FentayeJones Posted December 19, 2015 Share Posted December 19, 2015 The Atlanta Falcons’ struggles highlight the draft failures of general manager Thomas Dimitroff.The Atlanta Falcons completed their monumental collapse, and they did it by playing out one of the worst games in franchise history: losing 38-0 to the Carolina Panthers, who have taken a stranglehold on the NFC South.Despite the hot start to the season, and the fact that they’re still not mathematically out of the playoff hunt, it looks more and more likely that the Falcons will miss the playoffs for a third straight season.The team’s weakness in the trenches on both sides of the ball has become painfully evident over not just these past six games, but also throughout these past three seasons. The Falcons’ roster looks like one of the least talented in the NFL. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked it as such these past two seasons.People have begun pointing the finger at general manager Thomas Dimitroff for these failures, and that’s exactly who it should be pointed at.At the end of the day, the Atlanta Falcons have struggled as a football team for three straight seasons, because of the terrible job Thomas Dimitroff has done when it comes to drafting players, maybe the most important part of building a football team.And nobody knows that better than Dimitroff himself, someone who was the director of college football scouting with the New England Patriots before accepting the GM role with the Falcons.Dimitroff had a wonderful draft in 2008, where he delivered the likes of Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, Thomas Decoud, Harry Douglas, and Kroy Bierman, all of whom were either eventual pro bowlers or solid team contributors.Since 2008, however, its been all downhill for the Falcons when it comes to the draft. Let’s take a year by year look at Dimitroff’s player selections from 2009 and on. (Note: I will not put up the 2015 draft class as they are still in their rookie season: there hasn’t been enough time to really evaluate them).2009: DT Peria Jerry (1st round), S William Moore (2nd round), CB Christopher Owens (3rd round), DE Lawrence Sidbury (4th round), CB William Middleton (5th round), OT Garrett Reynolds (5th round), LB Spencer Adkins (6th round), DT Vance Walker (7th round)2010: LB Sean Weatherspoon (1st round), DT Corey Peters (3rd round), OG Mike Johnson (3rd round), C/OG Joe Hawley (4th round), CB Dominique Franks (5th round), WR Kerry Meier (5th round), S Shann Schilinger (5th round)2011: WR Julio Jones (1st round), LB Akeem Dent (3rd round), RB Jaquizz Rodgers (5th round), P Matt Bosher (6th round), OG Andrew Jackson (7th round), DE Cliff Matthews (7th round)2012: C/OG Peter Konz (2nd round), OT Lamar Holmes (3rd round), FB Bradie Ewing (5th round), DE Jonathan Massaquoi (6th round), S Charles Mitchell (6th round), DT Travian Robinson (7th round)2013: CB Desmond Trufant (1st round), CB Robert Alford (2nd round), DE Malliciah Goodman (4th round), TE Levine Toilolo (4th round), DE Stansly Maponga (5th round), S Kemal Ishmael (7th round), S Zeke Motta (7th round), QB Sean Renfree (7th round)2014: OT Jake Matthews (1st round), DT Ra’Shede Hageman (2nd round), S Dezmond Southward (3rd round), RB Devonta Freeman (4th round), LB Prince Shembo (4th round), CB/S Ricardo Allen (5th round), LB Marquis Spruill (5th round), LB Yawin Smallwood (7th round), LB Tyler Starr (7th round)A good draft class is one which a GM is able to hang his hat on as the foundation of a team for years to come. That’s what the Matt Ryan draft class of 2008 was for Dimitroff. Behind that class, the Falcons aspired to five straight winning seasons, culminated with two 13-3 seasons and a trip to the 2012 NFC Championship game.However, consistent misses within in the draft can hinder a team for years on end. And we begin those misses with 2009. Despite having all of his picks to work with that year, Dimitroff managed to select just one impact player, and that was William Moore.In fact, Moore is the only player in that 2009 draft class to stay on the team past his rookie contract. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012, but it looks like even he might be off the roster by next season, due to the fact that he’s so injury prone.The rest of that draft was terrible. Peria Jerry was a massive first round bust who never had any impact. Christopher Owens was only good in special teams, but you expect far more than that out of a third rounder. He was also constantly abused in the secondary due to his height. Nobody else made any real impact.First round picks in football are more valuable than in any other sport. They are the players that must carry the franchise to its high points for years, and missing on back to back first rounders without finding any late round gems can be crippling down the line.That’s what Dimitroff did in 2010: he once again missed on a first rounder, in Sean Weatherspoon. The linebacker out of Missouri had some nice moments with the Falcons, and had a really nice year in 2012. After that season, however, he could never stay on the field, constantly getting injured. Weatherspoon was a second straight first round pick who did not stay on the Falcons past his rookie contract. That constitutes a bust.The 2010 draft class was a second straight failure, as not a single player from it is on the roster five years later.The 2011 class featured the big trade up to get Julio Jones, who has become the best wide receiver in the NFL. The problem is that when you trade away as many first and second rounders as Dimitroff traded for Jones, you better make up for it by hitting on a lot of your other picks, and that