Continuing our series on the draft classes in the new Falcons era, this time we're going to take a look at the 2010 draft class. The thing to keep in mind about this draft - we're missing the second round pick because it was traded in 2009 for one Tony Gonzalez. While some would want to include that move was part of this draft, I'm leaving it out to focus solely on players we scouted and grabbed. Guys like Gonzo had a proven history and don't speak as strongly to the scouting our front office did.
19th pick - Sean Weatherspoon - LB - Missouri
Anyone who has watched a Falcons game since 2010 has inevitably heard the cry from the stands of "Spoooooon." An energetic and emotional player, Weatherspoon instantly started at OLB in his rookie year - learning some significant lessons along the way. While his rookie season was inconsistent, his second year was very strong - and many felt he deserved a pro-bowl spot. In a short amount of time, Spoon quickly overshadowed Curtis Lofton and in 2012, when Lofton left for the Saints, Weatherspoon took over the leadership responsibilities for the defense. Although his 2012 season was not as good as 2011, he still turned in a solid season.
Since joining the Falcons, Spoon has become a center piece on the defense. His coverage skills are very strong, while he can also lay the wood. He's not always a consistent tackler, which is undoubtedly something he'll work on for the 2013 season. And he's struggled with injuries here and there, undoubtedly due to his hard knocking style of play. But Spoon has been a great pickup for the Falcons and is a cornerstone on which the defense will be built for years.
83rd pick - Corey Peters - DT - Kentucky
The term "reach" is often used when a player is drafted in a higher round than his pre-draft mocks had him positioned. And many felt Peters was just that - due to his fourth to fifth round grade by many analysts. So, whenever a GM "reaches" for a player, there's obviously a hope that the player will contribute commensurate with their draft position. And that has been the case with Peters.
What originally looked like a pick for depth on a rotational line, Peters quickly supplanted a Peria Jerry in the starting lineup. In his first year, Peters proved to be a very good run stopper and earned his 15 rookie starts. In 2011, Peters took another step forward, proving to be a disruptive player - snagging 3 sacks during the year - and looking more and more like a long-term answer at tackle for the Falcons. His 2012 season wasn't nearly as strong, mostly due to missing half the season injured. But there's no doubt that this was a solid pick for the front office.
98th pick - Mike Johnson - OG - Alabama
Anytime you can get a run mauler from one of the best college football programs in the nation in the third round, you take it. Johnson was one of the key pieces that contributed to the success of guys like Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram while playing at RG at Alabama. Johnson also had the benefit of having played nearly every position on the line, making him a good swing-player coming out of college.
However, injury derailed Johnson's rookie year and in 2011 and 2012, he lost out to Garrett Reynolds in the competition for the RG spot. To this point, Johnson has been relegated to backup and coming in for jumbo packages, though 2013 may be his year to prove he is a starting caliber player. If he can't find a way to break into the starting lineup, this may be a miss for having been a third round pick.
117th pick - Joe Hawley - C - Nevada Las Vegas
The second lineman picked in this draft, Hawley has all the physical traits you look for in a Center. With Todd McClure well over 30 by the time this pick came in, it was widely thought that Hawley would be the lead competitor to take over the starting C position once McClure retired. While he spent his time on the bench in 2010, Hawley began seeing action in 2011. When McClure went down with some injuries, Hawley stepped in at Center. When McClure returned, Hawley was moved over to RG to replace Garrett Reynolds who performed poorly in the position.
Going into 2013, there's some debate over whether Peter Konz will be our center of the future, or if he'll remain at RG while Hawley ends up being the one snapping to Ryan. For a fourth rounder, Hawley has given you what you'd hope to get. Some contribution, just nothing special. If he can break into the starting lineup in 2013, he'll have been a solid pick for this draft.
135th pick - Dominique Franks - DB - Oklahoma
A DB with some upside, Franks was seen as a player that could develop into a starter and also contribute on special teams. Along those lines, Franks has been an enigma. Fans have heard repeatedly about how good he looks in camp, only to see a different product on the field. In the 2012 season, Franks was cut but ultimately signed back onto the roster after an injury to Tim Toone opened the spot back up for him. He also "fielded" punts in 2012, but quickly earned the nickname "Fair-catch Franks" due to his poor returns or mental errors. His coverage actually improved in 2012, though, with some decent performances towards the end of the season - even filling in at safety.
This upcoming season will tell the tale on Franks. Under Nolan, the entire secondary has performed better. If Franks is going to finally do something of significance, it will have to be in 2013.
165th pick - Kerry Meier - WR - Kansas
Falcons fans fondly recall Brian Finneran, even though his numbers never wowed. He was the type of player that just fought and did everything that was asked of him. When Finn retired, there was hope that Meier would be the heir to that role. As a former QB, Meier has all the smarts and decent athleticism along with good hands and solid route running. His biggest problem? Health. Meier has continually battled injuries, including an ACL tear that ended his rookie season. He "played" in 2011, but never even received a pass. He has been a solid special teams contributor, but in 2012 he was cut. Whether he receives another chance in 2013, this pick was an unfortunate miss.
171st pick - Shann Schillinger - S - Montana
Shillinger has proven to be nothing more than a special teamer when not on the practice squad. His time on the roster looks to be nearing it's end, unless he can show dramatic improvement in the 2013 season. As a sixth rounder, the expectations weren't very high to begin with.
With two starters, and a potential third (and outside shot at fourth), the 2010 draft was a solid one. Though there are some potential misses in this class (Johnson, Franks), the fact that these guys were still on the roster in 2012 means there is still hope that they end up being the picks we had hoped they would be.