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Grading Thomas Dimitroff: The successful, mixed 2014 Falcons draft

The Falcons have landed some terrific contributors, but they also swung and missed in 2014. How does that compare to other teams?

Jake Matthews 2014 draft Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

With the horror of the 2013 season in the rear view mirror, the Falcons were ready to bounce back. They were going to be on Hard Knocks, they had a few new additions,

That bounceback didn’t happen, as we all remember, and Mike Smith wound up fired after the season was over. The Falcons’ draft class, however, was not a fiasco, though it took over a year for the team to realize gains from their drafting.

Let’s keep this series rolling.

Atlanta Falcons

This class is all over the dang map. Matthews was middling his first year, pretty great his second year, and has a bright future, while Hageman has been underwhelming but has shown flashes of something better. Ricardo Allen was very good a year ago as the starting free safety and could take another step forward this year. Freeman, obviously, was a massive steal.

The rest of the class is abysmal for varying reasons. Southward only lasted two years and a little extra with the Falcons before he was cut, Shembo got in legal trouble and has never latched back on with an NFL team, and Spruill looked like a promising special teamer at minimum before he tore his ACL and was ultimately cut. Unless Hageman really pans out, this will remain a very mixed, very polarizing draft class.

Cleveland Browns

With the exception of Bitonio, who is a very gifted guard, this class has been a fiasco for Cleveland. Manziel played mediocre football, has very real problems with substance abuse, and is already out of Cleveland, if not the NFL, after the Browns paid for a study that told them Teddy Bridgewater was the best quarterback in the class and promptly ignored it. Justin Gilbert will get a fresh shot under a new head coach, but he’s been a huge bust thus far. Kirksey is okay and has some promise, while West flashed a little and promptly found himself out of Cleveland.

If someone ever asks you to explain why the Browns have been so bad for so long, you can point at this draft class as a quality example.

New York Giants

The Giants cleaned up. Beckham is one of the best young receivers in the NFL, Richburg one of its best centers, and Bromley (who was accused of and then cleared of rape earlier this offseason), Williams, and Berhe have at least contributed to the team. New York has been a roller coaster ride of a team for a long time now, but this was one of their better draft classes of the last decade for Beckham and Richburg alone.

Seattle Seahawks

Just a lousy, lousy draft class for Seattle. Richardson simply hasn’t done much to this point, Britt has been a solid starter with the potential to be more, and everybody else is either a reserve or off the team entirely. When you’re selecting near the end of the round and you don’t have a first round pick, you’ll get classes like these, but this was certainly the worst of the ones we looked at this time.

What we see

The Falcons are probably behind the Giants here, but the 2014 draft class was a solid (if decidedly mixed) one for Atlanta, and there are four players from it who figure to have major roles in 2016. We’ll need to see how they fare in 2016, of course, but this was Dimitroff and company’s second straight draft class with some truly excellent players, and it helped take away some of the sting from 2013. Some.