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Thomas Dimitroff's Draft Success by Round: The seventh round

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Once you hit the seventh round in a given draft, you're either looking for genuine projects with some upside, special teams players who might be useful reserves, or that rare gem that fits your system well. Most seventh rounders are not going to make football teams, and if they do, they're not going to stay there very long, so anything you get from the seventh tends to be a bonus.

By that standard, Dimitroff and the rest of the front office have fared very well in the seventh, as we'll see below.

2008: CB Wilrey Fontenot & TE Keith Zinger

The 2008 draft was a fantastic haul for the Falcons, and one of Thomas Dimitroff's biggest successes during his tenure with the Falcons thus far. He just whiffed in the seventh round, and that's no great grime.

Fontenot was an undersized cornerback who didn't stick on the roster. Zinger stuck with the Falcons for parts of three seasons and actually played 15 games with the team in 2009, starting two contests and throwing a couple of blocks in there, so he did better than some of the guys on this list.

2009: DT Vance Walker

He's a genuine seventh round success story who just won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos. Walker spent four seasons with the Falcons, starting 11 games, picking up five sacks, and generally offering real value as a member of the team's defensive tackle rotation. The Falcons (stupidly, in our opinion) let him walk after the 2012 season, and he's enjoyed a whirlwind tour of the AFC West since then, with seven sacks in three seasons with three different teams. Considering he's still just 28 years old and started four games with the Broncos last year, he's the best player on this list and it's not particularly close.

2011: G Andrew Jackson & DE Cliff Matthews

Jackson was an intriguing project who just didn't stick around with Atlanta, alas. He's never played a regular season game in the NFL.

Matthews, meanwhile, spent four seasons in Atlanta as a reserve defensive end and one of the team's better run stoppers at that position, ultimately playing in 32 games, amassing 28 tackles, and offering special teams value for the Falcons. He's still just 26 years old and is currently with the Buccaneers, who love picking up old Falcons' defensive ends. Some fans ludicrously have called him a bust as a seventh round pick, but he's had a better career to this point than most other players taken in that round.

2012: DT Travian Robertson

Robertson spent two seasons in Atlanta and looked like a player, getting in twelve games and displaying some size and power. The Falcons cut ties with him heading into the 2014 season, though, and he spent time with the Seahawks and Redskins that year before spending all of 2015 as a free agent.

2013: S Kemal Ishmael, S Zeke Motta & QB Sean Renfree

Dimitroff's most successful round in terms of hit rate. Ishmael has been a tremendous value for a seventh round pick, starting 15 games over the last three seasons, picking up 5 (!) interceptions, and hitting like a train every time he's given the opportunity to play. He's also a core special teamer and is still just 24 years old, so even if he's never going to be a full-time starter for this team due some coverage limitations, he's been a success story and will (I hope) be a Falcon for a long time yet.

Motta looked like a solid safety prospect and played in ten games with one start in his rookie season, before a neck injury cost him a lot of time and the Falcons ultimately released him in April 2015. He hasn't played an NFL down since, but it's fair to wonder what he might have turned into had he not gotten hurt, because he at least looked like a decent reserve.

Sean Renfree has stuck around since being drafted and served as one of the team's backups in 2014 and their primary backup quarterback in 2015, completing 3 of 7 passes for 11 yards and an interception last year. He's likely to be supplanted this year, but again, not bad for a seventh rounder.

2014: LB Yawin Smallwood & LB Tyler Starr

Smallwood had a terrific name and looked like a thumper, but he's one of three linebackers from this class who spent a very short time with this Falcons team.

Starr, meanwhile, has been one the roster and the practice squad for the last two seasons, finally getting some game action in Week 17 of last year. He's always had intriguing athleticism but hasn't been able to crack the lineup, and we'll see if that changes this year.

2015: T Jake Rodgers & CB Akeem King

Rodgers was a project who didn't make the team, so he was kind of a waste of a pick. Oh well.

King, meanwhile, looks like he might have been a value. He's a pretty good athlete and has the body type at cornerback that Dan Quinn favors, and he was reasonably productive in his limited playing time a year ago. He should settle in as a fourth cornerback and special teamer for Atlanta in 2015, but he may be pressed into more playing time early with Jalen Collins suspended.

Conclusion

Considering the seventh round is a pretty barren wasteland most years, Dimitroff has done a nice job of getting contributors, with Vance Walker and Kemal Ishmael being terrific picks, King looking like a value, and a couple of other guys in the mix. There's plenty of misses, but that's not unreasonable for this.

Looking back at Dimitroff's draft history, he hasn't landed many superstars or tremendous values late, but he's done a solid job drafting with a few notable big misses. We'll take a look at free agency next, and we won't have the opportunity to be as kind to the front office.