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4. Atlanta is 2-0. I credit Dan Quinn and the pass-rush he imported, an improving offensive line, a steady Matt Ryan, and the most acrobatic, sure-handed receiver playing today. Julio Jones has twice as many catches (22) as DeMarco Murray has rushing yards. Look at Jones’s first two weeks: nine catches for 141 yards Monday in the win over Philadelphia, and 13 for 135 in the win over the Giants on Sunday. My mini-interview with Jones after he dove for balls and picked one off a Giant corner’s head:

Me: Are you still going to be standing after 16 games? Looks like you’re getting beat up a lot.

Julio: Football’s a contact sport. You’ve got to expect that. I don’t feel physically punished at all right now. It’s football. I get hit. No big deal.

Me: Your style’s pretty unique—physical and fast and quick. You learn the craft from watching any other receivers over the years?

Julio: I don’t watch other receivers. I just focus on my job and improving and being the best I can be. I don’t watch football outside of our games.

Me: What’s Dan Quinn brought to the team?

Julio: With Dan Quinn, his message is, “We’re going to be relentless.” Who has the grit to keep at it? One game at a time. That’s what he talks about. That’s pretty much how we’ve played.

So we see.

How we view the importance of drafts

It’s not altogether strange for the top of a draft to crap out. But so fast? That could be the lasting story of the 2013 first round. The first overall pick, tackle Eric Fisher, is on the bench with the Chiefs. Four players in the top half of the first round look like looming busts, and the bottom half of the round looks stronger than the top half already. Keep in mind that the 2013 class was not evaluated to be particularly strong. There wasn’t a no-doubt quarterback, and the skill positions and corners were below average. But who’d have thought it would look this bad 34 games later?

Surveying the carnage leads to one overriding conclusion: We hype drafts to a silly level of expectation. We overrate players just because of where they are picked. We can’t wait to see how they play before we rate success and failure. And then, a couple of years later, we look at a draft like the 2013 draft and say with some incredulity, W-w-w-what happened?

As one longtime scout told me Saturday when I showed him the results of the draft: “That draft is a disaster—a total riddle. You simply can’t predict how players will do in a different environment. Everyone thought Eric Fisher would be good. Everyone. I thought Jonathan Cooper would be good. Easy pick. There is a randomness to the draft that you can’t explain.”

I’m going to get to the lesson of why a volume of compensatory picks should be as valuable as first-round picks in a few moments. But first, learn a draft lesson this morning. The badness of the 2013 draft:

• There is not a star among the top dozen picks of the first round. Not close. Ziggy Ansah, maybe. But if the best player in the top 12 of a draft after 2.1 years is a guy averaging half a sack per start, that’s a terrible bit of testimony to the quality of a draft.

• The No. 1 overall pick, tackle Eric Fisher of the Chiefs, lost his left tackle job to the 74th pick of the 2012 draft, Donald Stephenson. And then, under cloudy circumstances, Fisher lost the right tackle job—either because of an ankle sprain or poor performance—to a tackle on the street, Jah Reid, signed just seven days before the season-opener. The Chiefs will have paid Fisher $17.7 million by the end of this season, and they’ve got to be having major buyer’s remorse for a guy who, according to Pro Football Focus, was the 34th-rated right tackle in the NFL his rookie year (among 36 who played at least eight games) and the 28th-rated left tackle in 2014.

• The No. 3 pick, defensive end Dion Jordan, is suspended for the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse program, his third substance suspension in three years. He has started one game and had three sacks.

• The No. 9 pick, cornerback Dee Milliner of the Jets, had a poor rookie year, tore his Achilles last year, and saw the Jets sign three free-agent cornerbacks this year to play above him … then needed wrist surgery in camp (his seventh football-related surgery of his life) and will be sidelined until at least midseason. So it’s not all his fault, certainly. But he hasn’t been a profitable pick for the Jets.

• The No. 16 pick, quarterback E.J. Manuel, is the third passer on the Buffalo depth chart after 14 underwhelming starts in his first two seasons.

