2013 Atlanta Falcons Draft: Grading the Rookies Through 10 Games

Scott CarasikContributor IINovember 19, 2013

2013 Atlanta Falcons Draft: Grading the Rookies Through 10 Games

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    With the Atlanta Falcons expecting to compete for a Super Bowl in 2013, they've needed their rookies to step up and play roles that rookies on a championship-caliber team shouldn't. And while the Falcons are 2-8, it's not because the rookies have been the issue.

    In going over the Falcons rookies, grades are going to be given based on the projected expectation of each selection. For example, a first-round pick should be a long-term starter from day one, while an undrafted free agent is lucky just to even make the roster.

    Follow along as we go over the Falcons 2013 rookie class and grade their efforts so far, as well as their potential for the future.

CB Desmond Trufant, First Round (No. 22 Overall)

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    When Brent Grimes decided to head to Miami and the Falcons cut Dunta Robinson, the team needed to bring in a starting right cornerback who could start instantly and have potential for the future. So they traded up for who they felt was the best corner available in this year's draft.

    And Desmond Trufant has been worth every little bit of investment. The rookie out of Washington has shown that he is a legitimate NFL cornerback already with his above-average play. With his athleticism, the sky is the limit. With better hands, he could end up with quite a few game-changing plays.

     

    Grade: A+

    The Falcons got their instant starter out of Trufant. He hasn't just been better than Robinson, he's also shown that he's a long-term solution for the Falcons starting job at right cornerback.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    650 total snaps, 284 run-defense snaps, four pass-rushing snaps, 362 pass-coverage snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    10 games played, 47 tackles, one QB hurry, one interception, one fumble forced, 10 pass deflections

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    +2.9 overall, +0.9 run defense, -0.4 pass rush, +0.7 pass coverage, +1.7 penalty

CB Robert Alford, Second Round (No. 60 Overall)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When the Falcons took a cornerback in the second round of the draft, it looked like overkill for a position they seemingly had locked up between Asante Samuel, Robert McClain and the freshly drafted Desmond Trufant.

    But then they took Robert Alford, and a plan became obvious. While Trufant was going to be the starter, Alford would learn and grow behind Samuel so that they could cut him after the season. When injuries forced Samuel out of the lineup, Alford performed admirably and should see more time toward the end of the season.

     

    Grade: A

    The Falcons have their long-term starting left cornerback in Alford. While he hasn't been the best cornerback in the NFL as a rookie, he's shown a ton of potential.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    285 total snaps, 82 run-defense snaps, two pass-rushing snaps, 201 pass-coverage snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    10 games played, 17 tackles, one QB hit, one QB hurry, two interceptions, six pass deflections, one punt return, 0 yards

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -8.6 overall, -1.0 run defense, -0.2 pass rush, -1.1 pass coverage, +0.3 penalty, -6.6 special teams

DE Malliciah Goodman, Fourth Round (No. 127 Overall)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Malliciah Goodman was someone who intrigued many scouts during his senior year in college. He was always able to bull rush and control the tackles he went against, but needed to understand proper hand usage and learn some pass-rushing moves.

    Once he did that in his senior year, he started to excel as a run defender who could get a sack every game or two. The Falcons don't have many players who understand how to set the edge against the run, but Goodman has been one of the few bright spots there.

     

    Grade: B

    Goodman looks like a legitimate rotational player in the Falcons defense. In the fourth round, the Falcons got a guy who can provide solid pass rush, but excellent run defense. With better hand usage, they may have gotten a poor-man's Justin Tuck.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    151 total snaps, 79 run-defense snaps, 71 pass-rushing snaps, one pass-coverage snap

     

    2013 Stats

    Nine games played, five tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, five QB hurries

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    +1.9 overall, +4.2 run defense, -1.8 pass rush, -0.5 pass coverage, +0.5 penalty, -0.5 special teams

TE Levine Toilolo, Fourth Round (No. 133 Overall)

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    When the Falcons took 6'8" Levine Toilolo in the fourth round, it looked like they wanted a guy who could be Tony Gonzalez's long-term replacement as the starting tight end. While Toilolo has shown potential to be the Falcons top intermediate receiver, he needs more reps to show what he can do.

