Perhaps you remember where you were and what you were doing during the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. I recall that I was mildly annoyed that the Falcons didn't have a first round pick to play with, even though I felt that giving up that first round pick as part of a blockbuster trade to draft Julio Jones in 2011 was the right decision.
And so I watched as the Browns used Atlanta's 2012 first round pick, the 22nd overall, to select quarterback Brandon Weeden. "Is he 40 years old?" was my first question, followed by, "What are the Browns even trying to do here?" At the time, the Falcons thought they were set with two starting defensive ends, John Abraham and Ray Edwards. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had departed for some other team in free agency with Akeem Dent next up on the depth chart, so that was a need, as was a starting-caliber outside linebacker to play opposite Sean Weatherspoon. Offensive line was definitely a need for Atlanta.
I didn't re-do Atlanta's decision to move up in the 2011 draft to select Julio Jones, because I maintain that the move was the best decision for the team, so I technically shouldn't redo the first round of the 2012 draft, either. However, just for fun, let's take a look at what the Falcons might have done instead.
There are a couple of options that stand out as being viable for Atlanta in the first round of the 2012 draft. With Curtis Lofton gone, the Falcons could have opted to fill that role with Dont'a Hightower, who ended up being selected by the Patriots 25th overall. Hightower finished last season with 80 tackles, 27 assists, and a +12.8 Pro Football Focus grade on 1,012 snaps with the Patriots last season. Another interesting choice would have been running back Doug Martin, who went to Tampa Bay with the 31st overall pick. With an aging Michael Turner on the roster, the Falcons could have looked to secure that position for the future. They might have been slight reaches, but the Falcons also could have had tight end Coby Fleener or offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz with this pick--both players went to their respective teams early in the second round.
Oh, good Lord.
I think we wouldn't collectively frown upon the 2012 draft to the extent that we do had it not been for this particular pick. The Falcons used their second round pick to select Peter Konz out of the University of Wisconsin. Concerns about Konz leading up to the draft were functional strength--yep--and the fact that he consistently let defenders get leverage on him in pass protection--yep. Still, people generally loved the pick at the time. Konz filled a need on the interior line, and widely considered the best center in that draft, looked to be the heir apparent to Todd McClure.
Well, Konz hasn't been good, particularly last season. It happens. Hopefully he'll get better, since that's what the Falcons did with their pick and we can't do it over in real life. Oh, if the Falcons had only gone for outside linebacker Lavonte David instead. David was selected by the Buccaneers just three picks later.
Atlanta selected Lamar Holmes with their third round pick. Holmes was projected to go in the late rounds. He was probably a reach in the third, and the Falcons pulled the trigger primarily because of his size. At the time, a lot of people were surprised that Atlanta didn't go with Brandon Thompson, the defensive tackle who was selected by Cincinnati shortly after Atlanta took Holmes. Had they made this move, they likely would have bypassed Travian Robertson later in the draft.
Again, the Falcons had no pick in this round due to the Julio Jones trade, but if they had, they might have gone for cornerback Brandon Boykin or even linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who ended up going undrafted and would have been considered a reach. He likely would have been off Atlanta's draft board with a failed drug test hanging over his head, also.
The Falcons selected fullback Bradie Ewing, and coming on the heels of the Lamar Holmes selection in the third round and the lack of a fourth round pick, it was not well-received. Remember also that Ovie Mughelli was still on the roster, so at the time, it looked like Atlanta threw a fifth-round pick at a backup fullback, which made very little sense. Ewing was recently waived by the Falcons after spending the entirety of his rookie season and the bulk of last season on injured reserve. Had he stayed healthy, we might feel differently about this pick. As it stands, however, I think we'd all like to have this one back.
Running back Alfred Morris went to the Redskins in the early sixth round, and he would have been a phenomenal option for Atlanta with the Bradie Ewing pick. The Falcons could have kept Mughelli or rolled with Mike Cox, which is what they ended up doing following Ewing's injury in preseason, anyway. Grabbing Winston Guy or Trent Robinson as safety depth also would have been an option.
Atlanta chose Jonathan Massaquoi a few picks later, and I really like his development at this point. I expect that we'll see him in more consistent rotation this season. I feel like the team has, to date, gotten the value out of Massaquoi that one would expect from a fifth-round selection. This is by far their most successful pick of the 2012 draft. Let that sink in for a moment.
Atlanta chose Charles Mitchell, a safety, as depth in the sixth round. Mitchell didn't pan out and is no longer on the roster. An interesting choice here would have been offensive tackle Matt McCants who was drafted by--but did not stick with--the Giants. McCants is not a full time player in Oakland, but in 2013 he performed well in limited snaps at right tackle. He would have been a good depth choice.
Atlanta selected defensive tackle Travian Robertson in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Past a point, if a seventh rounder is still on your team two seasons later and is getting some playing time in rotation, the pick is probably a success considering where he was drafted. This is the second-most successful draft pick in this group. 2012 was terrible. If the Falcons wanted to go in a different direction here and lock up some depth at strong safety, Duke Ihenacho went undrafted and would have been an option here.
What do you think about Atlanta's 2012 draft? What do you wish the team would have done differently?