I know you've been waiting for me to make like a teacher and drop some grade knowledge on you, so consider yourself off the waiting list. Aw yeah.
The informal consensus around the Interwebs seems to be that the Falcons are averaging between a B+ and a B, which is the kind of average that Thomas Dimitroff can take home to his parents and be proud of. Those grades are based largely on knee-jerk reactions to the draft, but it speaks well to the laser-like focus on defense that the Falcons chose to go for. As you might expect, my own grades are slightly different.
Keep in mind that we haven't even seen these guys take the field for the Falcons, so these are just preliminary impressions based on potential and where they were selected. Let's take it from the top!
DT Peria Jerry
Despite what people like ESPN's John Clayton are saying, Jerry isn't currently the run-stopping beast many Falcons fans thought they were getting. With a frame that can handle more weight, a very effective anti-quarterback arsenal and great character intangibles that make scouts draw hearts in their notebooks, Jerry's got a bright future in Atlanta. I busted him down a notch because I don't believe he's a complete player yet, but it shouldn't take long.
S William Moore
The Falcons filled a need and went best player available here, so it's hard to quibble with what they accomplished by picking up Moore. Dimitroff has said he envisions Moore as the kind of safety that blows people up, which means we need a catchy explosives-related nickname for him. The Human Grenade, anyone? Moore's major weakness would seem to be in coverage, and that's something I'd definitely like to see improve in the months ahead. The Falcons need all the coverage help they can get, and if he's going to be a liability against the pass DeCoud may actually have a shot to beat him out this year. Still, I really believe Moore was the best fit left in the second round, and I give kudos to the staff for picking him up.
CB Christopher Owens
Don't get me wrong. I think Owens has a starting role in his future, but it's difficult to argue that the Falcons couldn't have gotten him at least a round later and targetted someone else here. Most thought he would be a fourth or fifth round pick, so clearly the team's draft board looked a lot different than theirs. Owens doesn't have prototypical size, but he's a very good coverage cornerback who will probably rise through the ranks quickly. For his first year in the league, it's not unreasonable to think he could end up as the nickel back.
DE/LB Lawrence Sidbury
Just incredible value here. Sidbury could push Jamaal Anderson to start at defensive end or lock up an outside linebacker spot. He's a good hitter who moves fluidly and will cause trouble for opposing quarterbacks. Many thought he would go in the second or third round, making his selection in the fourth all the more outstanding for Dimitroff. If they find the right position for him and let him work through any rookie struggles, Sidbury may turn out to be the best Falcon of the 2009 draft. I'm so high on this guy that the DEA is raiding my home.
CB William Middleton
I'm being harsh here, but I didn't see this as a need. Chris Houston is still a pretty talented cornerback, Von Hutchins is a solid veteran, Chevis Jackson is almost ready to start and Brent Grimes is still a freakish athlete who provides value when he's on the field. Middleton is like Grimes in that he's a physical freak, but he also hits hard for a corner and is supposed to be pretty good in coverage. He may well end up being a very good player for a fifth round pick, but I think the Falcons could have hit a lot of other needs here, including Falcoholic favorite LB Marcus Freeman. We'll see how he pans out.
OT Garrett Reynolds
I find it nearly impossible to quibble with this pick. I believe Reynolds could legitimately compete to start at right tackle by his second year, and that's not the kind of value you usually expect to find in the fifth round. A classic big, lumbering run-abetter, Reynolds will have to work on his footwork and his ability to stop the pass rush, but that should be possible with coaching help. Even if Reynolds never ends up being more than a very good backup, this was a great value selection.
OLB/ILB Spencer Adkins
It's all about upside with Spencer Adkins. A big mean athletic linebacking machine, Adkins needs to be molded, kiln fired and then glazed over the course of a couple seasons, but he may eventually prove to be a beast for us. Like Reynolds, I'd be satisfied if he ended up being little more than a backup, and that may be the most realistic role for him in the end. Questions over which linebacking spot he'll occupy and his rawness led me to give him a B, but I like his upside. Did I mention upside?
DT Vance Walker
Walker's got a real chance to be a run-stopping backup defensive tackle for this team who will rotate in and get some snaps when we need a stop up front. He's got some work to do, sure, but he's a seventh round pick. He's actually unusually polished for someone taken that late, and I'd give him a better than 50% chance to make the team.
Given the lack of star power in this draft and its depth, it's little surprise that the Falcons managed to get value at almost every pick without looking for the flashiest guys available. There's a legitimate chance that every single pick could make the 2009 roster, which makes this a draft worth applauding.
Leave your grades in the comments, and feel free to deify or lambast me for mine.