After being physically abused for the second consecutive year in the playoffs, the pressure was starting to heat up in Atlanta. This team was far too talented offensively to keep underachieving in the playoffs. The trio of Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, and newly-acquired Asante Samuel at cornerback was going to bring much-needed stability towards the secondary, but a quality draft was still needed.
The focus appeared to be on the offensive line, which was far too inconsistent in 2011. Harvey Dahl was a major loss that Garrett Reynolds didn't come close to replacing at right guard. Sam Baker was in a make-or-break scenario after two dreadful seasons. The offensive line needed serious upgrades, particularly across the inside. After investing heavily in Julio Jones, Thomas Dimitroff had only two picks inside the top 150. With an limited number of selections, every pick was going to be vital through pushing an underachieving team to the next level.
You can view my draft evaluations here in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
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.
Peter Konz: 2nd round (Overall pick: 55th)
It tends to be forgotten that Konz's career started off promising. He filled in at right guard replacing an injured Garrett Reynolds and was fairly decent. His versatility in adapting to the right guard position was vital in keeping Atlanta's stability on the offensive line.The inevitable retirement of Todd McClure led to Konz's long-awaited move to center. The move looked successful during preseason. My fellow co-host Aaron Freeman of the Falcfans podcast will always remind everyone how Konz handled Haloti Ngata, albeit in preseason.
Everything fell apart within a few weeks. Konz was supposed to take command of a young offensive line. Instead the former Wisconsin Badger became the biggest liability amongst an offensive line full of liabilities. Whether it was being unable to stop a swim move or simply blowing assignments, he failed at every aspect as a center. The coaching staff attempted to move him back to right guard in trying to salvage a lost season, but that failed instantly when Gerald McCoy manhandled him for two consecutive sacks.
Konz's career is at a crossroads following a season-ending injury last season. How will he adapt to a zone-blocking scheme? While Konz played in that scheme for Wisconsin, he looks much slower against NFL talent. This will be a make-or-break year for not only his career in Atlanta, but possibly in it's entirety.
One final point that puts more sting into this failed pick, as if it needed it: Lavonte David was selected three picks later by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's hard to fully criticize Dimitroff, considering the depth at outside linebacker the Falcons had at the time. Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, and Mike Peterson was a solid trio in 2012. Then again, Peterson retired after the 2012 season and Nicholas was released in 2014. Since David is an elite player, Dimitroff deserves some blame for missing out on an absolute stud. (Letdown)
Lamar Holmes: 3rd round (Overall pick: 91st)
The focus on offensive linemen continued through the draft. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the quality of talent failed to prosper. Holmes was considered a project by many analysts. Similar to Corey Peters and Akeem Dent, this pick wasn't brought with much applause. This was viewed as another head-scratching third round pick by Dimitroff. That has become a yearly ritual through evaluating these drafts. Holmes has good size for a tackle, but the lack of technique and use of leverage were both concerns.
After a far from convincing preseason, Holmes was thrown to the wolves as the starting right tackle in 2013. To nobody's surprise, the former Golden Eagle from Southern Mississippi struggled heavily. One tendency that Holmes showed was how easily he wore down in games. Look at this "attempt" in closing down Dion Jordan. That led to an interview, where he admitted to a lack of conditioning. That has to be viewed as inexcusable for a player that was going to start following Mike Johnson's season-ending injury in early August. Holmes has failed to bounce back in going through considerable growing pains in 2013.
His improvement was minimal last season, before a season-ending injury. Ryan Schraeder's emergence means that an undrafted player has outperformed a third-round pick. That's usually a bad sign for a player's future. To make matters worse, T.Y Hilton was selected with the following pick by the Indianapolis Colts. It was evident that the offensive line needed upgrades following the playoff loss to the Giants. Despite the obvious needs, it's still hard to fully discount that Dimitroff missed on two incredible players. (Letdown)
Bradie Ewing: 5th round (Overall pick: 158th)
What was the thought process behind this pick? With a limited amount of draft picks at your disposal, how does a fullback came to mind as a productive third pick? The list of needs was fairly limited going into this particular draft. It still makes absolutely no sense to draft a player at an expendable position like full back, regardless if it's in the fifth round. Ewing played one full regular season game in two seasons for the Falcons.
