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Grading Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff: an overview

Public perception of Thomas Dimitroff as a general manager isn’t necessarily good, but is that justified based on his performance?

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Many fans expected Thomas Dimitroff’s tenure with the Atlanta Falcons to be up following the 2015 season. After a third consecutive year of an evident talent deficit on defense and the obvious ramifications of some poor draft and free agency decisions, many feel Dimitroff has worn out his welcome in Atlanta.

But is Dimitroff that bad, really? And how would one even go about assessing that objectively, separating fandom from his actual performance as a general manager?

We’ve set out to do exactly that, by establishing specific grading systems for each draft and free agency that has been executed under Dimitroff’s leadership.

Grading the drafts

Early in Dimitroff’s career, he had a reputation for being a stellar talent evaluator. The two-time NFL Executive of the Year took responsibility for a franchise that won just four games in 2007, drafted a franchise quarterback and, with head coach Mike Smith, saw the Falcons soar to an 11-5 finish and a wildcard bid in 2008.

But since then, you can’t say Dimitroff has hit on talent through the draft with any consistency. That’s why we’ve established what we believe to be an objective method of assessing his performance.

In the series of articles to follow, we’ll grade each draft pick in the first five rounds on a scale of one to five, with the following criteria.

  1. The player is a bust.
  2. The player is below average.
  3. The player is average.
  4. The player is above average.
  5. The player is awesome.

Now, you can’t just apply these standards equally across all seven rounds. The expectations for, say, Tyler Starr aren’t really the same as the expectations carried by Matt Ryan. We’ve addressed that, also.

First round - The expectation is a Pro Bowl-caliber starter.

Second round - Should be a starter, though not necessarily Pro Bowl caliber.

Third round - May be a developmental player, but they should develop into a serviceable starter within two to three years and should be able to contribute on special teams and as a backup immediately.

Fourth and fifth rounds - Should be backup or rotational players with starting potential and good special teams contributions.

The sixth and seventh rounds get their own criteria, since it’s much more challenging to hit on talent this late in the draft.

  1. Didn’t make the roster or practice squad.
  2. Made the roster or practice squad in their rookie season, but didn’t contribute.
  3. Made the roster in their rookie season and was active on some game days.
  4. Made the active roster and got playing time.
  5. Made the active roster and became a quality contributor.

Grading free agency

Free agency is a completely different situation from the draft. Talent evaluators are dealing with players who have pretty well established what they’re capable of in the league. We’ve followed the same grading criteria in general in terms of the numerical grades for each player, but we’ve assessed the grade based on their contract and how their performance aligns with their compensation.

Comparison is key

We can grade Dimitroff’s performance, but that assessment is meaningless in a vacuum. For this reason, we’re assessing Dimitroff’s performance in each draft and free agency period against three other teams.

The Seattle Seahawks are generally considered to be a team that drafts well, and we selected them to represent sort of the ideal. The New York Giants’ front office decisions are widely considered to be middling, so they’ll represent an average team’s performance. When you’re looking for a team that has been generally bad at drafting and free agency, most people would look no farther than the Cleveland Browns.

We’ll compare Dimitroff’s performance in each draft year and free agency period against the efforts of these three teams in that same year to provide some necessary context.

We’ll be posting one article per day on weekdays, and we’re going in chronological order. Look for the breakdown of the 2008 draft Tuesday, and the grades for 2008’s free agency efforts will be coming on Wednesday.

If you have any questions about the series, share them in the comments. What are your expectations for how Dimitroff’s performance as GM will grade out?