The Atlanta Falcons put together a 2014
Here are the Falcons' 2014 NFL Draft results.
- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas (A&M) | Pick Story | Where Will He Play?
- Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota | Pick Story | Where Will He Play?
- Dezmen Southward, FS, Wisconsin | Pick Story
- Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State | Pick Story
- Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame | Pick Story
- Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue | Pick Story
- Marquis Spruill, ILB, Syracuse | Pick Story
- Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut | Pick Story
- Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota | Pick Story
We're going to give early grades, get your grades and much, much more in the days and weeks ahead as we learn more about this draft class and how each player within it will fit in Atlanta. Because a few of you have asked, I wanted to share a few initial thoughts.
The weakness of this class is that it does not prominently feature a ready edge rusher. Prince Shembo might be useful in that capacity down the line, but the Falcons spent an entire offseason shopping for upgrades that didn't come. If Jonathan Massaquoi takes a big step forward and the Falcons properly harness the rest of their rotation, they could surprise other teams, but this won't be anything close to an elite pass rush once again.
At the same time, though, the Falcons made some important picks here, and for once they didn't let character concerns or the desire for polished players dictate their draft strategy. Hageman has a chance to be a truly dominant interior pass rusher and 3-4 end, Southward has all the tools to be an above average starting safety and Shembo, Allen and Spruill all have legitimate upside. Smallwood and Starr are late-round picks to try to shore up a group of linebackers that frankly needs the help, joining Spruill and Shembo as options for a linebacking corps that will need some re-tooling in the Falcons' 3-4 sets. Starr and Shembo will likely stay outside, while Spruill and Smallwood move inside.
Freeman gives them a potential lead back in a committee down the line, while Matthews gives them a potential top five left tackle for many years to come. It's a high-variance class, which means it could get Thomas Dimitroff fired a couple of years down the line or prove to be more successful than the most optimistic among us currently are inclined to think.
Me? Aside from the glaring and disappointing lack of an edge rusher, I thought the Falcons stuck to their stated offseason goals, and I think it was overdue. This team is bigger and tougher along the lines of scrimmage than it was a year ago and has added pieces to a disappointing defense with an eye on remaking the unit. Whether that translates into more wins is an open question we'll have to wait to answer, but it's a step in a direction I hope will be productive. That and the 3-4 sets the Falcons are running more often, gosh damnit. Couple that with the improvements they've made to the right side of the line and it's easier to see a bounceback year, even if's unlikely they'll be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2014.
Your thoughts? Thanks, as always, for being Falcoholics, and stay tuned for a lot more content in the days ahead.