Thomas Dimitroff has had a successful tenure as General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons. He has been the architect of the most successful period in team history, from 2008-2017, overseeing seven winning seasons and six playoff appearances in that span.
For the record, I’m not here to argue whether or not Dimitroff deserves credit for the team’s run over this 10-year window. Just like the head coaches Dimitroff has worked with (Mike Smith and Dan Quinn), he deserves plenty of credit for the team’s success the same way he gets blame when the team isn’t successful.
You won’t find me highlighting his success in this article, however. No team ever gets every single draft pick right: there are always busts here and there. Today, we’ll look at some of the worst draft selections Thomas Dimitroff has made in his tenure as Atlanta Falcons GM, and later on we’ll talk about some of the best.
*Note: every single pick made from 2008-2017 is eligible for this list. I will not be omitting a selection because “Dan Quinn made that pick.” As General Manager, Dimitroff has had a hand in every single draft pick made over the past 10 years. I’ll be looking at where the player was drafted as well as the contributions he made (or didn’t make) to the team.
5) Jalen Collins: 2015, Round 2 Pick 42
Collins came out of LSU with all of the measurables a team looks for in its cornerback. He had an incredible combination of height, weight and speed, but was a high risk/high reward type of player after only logging 10 career starts in college and having failed multiple drug tests at that point already.
Following a shaky rookie year and an early season suspension due to a substance abuse violation, Collins looked like he had turned a corner in the 2016 season, filling in admirably for an injured Desmond Trufant en route to the Superbowl. He had 10 passes defensed and two interceptions in just eight games while playing a significant role on defense.
A second substance abuse violation before the 2017 season, one which carried with it a 10-game suspension, ended up being the end of Collins’ run in Atlanta as he failed to keep his nose clean. The Falcons cut him after the NFL reinstated him, and then he was suspended for four more games shortly afterward.
Dimitroff knew the risks before he selected Collins in the second round, and the gamble didn’t pay off. In the end, Collins gave Atlanta about a half season’s worth of sound production, and that just isn’t worth the second round investment.
Players the Falcons could have selected instead: G Ali Marpet, LB Eric Kendricks, CB Ronald Darby
4) Ra’Shede Hageman: 2014, Round 2 Pick 37
There were few players with Ra’Shede Hageman’s potential to grace the draft stage in 2014, but his questionable motor also made him an incredibly risky selection.
That risk did not end up panning out, as the former Minnesota Gopher let those motor issues and legal trouble get the best of him. He ended up playing three seasons, totaling 61 total tackles (both solo and assisted) and 4.0 sacks in that time. Hageman was cut following the 2016 season due to legal trouble.
If there was a bright spot in Hageman’s career, it was in the 2016 NFC Championship game where he terrorized Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers from the interior of Atlanta’s defensive line. However, one good game does not erase multiple seasons worth of headaches.
Hageman was a roll of the dice for Dimitroff with this high second-round pick; unfortunately, that roll turned out to be snake eyes.
Players the Falcons could have selected instead: DE Stephon Tuitt, WR Allen Robinson, WR Jarvis Landry
3) Sam Baker: 2008, Round 1 Pick 21 (Traded Up)
It didn’t take long for Thomas Dimitroff to make his first brutal draft mistake as Atlanta’s General Manager: it happened on day one of his first ever draft. Dimitroff sacrificed 2008 second and fourth-round picks to move up 13 spots (from pick 34 to pick 21) so that he could select LT Sam Baker.
Baker never proved to be worth the first round investment as an average at best tackle who often battled injuries. His best season was in 2012, which was a contract year, when he played all 16 games and was a pretty good blindside protector for Matt Ryan (the Falcons made it to the NFC Championship Game that season).
Unfortunately for the Falcons, Dimitroff compounded his error by giving Baker a terrible 6 year/$41.1 million contract extension ($10 million signing bonus). After getting that deal, Baker proceeded to play in just nine total games the next two seasons combined (starting in only four of them) before getting cut and leaving behind a pile of dead money on Atlanta’s books.
Baker never deserved the contract he got; he was just lucky enough to have played over his head in a contract year. Dimitroff got too attached to the guy, after trading up and making him a first-round selection. As a result, the Falcons were set back in more ways than one in regards to Baker.
Player the Falcons could have selected instead: T Duane Brown, CB Brandon Flowers, WR Jordy Nelson
2) Peter Konz: 2012, Round 2 Pick 55
After trading the farm to move up and select Julio Jones in the 2011 draft (one of Dimitroff’s better moves), it was immensely important for the Falcons to hit on their second-round selection a year later since they didn’t have a first-round pick. Unfortunately, Dimitroff drafted certified turn-style Peter Konz with the selection.
The three aforementioned players on this list at least had a stretch of very productive football in the midst of a couple of memorable playoff runs. Konz, however, never looked competent despite being given every opportunity to succeed as a high draft pick.
The Falcons ended up getting rid of an excellent center in Todd McClure so that they could give the starting center position to Konz, in a move that ended up being a disaster. The University of Wisconsin product was the face of the worst offensive line Atlanta has had in the Matt Ryan era, and he was cut after just three seasons of professional football.
Some may be wondering how Konz is higher than Baker on this list, being a second rounder and all, but Baker at least had a very productive 2012 season to hang his hat on. Konz was a second-round pick Dimitroff couldn’t afford to miss on. The General Manager ended up striking out, making a selection which eventually almost cost him his job.
Players the Falcons could have selected instead: G Kelechi Osemele, LB LaVonte David, G Brandon Brooks
1) Peria Jerry: 2009, Round 1 Pick 24
After a great 2008 season which saw the Falcons surprisingly make it to the playoffs behind an 11-win season, Thomas Dimitroff fired an absolute blank in the first round of the following draft by selecting Peria Jerry to try and bolster the defensive line.
After missing most of his rookie season to a knee injury, Jerry ended up immediately losing his starting tackle position to rookie Corey Peters in 2010. His numbers were never gaudy, and the impact which the franchise expected him to make as a first-round pick never materialized.
One of Dimitroff’s great failures as General Manager in the Mike Smith era of the Falcons from 2008-14 was never finding a second pass rusher opposite pro bowl DE John Abraham. USC linebacker Clay Matthews should have been that guy. He was on Atlanta’s radar that year and was ripe for the picking at 24, but Dimitroff instead opted to take Jerry, who very quickly reached bust status (Dimitroff has since said that he regrets not selecting Matthews).
Peria Jerry never had the heart to succeed in the NFL. He played out his rookie contract, earned his millions of dollars, and walked away from the game like a robber in the night.
Players the Falcons could have selected instead: LB Clay Matthews, S Jairus Byrd, C/G Eric Wood