#KRM: Jake Matthews to Falcons.
Now stepping to the podium, a U of Oregon alumnus hailing from Canton and a Cheddar playoff contender in his second year, please welcome our surrogate Tom Dimitroff, OXR, with the pick for the Falcons.
Thank God, I don’t have to pick one of the quarterbacks.
At #6, I am instead tasked with predicting the choice of Thomas Dimitroff, who has followed the boringly predictable career path of any ex-Browns groundskeeper and inevitably risen atop Atlanta’s front office, and who is without doubt the NFL executive most closely resembling Crispin Glover.
The Falcons are in a relatively unusual position, in that they sucked last year but they haven’t fired everybody and aren’t running Matt Ryan out of town on a rail. A top ten pick should be a luxury for such a team.
By definition, when you’re 4-12, there are problems to be addressed. So far, Atlanta has brought in Dimitroff’s former co-Brown Scott Pioli as well as a couple of his ex-Chiefs players (DE Tyson Jackson, G Jon Asamoah), have formally switched to a base 3-4 defense (for what that’s worth), and just extended Mike Nolan. They’ve signed DT Paul Soliai from Miami and resigned DT Jonathan Babineaux. They’ve still got DE Osi Umenyiora.
The Falcons are clearly an analytics-friendly front office, and Dimitroff is aggressive early in the draft – which, this year, means that everyone thinks he’s going after the Rams pick to take Clowney. Here’s an illustration of how an analytics-friendly NFL CEO operates in real-life:
Now, there’s more than one lesson that could be learned from that 14% figure. Ten years ago smart NFL draftniks were saying that the late-first/early-second round was where you wanted to position yourself, because you had the opportunity to get a player who would radically outperform his contract; under the old CBA a top-ten pick had to become a Pro Bowler simply to justify the expense, and that has never been a high-percentage play.
Given the terms of the new CBA, though, perhaps now the smart strategy is to trade up aggressively and try to lock up a cheap superstar for four years. However, if you’re going to use your fourth-round picks as trade chips, thereby making it even less likely that you’re going to come away from the draft with third-day contributors, it becomes all the more crucial that you hit on your early-round targets.
Anthony Barr (LB, UCLA)
I’m listing Barr first because I think pass rush is going to be Atlanta’s top priority and it’ll be easier for them to find OL help further down. Barr is being talked about in the 10-20 range right now, but if you like a guy in that range then you like him a few picks higher as well. I’ve seen it claimed that they may, in fact, prefer Barr to Khalil Mack, but who the hell knows. The downside to Barr as a consolation prize for not getting Clowney is that he’s only played LB for two years and, while he has some gaudy stats, I’m leery of sack numbers as a measure of a college defensive player. (But that’s me, not Dimitroff, so never mind.) Unless they’re absolutely in love with Barr, I don’t think they can justify the risk at #6 – but if he slides I could see them trying to get back into the first round for him using the afore-mentioned late picks as chips.
Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma St)
Gilbert is worth a mention as the top CB prospect, but last year the Falcons used their first and second round picks on their presumed current starting CBs (Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford) who, absent any disastrous turns of events, deserve more time to develop. It’d be a shocking allocation of resources to pick Gilbert here.
The Falcons are still committed to incumbent LT Sam Baker, who’s had an uneven career, signed a pretty big contract last year, and then suffered a severe knee injury as part of last season’s general mass of calamities.1 At the risk of reading too much into quotes like:
I think having a tackle that you can bring in who is versatile enough to play both left and right is very important for the National Football League in today’s game, Dimitroff said when asked if the team might consider moving Baker, depending on the health of his surgically repaired knee.
you have to think that they’re considering their options at o-line.
Lewan may be the “nastiest” tackle on the board, but Matthews is considered to be more technically sound and versatile. Again, this needs to be considered if your strategy is to make a small number of picks and have them all come through. Also, in the scenario where Baker recovers and plays well at LT, it seems to be an uncontroversial opinion (by Nolan Nawrocki standards) that you can confidently plug Matthews in at RT or even elsewhere on the line.
Like I said, I think the Falcons want a pass rusher more than anything else, and I think there’s a good chance they’ll get either Clowney or Mack – whether by trade, or in the natural course of things, as I reckon more than one QB will go in the top five. But you have to let the board come to you. Jake Matthews at #6 it is.
No one ever got fired drafting the Matthews family. Gracias Oxr.
Now on the clock, Peter M and the Tampa Bay Bucs.
- Baker was a first-round pick in Dimitroff’s first draft – after getting Matt Ryan he traded two second-rounders and a fourth-rounder to move back into the first to get Baker. [back]