Thomas Dimitroff is one of the best general managers in the NFL, and his decisions have led the Atlanta Falcons to their most successful period in team history. And a big part of that is because the Falcons have been successful at building their team through the draft.
When looking at a hit rate for a general manager's picks, it makes sense to define what a hit is. On top of that, you have to go through each pick and make sure that they qualify as either a hit or a miss and figure out exactly what the hit rate is at the end.
What constitutes a hit? What constitutes a miss?
What's a hit and what's a miss for each round is somewhat subjective. But some act like you can get a Pro Bowl player in every single round, and it's somewhat easy to do so. But that's far from close to the truth. In all honesty, a hit can be as much as a player making the roster for the full season.
So, let's break this down as to what fair expectations are for each round—and even breaking down the first round into subgroups, so that we have a fair understanding of what will constitute a hit or a miss for each pick that GM's make.
Seventh Round: A hit is making the roster of the team that drafted him for an entire season. Even if he has to spend a year or two on the practice squad first, that would still be considered a hit. Anything more than that is just gravy on the potato.
Sixth Round: Make the roster the first year drafted and sticking for two full seasons while providing a guy who is active on game days more often than not and plays on special teams is a hit. If he develops into a rotational guy at his position, that's an added bonus. Any more than that is rare.
Fourth and Fifth Round: A hit here is when a player makes the roster for at least three years and shows great special teams value. On top of that, he has to show he can at the very least be a rotational, solid-depth or change-of-pace player at his natural position.
Third Round: These players are the building blocks of a team. They need to play at least their entire first contract with the team that drafts them. On top of that, they need to show starting or key role-player (slot WR, change-of-pace RB, nickel cornerback) ability.
Second Round: These guys are the bread and butter of a team. Not only do they need to be starters in their second year at the latest, they need to also show they are at least league-average at their position after their third year in the pros. Otherwise, they failed, and the drafting team should cut ties with them.
First Round (16-end): Much like second-round picks, these guys are where the bulk of the team is built. However, unlike second-round picks, these guys are drafted to be instant starters, and the team needs to know they are at least league-average even as rookies.
First Round (Picks 6-15): These players need to show that they are above league-average as rookies. They need to start their entire contract and show that they can develop into impact players. If they haven't shown they are at least a top-10 player at their position by the end of their rookie contract, it's a miss.
First round (Top five): These players need to show they are in the top two tiers of their position group by the end of their rookie contract. These are the franchise players. A hit here is when you have found a guy who you can build a team around.
Now that we've established what hits and misses are in each group, it's time to go through each one of Comrade Dimitroff's draft picks and see where he failed and where he succeeded.
Round 1, Pick 3: Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Boston College
No. 3 overall is where you have to get a franchise player. With the first pick Dimitroff even made, he got the franchise quarterback to build his entire team round. Ryan has shown that, at a minimum, he's a top-10 NFL quarterback and on the fringe of the elite. Hit
Round 1, Pick 21: Sam Baker, Offensive Tackle, Southern California
While he wasn't an instant starter, Baker has shown that he's a league-average starter at left tackle when he is healthy. The problem is that he is rarely completely healthy. Atlanta did give him a second contract and have shown that they do believe in him. But he could be replaced this year. Reluctantly, this is still a hit.