    Toilolo hasn't been used as much as he should have been, playing just 125 snaps. Atlanta needs to understand that they have a tight end who they need to train for when Gonzalez finally retires. But worst-case scenario for Toilolo would be that he's a long term No. 2 and a red-zone threat.

     

    Grade: B

    The Falcons may not have found their long-term replacement for Gonzalez here. However, they have someone who's a solid blocker with potential to be a great red-zone threat. They just need to use him more.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    125 total snaps, 62 passing snaps, 48 run-blocking snaps, 15 pass-blocking snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    10 games played, nine catches, 37 yards, two touchdowns

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -3.8 overall, -0.7 pass, 0.0 pass block, 0.0 screen block, -3.0 run block, +0.4 penalty, -0.5 special teams

DE Stansly Maponga, Fifth Round (No. 153 Overall)

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    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Stansly Maponga looked like he could be a contributor long term, but as a rookie would take some lumps. And he's definitely taking those lumps. He hasn't played much on defense, but when he has, he's been unable to set the edge in the run game.

    And as a pass-rusher, he's had even more trouble. He needs to work on his hand usage and leverage. The former Horned Frog doesn't have a good understanding of maintaining a lower pad level than the offensive lineman he's going against, and it's leading to him getting blocked out of the play.

     

    Grade: C

    Maponga is a solid pass-rusher, but shouldn't be seeing any game action right now. He's still trying to figure out his way in the scheme and is extremely raw. He should be a good contributor for Atlanta, but likely won't end up as a starter long term.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    61 total snaps, 23 run-defense snaps, 36 pass-rushing snaps, two pass-coverage snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    Six games played, two tackles, one QB hit, one QB hurry

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -5.5 overall, -1.5 run defense, -1.7 pass rush, 0.0 pass coverage, -0.8 penalty, -1.5 special teams

S Kemal Ishmael, Seventh Round (No. 243 Overall)

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Kemal Ishmael was a great pick for depth at the end of the seventh round. He beat out Charles Mitchell for the No. 4 safety on the Falcons roster. He's a legitimately talented special teams player and long term should end up as an active member of the roster for more than just one game.

     

    Grade: C

    By making the roster as a late seventh-round pick, he's earned an average grade. He will need to earn a role as a member of the active roster each week to improve this grade.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    0 total snaps

    Note: Has played special-teams snaps in only one game.

     

    2013 Stats

    One game played

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    0.0 overall, 0.0 special teams

S Zeke Motta, Seventh Round (No. 244 Overall)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    So, Zeke Motta has finally seen some extended action on defense in his first game against the Buccaneers. He looked decent against the run, but it's obvious that he is nothing more than a reserve long term for the Falcons.

    And that's OK. The seventh round is about building depth for the team. And in Motta, Atlanta has someone who can back up both safety spots and play on special teams as a gunner. A role that Chris Hope played last season to perfection, and that the Falcons needed to replace with his contract expiring.

     

    Grade: B

    Yes, he's played just 29 snaps. But by even making the roster as a seventh-round pick and being active for more than half the games so far, he's earned an above-average grade. 

     

    Snap Breakdown

    29 total snaps, 22 run-defense snaps, one pass-rushing snap, six pass-coverage snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    Six games played, one tackle

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -0.8 overall, +0.2 run defense, -0.1 pass rush, +0.1 pass coverage, 0.0 penalty, -1.0 special teams

QB Sean Renfree, Seventh Round (No. 249 Overall)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Sean Renfree looked like he had a ton of talent at Duke, and when the Falcons took him at the end of the 2013 NFL draft, he looked like the future as a backup quarterback. Unfortunately, he's been on injured reserve since the final preseason game. But the Falcons still have him under contract for another three seasons.

     

    Grade: Incomplete

    The Falcons aren't getting a thing out of Renfree in 2013, but he has the potential to be a talented reserve quarterback in future years. As long as his shoulder ends up fine, this could be a good pick in the long run.

