The NFL Draft is all about wants.
Draft "experts" write about needs that need to be fulfilled, or else your team is in for a lousy season and hey, better trade down or sell while you still can. Teams have players their front offices are targeting, and in some cases have been for a while.
Usually, the prospects these folks want are not the same ones desired by you, the fine fans that helped change the NFL Draft from an obscure Saturday morning special into the gaudy national marketing event it has become in recent years. Every year, without fail, there is some Power 5 prospect that had a great combine performance and stayed for his senior year and is just such a great character guy that your team should be charged with war crimes for passing on him.
In the case of Falcons fans, this player is almost always a UGA or SEC product. (Georgia Tech would also fit the bill if NFL defenses suddenly began fearing the triple-option #ReggieBallNeverForget).
This year, the object of appeal is likely first-round linebacker Leonard Floyd, who's freaky athletic but also very risky.
However, as an unbiased UGA graduate, I stand (er, sit in front of my computer) to tell you why the Falcons don't want to draft an SEC player -- now, or ever.
This may seem counter-intuitive.
After all, the Mark Richt era at Georgia was always full of talented players who did pretty good in college, and then went on to be NFL standouts. Some notable draft day gems include: Tim Jennings, Charles Johnson, Geno Atkins, Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn and the BPA of last year's draft. And the SEC as a whole has produced a boatload of NFL talent.
But there are many, many more former conference studs who have been not so good in the NFL, and this is especially the case when they are drafted by the Falcons.
Don't believe me? Let's look at SEC players drafted by Atlanta after 2000:
- 2003 - CB Waine Bacon: LOL
- 2010 - OL Mike Johnson: Atlanta can't even take advantage of the Alabama NFL factory when it comes to O-line
- 2011 - WR Julio Jones: OK he's pretty good
- 2001 - DE Randy Garner: Who?
- 2007 - DE Jamaal Anderson: *Vomits*
- 2007 - CB Chris Houston: Turn that head around, son
- 2007 - DB David Irons: Dave's favorite!
Amazingly, Atlanta has not drafted a single Gator since 1998.
- 2006 - QB D.J. Shockley: A nice person
- 2007 - TE Martrez Milner: "He was released on September 16, 2008."
- 2008 - RB Thomas Brown: Now one of Richt's assistants at Miami. Man, that sentence felt weird to type.
- 2011 - LB Akeem Dent: *Sheds a single tear*
Fun side story here. I read "War Room" when it was released, and one of the draft day anecdotes details when the Falcons selected Dent. With ESPN on the TV, one of the pundits poses the question (I'm paraphrasing) "Dent is good, but can he play on third down?" As chronicled in the book, Dimitroff directs a sardonic "who cares?" toward the TV.
You can't make this stuff up.
- 2010 - DT Corey Peters: Solid player who looked much better when compared to, uh, fellow defensive linemen
- 2004 - DT Chad Lavalais: Sweet
- 2008 - DB Chevis Jackson: OK corner with an elite barber
- 2008 - TE Keith Zinger: Not sure why the Falcons didn't draft this Zinger instead -- could've gotten a superhero in the deal
- 2015 - DB Jalen Collins: Suspended for the first four games
- 2009 - DT Peria Jerry: *Vomits again*
- 2004 - FB Justin Griffith: Long live the drafting of fourth-round fullbacks
- 2006 - RB Jerious Norwood: I could wax poetic about Norwood's Falcons career, but Dave already did that
- 2012 - DB Charles Mitchell: You could say Mitchell is already gone with the wind
- 2009 - S William Moore: Willy Mo probably wasn't ready to hear he'd been cut one day after the Super Bowl. Here's to a promising rap career for the Falcons' hip-hop GOAT. #RIP
- 2010 - LB Sean Weatherspoon: The oft-injured prodigal son has returned after spending one year in the desert.
- 2005 - DT Darrell Shropshire
- 2011 - DE Cliff Matthews
- 2012 - DT Travian Robertson
Apparently, the Falcons like taking former Gamecocks defensive linemen in the seventh round. Clowney was BPA though.
- 2002 - LB Will Overstreet
- 2003 - DE Demetrin Veal
I won't pretend to remember how these guys did with the Falcons.
- 2014 - OT Jake Matthews: Maybe there's hope after all
The SEC's bastard son, which itself produced another bastard son (Jay Cutler).