How Much Could Scott Pioli Influence Atlanta's Draft Picks?

USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully not all that much.

When former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli was brought on board as an assistant to Thomas Dimitroff, the move was mostly met with hesitant approval.

Sure, Pioli had an incredibly checkered four-year tenure in Kansas City (though former head coaches Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel deserve just as much blame). But it's not as if he wasn't successful in his own right as one of the head talent evaluators during the New England golden years.

And the initial thought when he was hired as an assistant to Dimitroff, in the words of T.D. himself, was that Pioli would simply be another "voice at the table."

Free agency taught us otherwise, as the Falcons wound up signing three former Chiefs (Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah and Javier Arenas), all of whom were draft picks under Pioli. Clearly, he has more influence in this organization than your average member of the front office.

So with the draft set to begin on Thursday, the next logical question becomes what effect, if any, does Pioli have on this very important Falcons draft class?

What immediately stands out is that Pioli is not afraid of reaching on "project" players without much college production, such as Dontari Poe or Tyson Jackson. Character concerns (i.e. Justin Houston) were also not immediate disqualifiers.

Even more than all of this, however, Pioli's track record of drafting linemen was pretty horrendous. Asamoah was the only offensive lineman you could argue was a sound selection. Neither Jeff Allen nor Donald Stephenson panned out (they received ratings of -12.0 and -8.7, respectively from PFF last season), and the jury is still out on Rodney Hudson.

So how could this affect the Falcons? Well, if the team elects to not trade up for Jadeveon Clowney and stays put at sixth overall, Taylor Lewan would be a guy that compares to both Allen and Stephenson: an athletic finesse blocker with concerns about his ability to finish blocks.

Taking Pioli's presence into account, this perhaps explains why some draft analysts believe the Falcons are interested in Lewan over Jake Matthews (because Lewan certainly doesn't come across as a Dimitroff pick). Hopefully this does not end up being the case, because I personally am not sold on Lewan as a player at all. His off-the-field issues only heighten my concern.

In the end, however, I'd be surprised if Pioli has as much influence on the draft as he did in free agency. The Falcons seem set on moving up in the first round, which is of course Dimitroff's M.O. much more than it is Pioli's, and there's a lot riding on this year's class for the current regime. He can't let the new guy have all the fun.

What say you? Where do we maybe see evidence of Pioli's hand in this draft, if at all?

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