In the final installment of our series examining the draft classes of the new Falcons era, we take a look back at the most recent draft class: the class of 2012. As many of you no doubt remembered, this draft was short-changed by the trade in 2011 that landed us Julio Jones. We went into the 2012 draft without a 1st or 4th rounder.
55th pick - Peter Konz - OL - Wisconsin
The Falcons entered the 2012 draft following a season of pretty terrible offensive line play. Joe Hawley struggled at center, Sam Baker was a nightmare at LT and Garrett Reynolds a revolving door at right guard. It became clear that the Falcons needed to spend some picks on the offensive line in this draft. When pick 55 came around, many were surprised that Konz had fallen this far - as he was widely considered the best C prospect in the draft. The Falcons gladly snatched him up, even though Center wasn't one of our immediate problems on the line (though McClure was not a spring chicken anymore either).
As is normal, the rookie struggled to unseat the veteran McClure at the center position and lost out in the initial competition for right guard with Reynolds (who turned in a much better 2012). However, when Reynolds went down with injury mid way through the season, Konz was given his opportunity to start at right guard. Predictably, the rookie struggled at first.
Considering Konz had played center for his entire collegiate career, it can be understood why he struggled at right guard initially. First, centers are rarely responsible for one-on-one matchups, and thus, do not need the same amount of strength a guard needs. While Konz isn't weak, he wasn't quite ready for the NFL guard position. Konz was regularly overpowered by bigger defensive tackles and struggled to maintain an interior pocket.
However, as the season progressed, Konz showed signs of improvement and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was playing at a decent level. The progress during the season gave reason for hope that his 2013 would be a much improved one. Whether that is at right guard or center is the only question at this point.
Given his first round grading, and the fact that we snagged him in the second, Konz looks like a good pick for this draft. It's obviously too early to tell for sure, but early signs are encouraging.
91st pick - Lamar Holmes - T - Southern Mississippi
To say that this pick confused some Falcons fans would be an understatement. When the Falcons selected Holmes in the mid/late 3rd, many were left scratching their heads asking "Who?". Very little tape was available for Lamar Holmes and few people knew much about him except this: he's a large, large man. The fact that Holmes was considered, at best, a late 4 into 5th round talent caused many to be concerned that this was a bit of a reach.
At 6'6" and over 330 lbs, Holmes meets the definition of a beast of a man. His long 35 1/4 inch arms and 10 inch hands also stand out. After the draft, word started to trickle in about Holmes. Team Captain for his work ethic. Dominant East-West game performance. Athletic player with good pass protection chops.
Unfortunately, fans barely saw Holmes during the 2012 season, as he started off camps injured and would barely see any playing time during the preseason or regular season. That said, the coaching staff seems particularly high on Holmes, and the recent release of Tyson Clabo has driven many to speculate that Holmes will get a shot at that right tackle position in 2013. If he can secure the position as a starter and show progress, this "reach" will become a good selection.
157th pick - Bradie Ewing - FB - Wisconsin
Another head-scratching pick, Ewing was considered the best fullback available in the draft - but many questioned why a pick would be used on a FB at all, when the position is becoming less and less relevant in the NFL. That said, Ewing was intriguing as a good lead blocker, but also a capable receiver.
Unfortunately, Ewing went down early in the preseason with an ACL injury and missed the entire 2012 season.
164th pick - Jonathan Massaqoui - DE - Troy
An intriguing prospect, Massaqoui was considered a higher ranked talent after his stellar junior year, but slid down considerably when he had a less impressive senior campaign. A pass rusher with good initial burst, many hoped that Massaqoui would be a steal as a fifth rounder. However, he saw little playing time in 2012 - registering no notable stats. Going into the 2013 season, and the release of John Abraham, there is considerable hope that Massaqoui will get to see considerable playing time and hopefully turn out to be the kind of steal many fans thought he would be.
192nd pick - Charles Mitchell - SS - Mississippi State
A high character player who projects well as a special teams contributor and backup strong safety, Mitchell looked like a good depth pick for the Falcons. Mitchell saw a few snaps in 2012, but nothing notable enough to project off of.
249th pick - Travian Robertson - DT - South Carolina
An intriguing pick, Robertson entered the Falcons camp with little expectation to make the roster. However, he quickly established himself as a very powerful player who has the ability to be disruptive. He showed to still be very raw and often took plays off, but his upside seems big. He's a natural fit at nose-tackle, and his ability to push the pocket could be critical to him making the 53 man roster in 2013. If he continues to show the flashes he did in 2012, Robertson could be another late-round gem that Dimitroff seems to be a king at finding.
It's way too early to draw any solid conclusions about our most recent draft class. Guys like Konz and Holmes could be long-term fixtures on our offensive line, while Massaqoui, Ewing and Robertson could all finally see significant playing time in 2013. There are some very intriguing players from this draft, and if they pan out as originally hoped, this could be one of the most significant drafts for the Falcons in the past few years - which would make it particularly impressive, considering the lack of a first and fourth rounder.