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Thomas Dimitroff's Draft Success by Round: The fascinating fifth round

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It's a mixed bag in the fifth round, but the hits have been pretty good.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2008: LB Robert James & LB/DE Kroy Biermann

Robert James was an infuriating player who hung around for three seasons, getting in just 18 games over that span while facing suspensions and plenty of questions about what, exactly, he was doing on the team. There was some promise here, but he wound up being a waste of a fifth round pick.

Biermann, meanwhile, goes down as one of the most successful fifth round picks in team history. If he's not coming back—and I suspect he is not—he finishes his eight year career in Atlanta with 331 tackles, 23.5 sacks, a couple of very memorable interceptions, and 37 starts. He wasn't a great player at any point in his time with the Falcons, but he was legitimately useful throughout and was particularly effective as a run-stopping reserve defensive end. As I've noted before, his 23.5 sacks are the most by any player the Falcons have landed since the 2005 draft.

2009: CB William Middleton & T Garrett Reynolds

William Middleton had a fine career for a fifth round pick...but it wasn't for the Falcons. Starting a weird trend with fifth round defensive backs, the Falcons cut ties with Middleton in 2009 and he latched on with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was a mediocre-to-solid player over four seasons, drawing 12 starts along the way. The Falcons have no one to blame but themselves for blowing this pick by cutting Middleton.

Reynolds, meanwhile, has also unquestionably been a success for a fifth rounder. He started 23 games for the Falcons over five sesaons while mostly serving as a reserve guard and tackle, including a 10 start stint in 2013 that wasn't half bad. He started 11 games at guard just last year for the Rams, is only 28 years old, and should have a long, productive career even if he's not actually a great player.

2010: CB Dominque Franks & WR Kerry Meier

Franks was a big, physical cornerback who wound up not having the foot speed or coverage skills to become an impact player, spending four years with Atlanta but drawing just four starts along the way. He is now out of the NFL, and while you can't knock four years of decent reserve play for a fifth rounder, I had higher hopes for him when he was drafted.

Meier was a big converted quarterback who had sure hands, but he was probably going to need some time to develop at the NFL level. Thanks to injury, Meier missed 2010 and 2012, getting into only 12 games in 2011 without recording a catch, and the Falcons ultimately waived him before the 2013 season. Injury's a tough thing to knock a guy for, but Meier might be the least productive fifth rounder on this list.

2011: RB Jacquizz Rodgers

Quizz was a fun player. He was a subpar if physical runner for his height, putting up 1,116 yards, five touchdowns, and a 3.7 yards per carry average during four seasons in Atlanta, but he also reeled in 155 catches for 1,104 yards and five touchdowns over that span. He didn't stick after his first contract, winding up with the Bears last year, but I'd say Rodgers was an unqualified success for a fifth rounder.

2012: FB Bradie Ewing & DE Jonathan Massaquoi

While both of these players had promise, this wound up being a disastrous fifth round. Ewing was a head-scratcher for a team with a limited number of picks, considering he was a fullback, but he did look like a bruising blocker and valuable pass catcher...until he got hurt. Ewing wound up only playing two games in Atlanta over two seasons thanks to a series of ailments, and was out of football last year.

Massaquoi looked like a promising pass rusher, but the team clearly did not like him (reportedly for attitude reasons, among other things), and thus he wound up starting only seven games over three seasons, though he did pull down six sacks over that span. He's currently 27 years old and with the Kansas City Chiefs, so there's a chance he'll salvage his career, but clearly the pick was a mistake considering he never got much of a shake and the Falcons never seemed to, you know, actually value him in the first place.

2013: DE Stansly Maponga

Another potentially promising pass rusher who didn't pan out in Atlanta. Maponga played in 24 games in Atlanta but found himself on the outs with the new coaching staff and was released before 2015 began, finishing his Falcons career with just one sack. If you find yourself wondering why the team couldn't seem to hit on fifth round defensive backs or pass rushers but kept returning to that well, you're not alone.

2014: CB/S Ricardo Allen & LB Marquis Spruill

Allen looked like a ballhawk project at cornerback coming out of Purdue, but then the Falcons inexplicably released him, getting a little lucky that they were able to pass him through waivers and get him back on the practice squad. He may never have panned out with Mike Smith and company, but last year Dan Quinn moved him to free safety, where he was at least a league average starter and had some very impressive games. We'll see what the years ahead bring, but he looks like a successful selection right now.

Spruill, on the hand, is not. The speedy linebacker figured to at least be a useful reserve and core special teamer, but he suffered a devastating summer injury in 2014, missed the entire year, and got cut. He didn't play anywhere in 2015, either. He's currently in the CFL.

2015: DT Grady Jarrett

It's too early and all that, but Jarrett was widely lauded as one of the steals of the 2015 draft and certainly looked like it in 2015, displaying real penetration skills. He figures to be in line for starter's snaps in 2016 and is one of my favorite young players on the Falcons right now, so hopefully he'll pan out in a big way.

Conclusion

The Falcons hit on 5 of their 13 selections in the fifth round, and when you consider that the average hit rate in the ground is very low, that's actually pretty good. Aside from Jarrett and maybe Allen, none of their hits have/are going to turn out to be terrific multi-year starters, but they got some valuable pieces amidst the garbage. I'm not going to say this is one of Dimitroff's best rounds—Robert James and Bradie Ewing ensure that, at least—but if you're bashing the GM, this isn't the round you'd choose.