The Falcons made a big move on Day 1 of the draft, moving up 5 spots in round 1 to draft UCLA’s Takk McKinley. In making that move, the Falcons gave up their 3rd and 7th round picks.
Will the Takk trade work out for the Falcons? Well, the last time the Falcons traded up several spots in the 1st round and gave up a 3rd round pick in the process, they snagged none other than Desmond Trufant. The Falcons brass can only hope that Takk will be as much a defensive linchpin as Trufant has become.
But the Falcons’ move yesterday leads to another question: Are the Falcons done trading in the draft? Thomas Dimitroff’s drafting history suggests maybe not.
In their history, the Falcons have never made fewer than 5 picks during a draft
Coming into the 2017 NFL Draft, the Falcons had 6 draft picks - one in each round except for the 6th round, which was a pick that they previously traded to the Titans in 2015 in order to acquire Andy Levitre. After yesterday’s draft-day trade, the Falcons are down to 4 total draft picks: one each in rounds 1, 2, 4, and 5. Having drafted Takk McKinley in round 1, the Falcons now only have 3 draft picks left in their stable.
How rare is it for a team to only make 4 draft picks during an NFL Draft? Rare. The Draft was shortened to 7 rounds in 1994; since then, the Falcons only had one year in which they made as few as 5 picks. That was in 2006 (which, for what it’s worth, was not an especially impressive draft class). There have been a number of Falcons draft classes over the last 20 years that included 6 players, but none that included 4 or fewer. That isn’t surprising: factoring in compensatory selections, an average NFL draft class includes approximately 8 players, so winding up with 4 or fewer picks in a draft class is about as rare as seeing Mike Ditka in dreadlocks.
Thomas Dimitroff has a tendency to trade down in order to fill in gaps
As far as making trades, Thomas Dimitroff is known primarily for trading up thanks to headline moves for Julio Jones and Desmond Trufant, other aggressive moves like Sam Baker, and even targeted mid-round trade-ups for guys like Jacquizz Rodgers, Dominique Franks, and Stansly Maponga. But Dimitroff has also traded down a few times over the years. When you look at those trade-downs, a pattern emerges.
In 2009, the Falcons came into the draft without a 7th round pick. But by trading down in the 5th round, they were able to bring back the 7th round pick that they had been missing (which became Vance Walker).
In 2012, the Falcons came into the draft without a 4th round pick, having traded it away in order to move up and take Julio Jones the prior year. The Falcons wound up trading down in the 3rd round, and in return added a 5th round pick (which became Jonathan Massaquoi) to restore their full arsenal of day 3 draft picks.
In 2016, the Falcons came into the draft without a 5th or 6th round pick. In the 2nd round, they traded down 2 spots and, in the process, got back a 6th round pick (which became Wes Schweitzer).
So Dimitroff’s trade-downs appear to go toward ensuring that the Falcons have a full complement of 4th-7th round picks. In every year from 2008-2015, Dimitroff used at least 4 draft picks during the last 4 rounds of the draft. And in the sole year in the Dimitroff era that the Falcons had less than a full complement of day 3 picks - 2016 - Dimitroff was able to increase his day 3 picks from 2 to 3 by trading down.
In addition, the Falcons have never had a draft under Dimitroff in which they made no picks in 2 consecutive rounds. When confronted with that possibility last year, Dimitroff filled that gap by adding a 6th round pick.
Oh, and by the way, Dimitroff has now made at least one draft day trade in every single Falcons draft since he became Falcons GM.
Other factors to weigh
Just because the Falcons made a big trade up already, that doesn’t necessarily preclude them from trading up again. After the Falcons traded up for Julio Jones in 2011, they traded up again on day 3 of that draft in order to take Jacquizz Rodgers. Of course, a big difference in 2017 vs. 2012 is that the Falcons don’t have any ammunition in the back end of the draft that they could use to move up in round 5. But if they see a player they love falling in round 2, could they consider trading their 4th or 5th round pick in order to move up? That seems unlikely, but not impossible.
Another factor to keep in mind is that with Dan Quinn and Scott Pioli both having significant power in the draft room, Dimitroff’s personal drafting tendencies may get challenged or modified in a way that they weren’t when Mike Smith was head coach.
Also worth considering is the fact that the Falcons probably have as deep a roster as they’ve ever had during the Dimitroff era. Dimitroff might not necessarily feel much pressure to have a draft pick in the 6th or 7th round because the roster may be in such good shape that a 6th or 7th rounder is unlikely to make the 2017 53-man roster anyway. And then the Falcons can turn to the UDFA market for camp competition instead, where they’ve had some recent success, including Brian Poole and Ryan Schraeder.
So will there be more draft trades for Thomas? Quite possibly. Let’s see what the Falcons do tonight during round 2.