It was an exciting, yet strange time for the Atlanta Falcons. They surprised the league by going 13-3 in 2010 through ball control and forcing turnovers. While their future looked bright, one dark image loomed across Atlanta. It wasn't the lockout that the entire league was enduring from March 12th to July 25th, either. The embarrassing playoff defeat to the Green Bay Packers wasn't going to be forgotten so easily. For the first time since 2005, the Georgia Dome had hosted hosted a playoff game, and it ended poorly.
Atlanta's lack of playmakers was exposed during the loss to Green Bay. Everyone knew that the Falcons defense was average at best, but it was the lack of explosive play-makers that made them beatable, if you can build a sizable lead. On a national stage, Matt Ryan couldn't throw the ball downfield in attempting to come back from a three-score deficit. Another wide receiver was needed, as Michael Jenkins was expendable and Harry Douglas was never going to develop into a capable starter.
A game-changing playmaker was needed to relive the pressure off the running game. With the twenty-seventh pick, it was going to be difficult to find an immediate game changer. The pressure was on, as the 2010 NFL Executive of the Year took a massive gamble to fulfill this need, as we're about to cover.
You can view my draft evaluations here in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
A tally will be formulated into two parts. Between the first four rounds, Dimitroff will be graded on picks that were either considered as satisfying or ultimately letdowns. From rounds five to seven, the grades will be determined by either significant or insignificant, since those rounds are hard to truly rate as letdowns.
Julio Jones- 1st round (Overall pick: 6th)
What is there left to say about Jones? As is the case with Matt Ryan, all you have to do is look at his resume to recognize greatness. Without him, the offense diminishes greatly into being a "dink-and-dunk" passing attack. His ability as a vertical receiver is arguably his greatest attribute, and he has many.
While trading away four picks for any player isn't the most ideal strategy in building a contender, Jones has been sensational. Nobody can argue with his production and impact for a team that was in dire need of a game-changer offensively. Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White were all starting to move past the prime of their respective careers. A new star was needed and the Falcons couldn't have made a bigger splash than they did. (Satisfied)
Akeem Dent- 3rd round (Overall pick: 91st)
Another eyebrow raising third-round pick that continued the yearly tradition. After selecting Corey Peters in 2010, the selection of Dent brought disappointment to the fanbase. Unlike Peters, Dent never gained the fans' approval.
The former Georgia Bulldog was always considered to be a hard worker that excelled as a run defender. His lack of versatility in coverage made him a puzzling pick in the third round. Some websites even viewed him as a late-round pick at best.
With Mike Nolan implementing a more hybrid defense, it was odd to see a thumper like Dent become a three-down player in 2013. Stephen Nicholas was always a liability in coverage. Why would they rely on a player that never had good range as a middle linebacker? Similar to Curtis Lofton, Dent seemed destined to be effective as a two-down linebacker. Lofton wasn't re-signed for being strictly a two-down linebacker.
Why they viewed Dent as an upgrade over Lofton is beyond me. Lofa Tatupu was brought in as competition for the 2012 season, but it was evident that the coaching staff wanted Dent to win the job. After being benched in early 2013, Dent never recovered and Paul Worrilow took over the reigns at middle linebacker. He was traded to Houston for backup quarterback T.J Yates, which proves how minimal his value was in Atlanta. This was arguably Dimitroff's worst third-round pick. (Letdown)
Jacquizz Rodgers- 5th round (Overall pick: 145th)
The dynamic running back out of Oregon State was an immediate hit. While some fans may not rate him highly, it's easy to forget that Rodgers was a fifth round pick. All of the talk about him ascending over Michael Turner in 2012 was silly. His limitations were evident, from not having breakaway speed to being unable to run efficiently between the tackles. Unrealistic expectations seemed to derail his stock, at least with fans.
What Rodgers should be remembered for was being dependable when called upon. Whether it was a key blitz pickup or a jaw-dropping move to make a tackler miss, big moments in big games was his calling card. This was easily Dimitroff's best fifth round pick for now. Nobody in Atlanta embodied the essence of a being an effective role player quite like Rodgers.