Then there are the marginal starters: tackle Luke Joeckel of Jacksonville (second overall), defensive end Barkevious Mingo of Cleveland (sixth overall), guard Jonathan Cooper of Arizona (seventh overall), and cornerback D.J. Hayden of Oakland (12th overall). So in just 28 months, eight of the top 16 picks have raised major questions about their future. That is significantly more than the major questions in the second half of the first round. The last 16 picks, overall, are clearly better than the top 16. Compare for yourself:

The Top Half of 2013 Round 1 The Bottom Half of 2013 Round 1 1. Kansas City T Eric Fisher 17. Pittsburgh LB Jarvis Jones 2. Jacksonville T Luke Joeckel 18. San Francisco S Eric Reid 3. Miami DE Dion Jordan 19. N.Y Giants T Justin Pugh 4. Philadelphia T Lane Johnson 20. Chicago G-T Kyle Long 5. Detroit DE Ziggy Ansah 21. Cincinnati TE Tyler Eifert 6. Cleveland DE Barkevious Mingo 22. Atlanta CB Desmond Trufant 7. Arizona G Jonathan Cooper 23. Minnesota DT Sharrif Floyd 8. St. Louis WR/Ret Tavon Austin 24. Indianapolis DE Bjoern Werner 9. N.Y. Jets CB Dee Milliner 25. Minnesota CB Xavier Rhodes 10. Tennessee G Chance Warmack 26. Green Bay DE Datone Jones 11. San Diego T D.J. Fluker 27. Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins 12. Oakland CB D.J. Hayden 28. Denver DT Sylvester Williams 13. N.Y. Jets DT Sheldon Richardson 29. Minn. WR Cordarrelle Patterson 14. Carolina DT Star Lotulelei 30. St. Louis LB Alec Ogletree 15. New Orleans S Kenny Vaccaro 31. Dallas C Travis Frederick 16. Buffalo QB E.J. Manuel 32. Baltimore S Matt Elam

* * *

If I were to rank the top quarter of that draft’s first round, I’d go this way:

1. Sheldon Richardson (13th overall).
2. Travis Frederick (31st).
3. Desmond Trufant (22nd).
4. Kyle Long (20th).
5. Xavier Rhodes (25th).
6. DeAndre Hopkins (27th).
7. Sharrif Floyd (23rd).
8. Ziggy Ansah (5th).

Quite an indictment of the scouting process in 2013, that six of the top eight players may have been picked from No. 20 and beyond. There are several messages here. The easy thing to say is that scouts stink, and the thought process of teams is flawed. What I would say is that scouting is an incredibly inexact science. Joeckel and Fisher have struggled with the outside speed of the pro game, though Joeckel, specifically, played against speed rushers on the outside of a spread system at Texas A&M. So how do you figure him struggling so mightily? I think it’s also the case that some years, and this one certainly appears to be one, are just not top-heavy. The strength of the draft looked to be on the outside of the offensive and defensive lines, and it’s been nothing like that.

Two other points need to be made.

In this draft-evaluation business, you’ve got to be careful with making absolute statements. For example, GM Scott Pioli was ridden out of Kansas City after four seasons, in early 2013. But from his four drafts come the guts of the current Chiefs defense that looks so good right now: Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey on the line, 2014 NFL sack leader Justin Houston (with the 70th pick in 2011) at outside linebacker, and Eric Berry in the defensive backfield (if he can continue his comeback from lymphoma). The left tackle, Donald Stephenson, was a Pioli third-round pick in 2012. Pioli had his share of misses, and didn’t leave Andy Reid with a quarterback of the future. But his hits go to show you—and the team’s relative success since his dismissal—that the tar-and-feathering business in personnel evaluation can be pretty misleading.

Also, I’ve become convinced—and this started with the way Jimmy Johnson/Jerry Jones were wheeling and dealing when Johnson got to the Cowboys—that the number of picks in a draft is far more important than the location of the picks. With lots of low-round gems, Johnson proved that collecting lots of picks was the way to go since history says teams are bound to be wrong on even some of the seemingly surest things. Take the Ravens. They are the biggest believers in the compensatory pick system. That’s the lottery in which teams lose pricey free agents and collect picks between the third and seventh rounds in future drafts as compensation for the losses. In the past five drafts, the Ravens have had 15 compensatory picks and turned them into two key pieces of the offensive line—starting tackle Ricky Wagner and third guard John Urschel—and starting fullback Kyle Juszczyk and pass-rusher Pernell McPhee. Love this irony: McPhee could net the Ravens a pick at the end of the fourth round in 2016 after he signed a five-year, $39-million contract with the Bears last spring. That’s the kind of personnel discipline, knowing when to let good players leave because you trust you can train new players who cost much less, that consistently good teams have.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Ryan Shazier, linebacker, Pittsburgh. This is exactly the kind of game the Steelers envisioned when they drafted Shazier in the first round of the 2014 draft. The numbers were ridiculous enough: 15 tackles, a sack for a 17-yard loss, three tackles for loss, a strip and recovery off Colin Kaepernick, when the Niners were trying to get back in the game in the second quarter. With the immense production came speed, the kind of speed that had multiple teams—Atlanta wanted him badly pre-draft in 2014—hoping he fell to them. Pittsburgh, instead, got the sideline-to-sideline speed and presence that Shazier brings to the interior.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Matt Bosher, punter, Atlanta. Punting five times for a 54.6-yard average against the Giants in the Meadowlands, Bosher added to an impressive start to the season. In his first two weeks, he’s averaging 56.0 yards per punt, with a net of 43.7 yards.

Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me (and FALCON FANS!)

I

The starry New York Giants receiving duo of Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. have been on the field together for one full professional game, the New York-Atlanta game on Oct. 5, 2014.

I’ve covered Drew Brees for all 10 years of his Saints career. That’s the most reticent & disspirited I’ve seen him at a post-game presser. laugh.pnglaugh.pnglaugh.png

f. Aaron Donald. He has multiple “wow” plays every week, notably Sunday for throwing two linemen aside and sacking Kirk Cousins five minutes into their game.
v. Julio Jones, who is going to be very sore today. Boy, did he take some shots against the Giants. But he made some very big catches.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 2:

a. How incredibly out of sync the New Orleans passing game looks.

d. Disappointing team of the first two weeks: New Orleans. Totally discombobulated.

f. Way too long a replay review on the Leonard Hankerson catch for Atlanta, down near the goal line. If it’s not obvious, which it wasn’t, stick with the call on the field.

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Me: Your style’s pretty unique—physical and fast and quick. You learn the craft from watching any other receivers over the years?

Julio: I don’t watch other receivers. I just focus on my job and improving and being the best I can be. I don’t watch football outside of our games.

70M contract and doesn't watch film. 'Troffed.

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Interesting bit about Pioli. I hope Blank reads that. Owners get too antsy when teams aren't immediately righted. I hope Pioli/Dimi give Quinn the kind of talent he gave KC on defense.

I agree and I hope Quinn likes Pioli - I do think Pioli being in the building has led to better drafts the last two years. I realize he has a weird/controlling personality that grates on people, but he really is a good personnel guy and knows talent.

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Peter King has Trufant 3rd out of the entire 1st round in 2013 - gotta give Dimitroff an "A grade" on that one. You could argue w/ Sheldon Richardson's off-field stuff and Travis Frederick being a Center that Trufant could be #1 on that list of "best pick in 1st round" in 2013.

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Peter King has Trufant 3rd out of the entire 1st round in 2013 - gotta give Dimitroff an "A grade" on that one. You could argue w/ Sheldon Richardson's off-field stuff and Travis Frederick being a Center that Trufant could be #1 on that list of "best pick in 1st round" in 2013.

Yea and the topic of discussion that year was a trade and could Dimi have saved that pick for Xavier Rhodes.

Although Rhodes is a good player, I don't think anybody is lamenting that trade these days and also it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Rhodes would have made it to our pick either.

Also didn't we pick Jake in 2014? Was the Falcons trying to trade up or were we hoping he fell to our 2nd round (Hageman) pick.

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Yea and the topic of discussion that year was a trade and could Dimi have saved that pick for Xavier Rhodes.

Although Rhodes is a good player, I don't think anybody is lamenting that trade these days and also it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Rhodes would have made it to our pick either.

Also didn't we pick Jake in 2014? Was the Falcons trying to trade up or were we hoping he fell to our 2nd round (Hageman) pick.

I loved the Trufant trade although many of us felt he would drop - found out after the draft that Denver was very interested and he would not have fell to us. The price of a 3rd rounder was well worth securing Trufant.

As far as Shazier is concerned, "yes" I think you are reading it right that Falcons hoped he would drop to within range of late 1st to our 2nd round pick so we could snag him. Seems like we were never really married to the Hageman pick. After Shazier went off board, we tried to trade up for Dee Ford as well. Cowboys jumped us and took Demarcus Lawrence as well.

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Even though the 2013 draft pick and trade for Trufant worked out wonderfully for Falcons and Dimitroff - that draft is the perfect example of why you don't draft for need - because some years the talent at a position just doesn't warrant a high pick. Dimitroff did not make that mistake in 2013 but other teams did.

I hope Falcons, now that they have a decent base of talent (assuming we re-sign Clayborn, Schofield and a few others on 1yr deals) will get away from "needs based" drafting in 1st few rounds and just draft best talent (not a QB obviously). Falcons just need to draft the best talent - I believe we will make that shift under Quinn. hope so!