Injuries have plagued his career, which led to an unfortunate early retirement. Dimitroff has proven that he can find good value in the fifth round through selecting Kroy Biermann and Jacquizz Rodgers. How a full back should be drafted at all, let alone selected with a fifth round pick is absurd. (Insignificant)
Jonathan Massaquoi: 5th round (Overall pick: 164th)
The only player in this draft class that has showcased actual ability through consecutive regular season games. Similar to most rookies from this class, Massaquoi was on the sidelines during his rookie season. It wasn't until 2013, where the coaching staff inserted him into a starting role. Massaquoi was overwhelmed early on through the early stages of the 2013 season. His relentless motor and speed propelled him to a much more productive second half of the season.
A good majority of the fan base had expectations that he would become a solid contributor for a defense in dire need of pass rushers. A power struggle ensued between the coaching staff and Massaquoi. Despite being productive in games against Chicago and Baltimore, his snap count never increased. It didn't matter that Biermann was failing to supply any sort of consistent pass rush. Massaquoi's unwillingness to meet with team doctors angered the organization. Despite being active for 15 games, the coaching staff left him on the bench through the second half of the season.
The front office made a point in releasing him for having a "poor attitude" such as speaking candidly to the media, though they never specifically addressed the reason for the cut. Atlanta's only hope in salvaging this horrendous draft was through Massaquoi's development. Instead, it appears political correctness reigned supreme and Massaquoi is now playing for Tennessee. It still baffles me on how this situation played out. (Insignificant)
Charles Mitchell: 6th round (Overall pick: 192nd)
Another late-round pick that failed to develop into becoming an NFL caliber player. Mitchell had some upside coming out of college for being a heavy hitter. His ability to hit didn't translate well, due to his lack of size at safety. Mitchell was too undersized to play strong safety in the run enforcer role.
The coaching staff attempted to move him to free safety, but he couldn't handle coverage responsibilities throughout the 2013 preseason. He was cut that season and hasn't been signed by any team. (Insignificant)
Travian Robertson: 7th round (Overall pick: 249th)
Upside always comes to mind, when someone mentions Robertson. He showed flashes in multiple preseasons through creating penetration on the interior line and pushed guards back consistently. Despite being somewhat undersized for a defensive tackle, Robertson was effective throughout his limited opportunities.
Nobody knows truly why Robertson didn't make the team in 2014. Besides the influx of defensive tackles on the roster, Robertson showed great potential and outplayed Cliff Matthews in preseason. Seattle signed him, although they cut him a few weeks later. Washington has now given him an opportunity to earn a roster spot. It'll be interesting to see if Robertson ever ascends into become a solid role player. He's one of the few players from this draft class that hasn't received a fair opportunity. (Insignificant)
This draft class isn't only going to be remembered as Thomas Dimitroff's worst draft; it will be remembered as one of the worst draft classes in recent memory. Regardless of the situation from the blockbuster trade to acquire Jones, six draft picks is still more than enough to acquire decent talent for a contending team. None of the six draft picks have been productive, barring a career revival from Konz or Holmes. Only two players remain on the roster from this draft class. Another revealing indicator of how special that 2012 team was through relying on several veterans.
The after effects of this poor draft eventually showed in 2013 through depending on Konz and Holmes as starters. That failed strategy was a key component towards Atlanta going 4-12 that season. Jones' season ending injury was significant, along with several key defensive players being injured. It still doesn't excuse the offensive line from playing horribly through most of that season.
When Jones was healthy, they still lost close games against Miami and New England that should have been won. Dimitroff's stock dropped dramatically following 2013, when his two prized offensive linemen were exposed. It's yet to be seen, if he can come back from such a mismanagement of personnel.
After five seasons, the final tally shows that Dimitroff has selected eight productive players through the first four rounds combined from each draft. That number is outweighed by ten disappointing players that were selected in the first four rounds of each draft.
Within the final three rounds, Dimitroff has only selected four out of twenty players that ended up becoming solid contributors. It's clear that the 2012 draft did significant damage to these numbers. If you want to look at the five drafts holistically, twelve out of thirty-eight players have ended up becoming positive picks. A very underwhelming number that proves why the current general manager is on the hot seat.
That brings an end to my five-year evaluation series of Thomas Dimitroff from a draft perspective. Let me clarify once again by saying that it's unfair to rate the 2013 and 2014 draft class. All players deserve three years before being labeled as a success or disappointment.
A final recap of the draft classes from 2008 to 2012 will come out early next week. This will be a full review in recapping each round, along with my overall assessment of Dimitroff's ability in evaluating draft prospects and decision making.