Don't let old unrealistic expectations of him becoming the next Ray Rice (on the field) hinder your appreciation for him. As a fifth round pick, what an absolute bargain for a player of his caliber. Rodgers will always be a solid role player that is capable of an unbelievable individual effort. That is something that the best safety in the league can agree on. (Significant)
Matt Bosher- 6th round (Overall pick: 192nd)
It's rare to see a punter actually selected in the NFL draft. We'll never know the meaning behind this pick by Dimitroff. Michael Koenen wasn't re-signed, so the position was an actual need. Bosher has ended up becoming one of the better punters in the league. Since 2012, the former Miami Hurricane has averaged more than 45 yards per punt.
His willingness to tackle opposing returners has made him a fan favorite. Although I'm hoping Matt Bryant's future replacement doesn't get drafted (or Bryant doesn't ever retire), this pick does show rare value in drafting a special teams player. His development into a quality punter makes this a solid selection. (Significant)
Andrew Jackson- 7th round (Overall pick: 210th)
There have been more than a few obscure picks under Dimitroff's tenure. Players like William Middleton and Keith Zinger come to mind. Those players did have information written about them from college. Despite playing for Fresno State, Jackson was virtually anonymous as a player.
His career didn't translate into anything notable. Atlanta cut him in 2012 after one season. The same fate occurred in Buffalo, as Jackson was cut after one season. That move essentially ended his NFL career. (Insignificant)
Cliff Matthews- 7th round (Overall pick: 230th)
In a draft class featuring many excellent pass-rushing prospects, Atlanta waited until the seventh round to select a pass-rusher. My fellow co-host Aaron Freeman of the Falcfans podcast has always criticized Dimitroff for waiting until the seventh round. It was a strange move, despite the need for another option alongside John Abraham. It makes the selection of Dent even more odd from that perspective.
Matthews has ended up becoming a decent role player. While the former Gamecock is on the list of pass rushers that failed to make an impact in Atlanta, his versatility tends to go unnoticed. His ability to play special teams has kept him on the roster. It's commendable to stay on an NFL roster for four seasons as a seventh round pick. That isn't enough to be considered as a significant pick though. Matthews hasn't had anywhere close to the impact that Vance Walker had. One decent game against a weak Arizona Cardinals offensive line doesn't change that. (Insignificant)
Due to the blockbuster trade, only two draft picks were in Atlanta's disposal through the first four rounds. It's pretty self explanatory that Jones couldn't have been a better pick, while Dent couldn't have been a worse pick. Dimitroff fared well in the final three rounds by selecting two out of four players that became solid contributors.
The tally from 2008 to 2011 shows that Dimitroff has done a solid job within the first four rounds. He has selected eight players that have ended up having productive careers in Atlanta. The same number applies for players that were considered as letdowns. A fifty percent rate still stands, as it was through the 2008-2010 draft. In the final three rounds, four out of sixteen players have ended up becoming solid contributors for Atlanta. If you want to look at the four drafts holistically, twelve out of thirty-two players have ended up becoming positive picks.
This is the most difficult draft to evaluate given the circumstances. Four draft picks were traded in order to select Jones, which will always be labeled as overly excessive. A wide receiver's value will never reach the level of trading away four draft picks, and not even a player like Jones, Calvin Johnson, or Dez Bryant can change that. How many playoff wins do their respective teams have over the past four seasons? Dallas and Atlanta each have one win, while Detroit has none.
Jones is a special player that deserves to be paid like an elite receiver. It's still hard to justify trading four picks, although Dent not being a flop would have helped this draft greatly. For Atlanta to have no second round pick and essentially receive nothing out of their third round selection hurts significantly. Rodgers and Bosher were excellent late round picks that salvaged this draft, at least to an extent.
While selecting an explosive play maker fulfilled a major need, this move handicapped Atlanta's draft plans going into 2012 with no first round pick. The front office also learned that no explosive play maker can save a team against an overwhelming pass rush. A disappointing 10-6 season will mostly be remembered by a 24-2 playoff loss to the New York Giants (as a fellow New Yorker, my heart and bank account does). The emphasis on becoming "tougher" and upgrading the offensive line were priorities going into the 2012 off-season.