With the 2013 NFL Draft swiftly approaching, all eyes are on Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff as fans wait to see what he has planned for a team that still needs starters at key positions on defense, and could use depth at many positions on both sides of the ball. Dimitroff is widely regarded as an excellent general manager. He has, in general, drafted very well and made smart trade and free agency decisions on behalf of the Falcons. So much so, in fact, that the St. Louis Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars both looked to Atlanta's front office when hiring their general managers, Les Snead and David Caldwell. Teams want to build their future in Atlanta's image--when you have five consecutive winning seasons and four playoff appearances in five years, that will happen.
If there's one constant in the way that Thomas Dimitroff approaches player acquisition, whether via trade, free agency or the draft, it's the focus on character. Daniel Cox covered this beautifully on AtlantaFalcons.com. Dimitroff is looking for guys that are team players, who avoid distractions off the field, and who will be leaders in the locker room or willingly assimilate into the locker room culture the Falcons have so carefully cultivated.
Dimitroff spoke to the media last week about the draft, and he had a lot to say, so you should watch the video on AtlantaFalcons.com in its entirety. He did confirm that, with 11 picks this year, the Falcons will be active, although he alluded to the fact that "being active" can mean moving up or down in the draft order. He made it clear, with reference to the trade with Cleveland to acquire Julio Jones, that teams now know Atlanta is open to making big deals on draft day, and he gets calls every year from teams looking to make deals. He mentioned that he expects teams will be very open to trading out of the top ten, because this year's draft contains more quality depth players than flashy talent. Dimitroff likes picking at 30, especially this year, because the Falcons could conceivably move up in the draft, or move back, and still obtain quality impact players, particularly on defense or along the offensive line.
The Falcons, under Dimitroff's leadership, have had more hits than misses in the draft. In a world where the media tends to ignore and/or scorn the Falcons, Sports Illustrated actually placed Atlanta's front office at 6th in the league, behind Baltimore, Green Bay, the New York Giants, New England and Seattle, in their recent Front Office Power Rankings article.
The overwhelming reality is, you can follow all of the mock drafts you want, and you can analyze and speculate all day long, and we'll all still be surprised in some way on draft day. As Dave wrote today, it's very likely that what will unfold this week will not be at all consistent with anything we, as fans, want or expect. Remember when the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan, and our collective reaction to that pick? For many fans, that response was, "who?" and then, "why?" We were wrong. Remember the blockbuster move to draft Julio Jones, and how many of us were convinced that we were mortgaging the future to get one player, and that worked out pretty well, also. The only thing we can really be sure about going into the draft is, the Comrade has this under control.