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Early returns from 2014 draft are not good

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As a rule of thumb, it is best to give a draft about three years before judging it a success or a failure.

Shembo is the crown jewel of Atlanta's poor draft.
Shembo is the crown jewel of Atlanta's poor draft.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

However, the Falcons are already short a number of players from the 2014 draft. Yes, it is way, way, waaaaaaaaaay too early to grade that draft class. However, despite a weak roster entering last year's draft, the team may have added only a few players who will provide any impact.

Lets take this from the top.

Jake Matthews

Matthews likely remains Atlanta's franchise left tackle for the foreseeable future. He came into camp looking great, but dealt with injuries through nearly his entire rookie season and never quite got set. Getting fully healthy will do a lot to help Jake develop into the player he can so easily become.

Ra'Shede Hageman

I am shocked to say this, but Hageman may very well have the biggest jump from his rookie season out of the entire draft class. He flashed some elite tools last season, and appears dedicated after dropping weight in the offseason. Do not be surprised if Hageman turns into an x-factor for Quinn, moving around the line like Michael Bennett in Seattle. Hageman has a great shot at being the best player from Atlanta's draft class.

Dezmen Southward

Southward has alternated between struggling when on the field and dealing with injuries. One of the truly surprising picks in the draft, Southward was expected to be a project. He enters his sophomore season switching positions, despite no clear starter and little competition at the free safety position.

Now a corner back, Southward will compete with two rookie corners. He very well may be destined for a special teams role if he struggles with the position change.

Devonta Freeman

Freeman will battle Atlanta's highest drafted running back since 2002 for offensive snaps. Freeman looked pretty good as a rookie, but as you may be familiar with under Mike Smith, he received limited snaps in favor of a washed up veteran. Freeman's outlook appears good, and should have a much larger role in his second season.

Prince Shembo

Shembo is, of course, the reason for this article. A surprising 4th round selection, Shembo played rarely in his rookie season. Put in the best way possible, Shembo potentially did something terrible in college, and has potentially done something terrible outside of college. He was a man without a true position, now he is a man without a job.

It is tough to lose a 4th round pick, especially after one season.

Ricardo Allen

Allen was a 5th round pick that was cut and moved to the practice squad prior to the 2014 season. Under Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, such a thing is unheard of. Usually they make these guys play special teams if they cannot play their position.

Allen is now moving from nickel to free safety. Due to his size, he is going to need a great preseason to guarantee a roster spot, despite Atlanta having only one real free safety on the roster.

Marquis Spruill

The undersized linebacker was thought to be a run plugger in Atlanta's new 3-4 defense. A lot of that did not work out, starting with Spruill regrettably tearing his ACL last August. He will hopefully have a role, but with his injury and a new coaching staff, Spruill will need a bit of luck. After signing Justin Durant and Brooks Reed as starters, Spruill will be relegated to depth or battling Paul Worrilow for the starting ILB spot.

Yawin Smallwood

Smallwood joins a very small group of Dimitroff draft picks that were cut and not even offered a spot on the practice squad. Considering Atlanta's complete lack of quality at linebacker, Smallwood just could not measure up to even the basic levels of required talent.

Tyler Starr

Starr, expected to earn some pass rush snaps in his rookie year, played zero snaps. He is now ominously listed by the team as linebacker, and not as an outside linebacker. He may be competing with seven other players for only two, maybe three roster spots. Starr does not appear to have the frame to add enough weight to be a consistent pass rusher, and is likely too tall and underpowered to stuff the run consistently. He is likely gone.

UDFA Roundup

At least the Falcons held on to James Stone, who looks to be an immediate backup at either center or guard, if not a starter. There are a few wide receivers who could push for a spot if Atlanta decides to finally roster six wide receivers.

Results

Bad. It is early, but the only clear additions from last season are Matthews, Hageman, Freeman, and potentially Stone. The remaining players are likely, at best, depth or practice squad candidates.