to STs early, but that’s ok considering his draft position. Zero risk in this pick. As of now he has almost zero chance to be a starter, but has a very good chance to make team and get some playing time

VERDICT:

Good pick. Really great actually when you consider the need for OLB/DEs we have. Keep your eye on this kid.

OVERALL DRAFT SCORE : B+

CONCLUSION:

I thought TD did a much better job seeking value, instead of just drafting for need. I think that may have been the Pioli influence. Matthews and Hagemen were no-brainer picks, but what impressed me most were the Freeman, Smallwood and Starr picks. Guys with great upside that fell for whatever reason, be it the devaluation of rbs (Freeman), bad workouts (smallwood) or small school and raw (Starr). If these picks pan out this is how good teams get necessary depth to move to the next level. Picks like Matthews and Hageman to a point come down to luck. Particularly the Matthews pick. That said, getting a franchise OT and an athletic giant DT in your first rounds makes everything else icing on the cake.

Obviously, we didn’t get an elite pass rusher, so we have that need. That said, I was impressed the team took a chance on Shembo. He’s a good but not elite player, but most importantly it seemed to indicate a loosening of the vaunted “Falcon Filter.” But despite not getting one of the top pass rushers, we definitely got stronger and more physical on both sides of the ball. All the LBs drafted are good strikers and play hard. The Allen pick deepened our secondary.

I am miffed, and lowered my grade to a B+ instead of an A due to the fact that we didn’t grab a NT. Beyond Soliali we don’t have a true NT. We did sign the 330 lb Rumph out of Kentucky as an UDFA, so maybe he pans out. But in the 5th instead of Allen or Spruill, I’d probably drafted a TE and a NT. On the TE front we signed Jacob Pederson as an UDFA, so perhaps he sticks.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the draft. And all the picks made sense, including all the LBs. We needed an infusion of talent and competition at those spots. Not sure all will make final roster, but it never hurts to bring in so many talented kids.

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Nice post msal. Do yiu think spruil and starr will make the final roster I think one of the two probably ends up on the practice roster.

But I feel like this has a chance to be one of the best drafts in falcons history. if shembo and southward live up to their measurables and take their game to another level I think we have a chance to have come away with 6 impact starters in this draft.

I will be extremely suprrised if smallwood doesn't turn out to be a starter for us in the next 2 seasons. He may be the steal of the Draft for us imo.

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Nice post msal. Do yiu think spruil and starr will make the final roster I think one of the two probably ends up on the practice roster.

But I feel like this has a chance to be one of the best drafts in falcons history. if shembo and southward live up to their measurables and take their game to another level I think we have a chance to have come away with 6 impact starters in this draft.

I will be extremely suprrised if smallwood doesn't turn out to be a starter for us in the next 2 seasons. He may be the steal of the Draft for us imo.

Thanks

I think Matthews and either Maponga or he's a thought biermann will have stiff competition. Matthews just sucks I figure Shembo takes his spot and Starr will compete with Maponga, although I've noticed Nolan is unafraid to go with younger guys so Biermann could be gone and Starr, Maponga and Bartu all make roster.

I love Smallwood. Think he's an impact player. Spruill I like as well. So dent is probably gone. And Worrilow may have competition. It'll be interesting to watch

I agree with you on smallwod

cool.png

hahaha a B with a ) after it ends up as a B)

I know, I am a two year old....

very good analysis

Lol thanks

Wow, very insightful.

Thanks!

Good stuff bro.

thanks, bro!
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Great breakdown.

I think you short changed Shembo a point or two. I think that his ceiling is a 5 but his risk is a 1. He is a classic boom or bust type pick (in my opinion).

That's a fair assessment. My criteria was highly subjective

I rarely read long posts like this but this one had me hooked. Good read +1

Thanks, sir. My apologies for the length lol

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Good read. Thanks for the work!

I, for one do enjoy long, intelligent/entertaining write-ups. They keep me away from drivel sometimes. The first sentence and last sentence of the initial paragraph will indicate if one should continue or not!

Edited by SECOMSARASOTA
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Hageman for me is the riskiest player drafted we are hoping Cox can coax that all star potential out of him as I don't believe he would do it on his own.

Meh...I'm not so sure. He's not a bad citizen. Every DT not named Aaron Donald gets the same motor question. Which considering he's 315 pounds that's almost understandable.

The guy was in shape at combine. His vids and games I've watched I see high effort. I'm just not seeing a ton of risk in second round.

Shembo is still riskiest of all, and not just because of off field. Will his game translate to nfl?

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Great write-up.

However, your smallwood for this player is showing. No way on God's green earth does smallwood have more starter potential than any pick save Mathews.

Round 7 - Pick 38 (253) - Yawin Smallwood (OLB) Connecticut –

STARTER: 4

Lol ...he was my draft crush this year. I think he's a stud

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Good read and you provided a lot we could feel good about with this draft. I don't know if you're analysis is right on the button, but I do think it pretty much dovetails with most of the professional bloggers rating of this Falcons draft class. Personally Hageman would not have been my second pick, but I like his potential and I think he's going to be the in-your-face type of player I've been wanting on the team. And same could be said of several of these guys like Shembo and Southward. I still lament what we didn't get, but I'm feeling better about what we did get thanks to breakdowns like the one above. Looking at the big picture it certainly seems that this draft is one of TD's better efforts, no doubt due to Pioli, Vital and Devaney being involved. I'd like to see this team win a bunch of games, but I'm really just hoping to see more aggression on O and D, more fire in the big games, and last but not least, more determination to win in the 3rd and 4th quarters on both sides of the ball.

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