LB Paul Worrilow, Undrafted Free Agent

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    The best draft classes always have a good undrafted free agent step up. The Falcons were lucky in that they have three, maybe four who have stepped up. Paul Worrilow is the best of the group, as he went from what looked like the ninth best linebacker in camp to starting middle linebacker in a 13-week span.

    Worrilow first made his presence known against the Cincinnati Bengals, showing that he was a tackling machine. With Sean Weatherspoon back, Worrilow in the middle looks like he will be in his most natural spot and like the Falcons have found the right man to replace Curtis Lofton after Akeem Dent failed.

     

    Grade: A+

    When Worrilow was signed, no one expected him to even make the roster. When he chose to wear No. 55, people said they didn't want to see longtime Falcon John Abraham's number disgraced. Now, everyone wants him to be a longtime Falcon.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    407 total snaps, 198 run-defense snaps, 46 pass-rushing snaps, 163 pass-coverage snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    10 games played, 71 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, one QB hit, nine QB hurries

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -5.3 overall, -1.6 run defense, -1.4 pass rush, -1.5 pass coverage, +0.7 penalty, -1.5 special teams

LB Joplo Bartu, Undrafted Free Agent

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    While Paul Worrilow has been imitating the tackletron 9000, Joplo Bartu has been just as effective as the starting strong-side linebacker. The Falcons needed someone who could legitimately replace an aging Stephen Nicholas in the defense, and Bartu showed he could.

    While he hasn't been amazing in coverage, the Falcons have gotten an effective use out of him as a pass-rusher. Bartu has a long-term future for the Falcons as the starting strong-side linebacker and has been able to contribute in multiple fronts from the outside role.

     

    Grade: A+

    Sign two undrafted free-agent linebackers, have both of them outplay starters who have been in the scheme for more than a season and end up looking like linebacker isn't a draft need. That's hitting a home run with a man on base. 

     

    Snap Breakdown

    547 total snaps, 249 run-defense snaps, 54 pass-rushing snaps, 244 pass-coverage snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    10 games played, 50 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four QB hurries, one pass deflection

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -4.2 overall, +1.9 run defense, -2.3 pass rush, -4.9 pass coverage, +1.1 penalty, 0.0 special teams

OT Ryan Schraeder, Undrafted Free Agent

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    USA TODAY Sports Images

    Ryan Schraeder was an excellent signing for depth at tackle. However, he's showing that he may have the ability to start long term. He shows proper footwork and understands how to engage without drawing a penalty while controlling the defender.

    In run-blocking, he fires off the ball and looks to have an aggressive streak. Most of this showed up in the preseason. With the Falcons at a point where they need to evaluate all of their talent in their remaining games, it would behoove them to see what Schraeder could do as a starting tackle.

     

    Grade: A

    The Falcons have gotten at least a serviceable backup for a season out of an undrafted free agent. It's tough to not like those results. With his potential to be more, this could be an A+.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    27 total snaps, nine run-blocking snaps, 18 pass-blocking snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    7 games played

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -0.1 overall, +0.7 pass block, 0.0 screen block, 0.0 run block, +0.2 penalty, -1.0 special teams

WR Darius Johnson, Undrafted Free Agent

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Another undrafted free agent making his mark is former Southern Methodist wide receiver Darius Johnson. The slot receiver earned his roster spot by first making it to the practice squad with his preseason performance of 13 catches for 158 yards and one touchdown.

    While that was mainly against reserves, he's been able to carry it over to his games against starters. He's been able to use his quick feet and good route running to create separation. With more experience, Johnson could end up as a solid long-term option in the slot.

     

    Grade: A

    To get any sort of production from an undrafted free agent is playing with house money. At wide receiver, it's even better to get someone who can score points and show potential to score a ton of them.

     

    Snap Breakdown

    224 total snaps, 163 passing snaps, 61 run-blocking snaps

     

    2013 Stats

    Five games played, 10 catches, 104 yards, one touchdown

     

    2013 PFF Grades

    -1.6 overall, -3.0 pass, +0.5 screen block, +0.2 run block, +0.7 penalty

     

    All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.

    Follow @ScottCarasik