just hasn’t happened. The result has been a lack of depth, and not much talent within the trenches, years later.The only players still on the roster from that 2011 class are Julio Jones and the punter selected in the sixth round, Matt Bosher.The 2012 class was a sight for sore eyes, and Dimitroff’s worst class. Peter Konz was selected in the second round, and brought in to be the team’s center for the next decade. That’s what you expect out of a second round O-Lineman after all.Konz ended up becoming one of the worst offensive lineman to play for the Falcons. Almost as bad as him was third round offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. Overall there is nobody from the 2012 draft class still on the roster, and nobody made any real contribution in their time with the Falcons.The 2013 class consists of just two starters: Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Kemal Ishmael also has a future with the team, as he was one of the very few late round gems uncovered by Dimitroff. Just two years later, it looks like only those three players will have ever made an impact on the Falcons, from that 2013 class.Dimitroff finally got it right with an offensive lineman in 2014, drafting Jake Matthews who looks like a franchise left tackle. Second rounder Ra’Shede Hageman has lost some playing time to 2015 fifth rounder Grady Jarrett due to inconsistency; Devonta Freeman and Ricardo Allen are the team’s other starters and look like very good picks.The knock on the 2014 class, however, is that just one year later the Falcons have already cut the third, fourth, fifth, and seventh round picks from the class.When you look at these draft classes, it’s clear that Dimitroff has not put enough emphasis on the importance of the trenches. He’s taken just two offensive lineman in the first two rounds (Jake Matthews; Peter Konz) over the past seven years (including the 2015 draft). And he took a pass rusher just once (Vic Beasley in 2015).Another important factor here is that Dimitroff doesn’t like to spend a lot of money in free agency, always trying to preserve cap space. You must be able to build through the draft to be able to effectively save that money without sacrificing team success, and Dimitroff has done a terrible job at that.The Falcons had the best offensive line in football in 2008, with the likes of Todd McClure, Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock and Tyson Clabo (this line was not built by Dimitroff, it was already there when he came to Atlanta). Dimitroff ended up eventually replacing those lineman with the likes of Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley, and now guys like Mike Person, Chris Chester and Andy Levitre.The result has been what one would expect. The offensive line with the core led by Mcclure gave up just 17 sacks in 2008 (a league low), 27 sacks in 2009 (8th fewest in the NFL), 23 in 2010 (3rd fewest), 26 in 2011 (6th fewest), and 28 in 2012 (7th fewest).By the summer of 2012 Dahl was in St. Louis, Clabo was in Miami, and McClure was forced into retirement to make room for the center of the future: Peter Konz.In 2013 the offensive line was not properly replenished through the draft or free agency, and it ended up consisting of Konz, Hawley, Holmes, Blalock, and Reynolds (Sam Baker was on IR). That season the group gave up 44 sacks (10th most), and in 2014 they gave up 31 (around league average. The number would have been higher, but Matt Ryan developed a very quick release in light of the poor protection).This year the Falcons are on pace for league average once again, ranking 14th in the NFL with 28 sacks given up through 13 games.But the point is that Dimitroff largely ignored getting possible high end offensive lineman to Atlanta through the draft (or through spending in free agency), to instead bring in cheap alternatives and mid round draft picks.And if the offensive line was ignored, you could say that the need for pass rush has been completely neglected. John Abraham was the team’s sack maker between 2008-2012; and he ended up getting cut by Dimitroff following the NFC Championship run as a cap casualty, despite the fact that Abraham was willing to take less money to stay. The next season, he got double digit sacks and made the pro bowl as an Arizona Cardinal.Not only did Dimitroff never bring in a second player who could consistently get to the quarterback opposite of Abraham, but he also never ever replaced John Abraham when the South Carolina product was cut.As a result, since Dimitroff took over the reigns as general manager, the Falcons have never been in the top 20 in sacks generated. In that department, Atlanta has ranked 29th in 2013 (32 sacks), 31st in 2014 (22 sacks), and are last this season (15 sacks).It’s never been more evident that the NFL is a passing league: to be successful you must be able to get to the opposing quarterback and bring him down. Thomas Dimitroff, however, has never put much emphasis in finding players who could do that.For the first time ever, Dimitroff drafted a pass rusher early in the draft, in 2015. That player was Vic Beasley. That high end pass rusher draft pick came seven years too late, however.The Atlanta Falcons are staring down the barrel of their third straight losing season. This implosion isn’t something that happened over night. It has been gradually happening on every draft night for Thomas Dimitroff’s past seven years. And these past three years have been a culmination of that failure.http://bloggingdirty.com/2015/12/19/atlanta-falcons-struggles-dimitroff-draft-failures/4/ Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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