With the 2012 draft around the corner I though it would be interesting to look back on the 2011 draft and see how our rookies are looking 1 year on. Our rookie class last year consisted of 6 picks:
Julio Jones (1st round), Akeem Dent (3rd round), Jacquizz Rodgers (5th) Matt Bosher (6th), Cliff Matthews (7th) and Andrew Jackson(7th).
As we all know we gave up a lot for JJ and a little bit for Rodgers during the draft so i will try and decide if it was worth it.Julio Jones: Jones had a great year while playing 13 games (or less depending on how you look at it) he had 54 receptions (3rd for rookies), 959 yards (2nd), and 8 TD's (1st). He helped make our offense more balanced by adding in another threat besides Roddy White and added explosiveness in the passing attack (JJ averaged 17.8 ypc compared to Roddy's 13.0). As a rookie he has been amazing and will only get better with time, I think it was an amazing pickup by the Falcons. The only issue is what we gave up.
The Falcons gave up their 1st, 2nd and 4th round pick in 2011 and 1st and 4th round picks in 2012. The players that were drafted due to this trade were: Phillip Taylor in the 1st round (Browns drafted up for him but regardless) Who had 4 sacks (2nd most for a rookie DT) and was 11th in rookies with 59 tackles (1st for a DT). Greg Little in the 2nd round, he is probably the 3rd best WR to come out of the draft after grabbing 61 catches for 709 yards (all while playing for a lackluster Browns offense). Owen Marecic in the 4th round, he was a solid enough fullback from what I can tell but didn't do anything exceptional.
With 2 more picks that still are to be graded we don't have a full picture of how it will turn out, however it does seem like the Browns got the better deal from this trade. Yes it is true we probably wouldn't need a DT or a FB, we still gave up some very solid players and probably could have done with giving away less. It will take a few years to see the true impact of this trade but for the most part I am happy with it, I just hope JJ continues to be dominant and Greg Little is less so.
Akeem Dent: A few months ago I probably would have been a bit more critical of this pick. Dent had an ok rookie season but it was nothing special, 20 tackles and 1 FF with no starts. However with the loss of Lofton and the aging and possible loss of Mike Peterson there is a good chance that he will get a few starts and be a key player in our LB group going forward. I'm still not ready to call him a future starter just yet but all in all I think it was a very good pick looking forward and either this year or next year he will be a big part of the Falcons D if he steps up.
Jacquizz Rodgers: This was an amazing value pick which will only be better with time. Rodgers is a great compliment to Turner who can lighten the load for him as he gets older and also provide a change of pace player in the backfield. he had an ok year considering Snelling was also taking up a fair bit of the load getting 57 carries for 205 yards and 1 TD. He also got 21 catches for 188 yards and a single TD. To secure Rodgers we had to give away a 5th and 7th round pick both who got waived before playing a game however 7th round pick Jonathan Nelson was eventually found by the Panthers where he grabbed 7 tackles and 1 INT. He could be someone to take notice of later in his career but right now Rodgers was a steal and a great value pick.
Matt Bosher: The man who went from weekly disappointment to special teams hero. It took him some time to find his leg but after he did the loss of Koenan seemed like a distant memory. I still think that we could have used that pick in the 7th round and still grabbed him but regardless he is a solid player.
Cliff Matthews: A prospective DE who might get a few snaps this year because of Abraham's age but generally he is a deep backup and a special teams guy, again time will tell how he ends up.
Andrew Jackson: Don't believe he did anything, maybe special teams. He will again be a player where time will tell how useful he is.
Overall it was a good draft which will ultimately be determined in a couple years. Can't really ask for much more in terms of a draft with the only real question mark being what we gave up for JJ in terms of the 2012 draft. If I was to grade it I'd say it was about an A- or B+. It was a good draft with 4 useful players and 2 prospects my biggest issue is how much we gave up for JJ and I have a bad feeling that it might have been a bit too much, but on the other hand I do think JJ is worth it...its a fine line.