The Atlanta Falcons only have five picks to work with in the upcoming draft, having traded away the sixth rounder for left guard Andy Levitre and being penalized a fifth-round pick as part of the Fake Noisegate sanctions imposed by the league. According to ESPN's Vaughn McClure, owner Arthur Blank expects the team to maximize the impact they make with the five picks they do have.
Blank said that he isn't worried about the missing picks, because teams get their starters in the first four rounds, and the Falcons have all of those picks in hand. Blank went on to say that he will be "disappointed" if the picks the team makes in the first four rounds don't yield at least three starters this season.
It's a tall order for a team that has a lot of needs on both sides of the ball and so few picks to work with this year.
As McClure points out, the team hasn't exactly done a bang-up job of drafting starters. Last year, only defensive end Vic Beasley, the team's first-round selection, was prepared to start.
The 2014 draft was a bit better for the Falcons, with Jake Matthews, Devonta Freeman and Ricardo Allen all in starting roles for the 2015 season. Only Matthews was really starting in his rookie season, however.
Looking through the remainder of the team's draft history during Thomas Dimitroff's tenure, there's not any season that yielded four starters from one draft. The 2013 draft gave Atlanta Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, both of whom start now. Levine Toilolo and Kemal Ishmael have started at times, but only out of necessity.
The entire 2012 draft class is off the team, and it definitely didn't yield any starters.
2011 gave Atlanta Julio Jones and Matt Bosher and not much else. Akeem Dent and Jacquizz Rodgers got playing time, but Dent wasn't very impactful and Jacquizz was never starting material. The 2008 season came close, giving the Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Corey Peters and center Joe Hawley. 2009 yielded William Moore and seventh-round surprise Vance Walker, who was not re-signed by the team after he hit free agency.
You really have to go all the way back to the 2008 draft to see results like the ones Blank is expecting for this season.
The 2008 draft gave the Falcons their franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan, with the third-overall selection. Oft-injured Sam Baker, who the Falcons traded back into the first to grab, was also a starter despite a litany of injuries that kept him off the field. Linebacker Curtis Lofton and free safety Thomas DeCoud rounded out the list of starters from that draft. Kroy Biermann became a starter and spent plenty of time on the field for the Falcons down the line.
Blank's expectations for this season seem like a tall order, and there's very little margin for error.