Draft Grader: Atlanta Falcons
Draft season is upon us as free agency quiets down and prospect watch goes into overdrive. But the reality for us is that we’re not that involved in the College side of things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of the draft.
For me, though, that means reflecting back on drafts gone by to tell you which teams made the best picks and which ones the worst. So as I do every year I’m grading every draft pick from 2009 through to 2011 on the PFF rating scale (-2 to +2), factoring in where they were drafted, injuries, and a host of other things.
Up first? Well we’re moving in draft order so it’s the Atlanta Falcons.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
Sorry guys …
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
No dice …
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Vance Walker, DT (210th overall pick in 2009): The former seventh-round pick would manage a very useful 1,534 snaps on defense for the Falcons. What’s more, he was largely impressive in a rotational role, offering far more than you’d expect given his draft slot. His 2012 was especially impressive and it’s no surprise he’s gone on to have success elsewhere.
Julio Jones, WR (6th overall pick in 2011): You can argue until you’re blue in the face as to whether the team was right to trade so much away for Jones, but even at sixth overall he’s proven a big hit. There were some issues as a rookie but since then he’s proved one of the most dynamic receivers in the league, capable of getting big yards after the catch and getting in behind defenses.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
William Moore, S (55th overall pick in 2009): There were a lot of question marks regarding Moore which saw him slide on draft day. Still, the Falcons took their time developing him and he’s now become one of their most consistent defensive players. Managing 3,559 snaps, Moore isn’t coming off his best season, but he proved to be a better than average starter with his good work in both 2011 and 2012.
Corey Peters, DT (84th overall pick in 2010): After what can only be described as a tough rookie campaign, Peters has really grown into the role of the Falcons’ stout man in the middle, particularly in 2013 where he would earn a +7.8 grade in that regard.
Joe Hawley, C (118th overall pick in 2010): A former fourth-round pick, it looked like Hawley would forever be an afterthought but with Peter Konz struggling he used his 553 snaps on offense in 2013 to prove a capable starting center. It took a while but they’ll take it.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (145th overall pick in 2011): A fine rotational back who can handle himself in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. Rodgers may never be a feature back but he’s got a varied skillset that serves a number of purposes.
Matt Bosher, P (192nd overall pick in 2011): Bosher, who finished sixth in the PFF punter rankings this year, is a very good punter. That just about excuses using a pick on one when you have so few selections and so many holes.
0.0: It could have been worse
Garrett Reynolds, OL (156th overall pick in 2009): Flopped in his first starting duty in 2011 and that seemed to shape opinions on him. Was better in 2012 and 2013, but not good enough that the team didn’t give up on him.
Spencer Adkins, LB (176th overall pick in 2009): Just 77 snaps on defense but, like Owens, would make his mark on special teams which is a decent return on a sixth-rounder.
Dominique Franks, DB (136th overall pick in 2010): He’s played some at safety and cornerback in the Falcons’ sub-package defenses, returned punts, and played on return and coverage units. Franks has been a somewhat valuable role player and while his contribution has never wowed you, it at least is more than you might get out of a lot of fourth-rounders.
Kerry Meier, WR (166th overall pick in 2010): Never really caught on, playing just 34 snaps for the team after missing his rookie season. Such is the way with a lot of fifth-rounders.
Shann Schillinger, S (172nd overall pick in 2010): Offered some return on special teams but nowhere near enough you’d consider this a win for the team.
Cliff Matthews, DL (231st overall pick in 2011): Has seen himself surpassed by others in recent years, mustering a -6.8 in 313 career snaps. Might struggle to hang onto the roster come the start of the 2014 season.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Chris Owens, CB (90th overall pick in 2009): While Owens would play 1,176 snaps on defense it’s his work on special teams that prevented this from being worse. There, he managed 29 tackles while playing a number of roles but from a third-rounder you’d like a bigger contribution on defense.
Lawrence Sidbury, DE (125th overall pick in 2009): Seen as a potential draft day steal, Sidbury would only get on the field for 362 largely underwhelming snaps during his four years with the club.
William Middleton, CB (138th overall pick in 2009): Middleton would go onto have a degree of success elsewhere, but the fifth-rounder was waived before even managing a snap on defense.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB (19th overall pick in 2010): This might shock some, but while Weatherspoon has proved a playmaker, he’s not delivered more than you’d expect from a first-round linebacker selection. With his fantastic 2011 season proving more of an exception than the rule, Weatherspoon has responded with back to back negative grades against the run where his problems getting off blocks to make plays comes up all too often. Clearly talented but has not delivered to the maximum yet.
Mike Johnson, OL (99th overall pick in 2010): Opportunity was robbed from him when it looked like he was destined to start at right tackle in 2013. Without that bump to his resume Johnson has solely been an additional tight end with 117 snaps to his credit. Fans should demand more of any guy taken in the first 100 picks.
Akeem Johnson, LB (91st overall pick in 2011): Drafted to be the teams’ starting middle linebacker with Curtis Lofton in a contract year, Dent has quickly proven he’s not up to task with a couple of undrafted rookies surpassing him on the depth chart. His -12.4 grade in 943 snaps explains why.
Andrew Jackson, OL (210th overall pick in 2011): I hate to see teams give up on draft picks and the Falcons realized their error with Jackson before the start of the 2011 season.
-1.0: What a waste!
Peria Jerry, DT (24th overall pick in 2009): Injury halted his development, but in the years since then he’s totaled a -25.2 grade on 1,885 snaps. He hasn’t provided the push or penetration he was drafted to.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
No bust factor here …
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
And none to worry about here …
Here are links to the teams that have been through the Draft Grader to date:
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