Starting today, we’ll be preparing for the upcoming draft by going back over the 2008, 2009, and 2010 draft classes of each franchise and assigning each pick a grade.
Up next? Well, that’s the Atlanta Falcons.
Each pick between the 2008 and 2010 draft classes has been assigned a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors, such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how Atlanta drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
Not quite in the sixth but …
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
Matt Ryan, QB (3rd overall pick in 2008): The pick that, in many respects, changed the fortunes of the franchise. Ryan overcame his playoff jinx this year and has led the Falcons to five consecutive winning seasons. Has finished in the Top 5 of our regular season rankings in four of the past five seasons, with a collective grade of +119.8.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Kroy Biermann, DE (154th overall pick in 2008): Took an unfair amount of criticism for the Falcons’ inability to get to the passer in 2010, and lost his starting spot in the process. Since then has done nothing but justify the decision. A valuable player to have on the roster, but ideally someone you’d feature a little less prominently. Still, tremendous value and production from a fifth rounder.
William Moore, S (55th overall pick in 2009): Has missed time hurt, but he’s developed into a real playmaker at safety and is coming off his best year to date. A nose for the football highlights his importance for the Falcons. Has earned a positive grade the past two years.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Thomas DeCoud, S (98th overall pick in 2008): While Decoud seems to be getting worse at tackling, the four-year starter has formed an impressive and reliable safety partnership with William Moore. Wracked up 4,226 defensive snaps in that period.
Vance Walker, DT (210th overall pick in 2009): A shame for Atlanta that they’ve lost Walker without really seeing if he can handle a bigger role. Coming off a very impressive 2012 that earned him a shot at a starting gig in Oakland and our 17th highest rating for a defensive tackle.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB (19th overall pick in 2010): One of the most recognizable players on the Falcons’ defense, “Spoon” has had something of an up and down time in Atlanta. A tough rookie year, a tremendous sophomore season, and now a mixed bag in Year 3. There was a lot to like, but at times injury seemed to impact his ability to get off blocks.
Curtis Lofton, LB (37th overall pick in 2008): Lofton flourished as a two-down linebacker, becoming a tackling machine from the middle linebacker spot. In 2008, he finished with our highest grade of any ILB in run defense, and was third in 2009. He hasn’t quite reached those heights since, but is one of the league’s better middle linebackers even if he can be something of a liability in coverage at times. That helped the Falcons decide to let him hit the open market where he would sign with the Saints.
0.0: It could have been worse
Harry Douglas, WR (84th overall pick in 2008): After missing all of 2009 with an ACL tear, Douglas hasn’t quite developed into the receiver the Falcons thought they would have. Still, when you have Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on the field opportunities can be hard to find.
Robert James, LB (138th overall pick in 2008): James has bounced between the active roster, practice squad and reserved/suspended lists over five years.
Thomas Brown, RB (172nd overall pick in 2008): Missed his rookie year with a torn abductor muscle and was then waived by the Falcons a year later.
Keith Zinger, TE (232nd overall pick in 2008): Got on the field in 2009, dropping the one ball thrown his way. Looked a decent enough blocker in 104 snaps, but that didn’t stop him being waived.
Lawrence Sidbury, DE (125th overall pick in 2009): While he hasn’t really been given much of an opportunity to shine, Sidbury did flash pass rushing ability, particularly in 2011. His return of 21 combined sacks, hits and hurries from 196 pass rushes indicates the Falcons maybe should have given him a bigger look before allowing him to leave.
William Middleton, CB (138th overall pick in 2009): You feel the Falcons wanted Middleton to develop with them (after the Bucs claimed him off waivers and then released him, they found a spot for him on their practice squad), but they couldn’t stop Jacksonville signing him to their active roster where he’s actually turned into a decent nickel corner.
Garrett Reynolds, G (156th overall pick in 2009): Season 2011 saw him get his chance to prove himself a starter, and he did nothing to make you think he was the long-term answer. However, he bounced back in the first six weeks of 2012 before injury ended his season. Lead contender to start at right guard in 2013.
Spencer Adkins, LB (176th overall pick in 2009): Limited to 77 snaps on defense and nine special teams tackles. You could get a lot less for a former sixth-round pick. No longer with the team.
Corey Peters, DT (83rd overall pick in 2010): The former third-round pick has found his way onto the field and, like a lot of Falcons, is capable of making the odd splash play here and there. We’d just like to see him make a more consistent impact in the run game.
Joe Hawley, C (117th overall pick in 2010): Not a guy Atlanta should be throwing passes to. Still, his blocking when he’s been on the field hasn’t suggested he should see any significant playing time.
Dominique Franks, CB (135th overall pick in 2010): Injuries forced him into the starting lineup in 2011 and Franks actually coped with the demands placed upon him. Was eventually re-signed after being cut and continued in his role as versatile defensive back.
Kerry Meier, WR (165th overall pick in 2010): After a hot start to his rookie training camp, Meier tore his ACL and just never earned himself significant playing time before being waived.
Shann Schillinger, S (171st overall pick in 2010): May never earn a spot on defense, but made himself a big part of the Falcons’ special teams unit before missing 2012 on injured reserve.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Sam Baker, T (21st overall pick in 2008): Baker is coming off a good year. However, that doesn’t mean you forget the first four years of his career that were largely disappointing. He still struggles against good pass rushers and doesn’t get much push in the run game. Still, another year like last year and this won’t be a negative grade in 12 months.
Chevis Jackson, CB (68th overall pick in 2008): The early third-round pick got a chance to play as a rookie and sophomore, managing 802 snaps. Overall, he was largely disappointing and released after two years with the team.
Wilrey Fontenot, CB (212th overall pick in 2008): Didn’t make the Falcons’ regular season roster after being cut as a rookie.
Chris Owens, CB (90th overall pick in 2009): Owens was meant to challenge for a starting spot, but instead he became mere depth and the Falcons did their utmost to limit his snaps on defense. More was needed.
Mike Johnson, G (98th overall pick in 2010): The former third-rounder has been something of a disappointment. Never far from the trainer’s table, Johnson was unable to beat out some pretty poor competition in 2011 and finds himself playing the role of sixth offensive lineman.
-1.0: What a waste!
Peria Jerry, DT (24th overall pick in 2009): You can only use an early-career injury as an excuse for so long. Jerry just hasn’t produced like a first-round pick, struggling to get any rush up the field and merely becoming a part of the Falcons’ defensive line rotation.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
No Russell/ Leaf hybrids in this draft.
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