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Peter King has Trufant 3rd out of the entire 1st round in 2013 - gotta give Dimitroff an "A grade" on that one. You could argue w/ Sheldon Richardson's off-field stuff and Travis Frederick being a Center that Trufant could be #1 on that list of "best pick in 1st round" in 2013.

There are a lot of folks still criticizing TD for his handling of the drafts. TD brought in at least 5 all time greats to this franchise. Matty Ice - Best qb we've ever had. Tony G. - greatest tight end we've ever had, hall of fame. Julio Jones - gonna break every record we have and possible Hall of famer. Burner Turner - Had 4 years of what could be called the best 4 years of any RB we've had. Trufant - is an island of his own and that draft shows TD moving up to get us our own stud. Matt Bosher - He is incredible. Matt Bryant - besides Anderson, this is an all pro year after year.

So, the facts are, TD brought us a coach who won 5 years in a row, acquired that talent to reverse a miserable franchise, and now has hired and acquired some great talent and coach to give the falcons a new chance at redemption.

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would have been nice to have gotten Ryan Shazier.

Shazier > Hageman + Southward.

Of course Shazier went 5-10 spots earlier(#15 overall) to the Steelers than conventional wisdom at the time. Our early 2nd and early 3rd round pick would not have been enough to move up to get Shazier at #14.

Oh well.....still like Hageman's upside but he needs to start realizing some of it this year.

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Peter King has Trufant 3rd out of the entire 1st round in 2013 - gotta give Dimitroff an "A grade" on that one. You could argue w/ Sheldon Richardson's off-field stuff and Travis Frederick being a Center that Trufant could be #1 on that list of "best pick in 1st round" in 2013.

But but but we traded a pick to get him!? How could we!? Troffed I say! Troffed!!

God I hate some people on this board. Wish I had the time to pll up those draft threads crying about that trade...

Disclaimer...This is not a shot at you g dawg just venting and using your comment to add to my post.

Edited by SkerFalcon8710
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Thanks for re-posting. King is mostly spot on, but I would give Tru the nod over Frederick due to the importance of the CB position over C.

we could have drafted Shazier at #7 - but the Falcons were never going to do that. At #7, I believe our options were Jake Matthews, Khalil Mack, Taylor Lewan and maybe Aaron Donald.

two months before the draft, most thought Shazier was a 2nd rounder since he was undersized - however, the Steelers take talented linebackers in 1st round often - believe they have FOUR right now (Shazier, Dupree, Jarvis Jones and Timmons) - Timmons might have been a 2nd rounder but the other three were 1st rounders.

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But but but we traded a pick to get him!? How could we!? Troffed I say! Troffed!!

God I hate some people on this board. Wish I had the time to pll up those draft threads crying about that trade...

Disclaimer...This is not a shot at you g dawg just venting and using your comment to add to my post.

No worries. I try to call it like I see it. Dimitroff has had a very mixed tenure w/ Falcons - when he hits, he hits big - but then he has trouble w/ bottom of roster and just getting some "base hits". If 2014/2015 drafts do well, then he will be more in the win column for me - I think it is leaning that way right now but need to see more - he definitely struggled mightily from 2009-2012.

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Even though the 2013 draft pick and trade for Trufant worked out wonderfully for Falcons and Dimitroff - that draft is the perfect example of why you don't draft for need - because some years the talent at a position just doesn't warrant a high pick. Dimitroff did not make that mistake in 2013 but other teams did.

I hope Falcons, now that they have a decent base of talent (assuming we re-sign Clayborn, Schofield and a few others on 1yr deals) will get away from "needs based" drafting in 1st few rounds and just draft best talent (not a QB obviously). Falcons just need to draft the best talent - I believe we will make that shift under Quinn. hope so!

There you have it.

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Even though the 2013 draft pick and trade for Trufant worked out wonderfully for Falcons and Dimitroff - that draft is the perfect example of why you don't draft for need - because some years the talent at a position just doesn't warrant a high pick. Dimitroff did not make that mistake in 2013 but other teams did.

I hope Falcons, now that they have a decent base of talent (assuming we re-sign Clayborn, Schofield and a few others on 1yr deals) will get away from "needs based" drafting in 1st few rounds and just draft best talent (not a QB obviously). Falcons just need to draft the best talent - I believe we will make that shift under Quinn. hope so!

I have to agree with this wholeheartedly. Draft the BPA and try to make it for a position of need. This, coupled with smart FA moves get you playmakers!!

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