Round 2, Pick 37: Curtis Lofton, Linebacker, Oklahoma
Despite not being with the Falcons after his first contract expired, it's safe to say that Lofton gave Atlanta four years of above-league-average play at middle linebacker. He was the quarterback of the defense and was a great pick in Dimitroff's first draft. Hit
Round 3, Pick 68: Chevis Jackson, Cornerback, Louisiana State
After making the roster for two years, Jackson never showed how he could be an effective starter at cornerback in the NFL. He was cut before his first contract ended and was never able to show that he was even an effective special teams player in Atlanta. Miss
Round 3, Pick 84: Harry Douglas, Wide Receiver, Louisville
This has been one of the few picks that is on the verge of going either way. While Douglas has never been a starter except for when injuries force him to be, he has been a very reliable performer from the slot and is now in his second contract with the Falcons. Hit
Round 3, Pick 98: Thomas DeCoud, Safety, California
Despite turning himself into a bit of a pariah with the fanbase in the 2013 season, DeCoud is a five-year starter who has been to one Pro Bowl. As far as getting a return for a third-round pick, this has been one of the better ones in the 2008 draft. Hit
Round 5, Pick 138: Robert James, Linebacker, Arizona State
While he was never a guy who was going to be a top-level linebacker, he showed that he was at least a solid depth player who could be an asset on special teams. He was with the Falcons for five years before they finally cut him in 2013. Hit
Round 5, Pick 154: Kroy Biermann, Defensive End, Montana
Biermann has been a great value as a fifth-round pick. He's got one year left on his second contract and has been a starter at multiple spots for the Falcons through his six years with the team. Even if he does get cut before the 2014 season, the Falcons got a tremendous value out of this fifth-round pick. Hit.
Round 6, Pick 172: Thomas Brown, Running Back, Georgia
Thomas Brown was unable to make the roster in his first training camp due to an injury and was placed on injured reserve for the 2008 season. He was cut heading into training camp for the 2009 season and provided nothing but a preseason body. Miss
Round 7, Pick 212: Wilrey Fontenot, Cornerback, Arizona
Despite being a solid special teams player during the 2008 preseason, Fontenot was never able to parlay that into even making the roster. The fact that he couldn't even be a body on the practice squad makes this a miss even for a seventh-round pick. Miss
Round 7, Pick 232: Keith Zinger, Tight End, Louisiana State
While Zinger couldn't make the roster his rookie season and had to sit on the practice squad all year, the Falcons were able to get a solid special teams player out of him in 2009. He was then cut after the 2010 preseason when he showed he wasn't the tight end of the future. Hit
Hit rate: 8-of-11 (72.7 percent)
This is the best draft Dimitroff has had for the Falcons. While he was able to find four long-term starters, he was also able to get the franchise centerpiece on offense and some key contributors to the current Falcons era.
Round 1, Pick 24: Peria Jerry, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi
Jerry has made the roster for all five seasons. He's started for about two combined seasons of his five. But he was never the true starter at his position until his fifth year in the league. And he never truly got his pass-rushing ability off the ground until this past season. He's been a true disappointment. Miss
Round 2, Pick 55: William Moore, Safety, Missouri
On the flip side, Moore has been amazing. He's been to a Pro Bowl and has started for four of his five seasons. The Missouri product has brought a brand of aggressiveness to the secondary but really needs to cut down on his missed tackles. Hit
Round 3, Pick 90: Christopher Owens, Cornerback, San Jose State
Despite starting a couple of games in 2009 and playing the nickel corner in 2010, the Falcons made sure they went out and got someone who could replace him in the nickel role in 2011. Owens was a great special teams player, but he could have been much better. Miss
Round 4, Pick 125: Lawrence Sidbury, Defensive End, Richmond
Sidbury rarely was active on game days in his four years in Atlanta. The value he provided on special teams was minimal at best. Since he was unable to remain active on game days, the Falcons were unable to take advantage of the one trick he did well—rotational pass-rusher. Miss
Round 5, Pick 138: William Middleton, Cornerback, Furman
Despite a solid four-year career as a reserve for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Middleton was unable to make any sort of impact on a Falcons team that really needed cornerbacks in 2009. He was able to secure a practice squad spot but couldn't turn it into a 53-man spot with Atlanta. Miss.
Round 5, Pick 156: Garrett Reynolds, Offensive Lineman, North Carolina
Reynolds may not have ever been the starting right guard that was competent, but he was someone who provided a good special teams player and solid depth along the offensive line. For a fifth-round pick to spend five years with the team that drafted him, he's provided more than enough value for the pick. Hit
Round 6, Pick 176: Spencer Adkins, Linebacker, Miami (FL)
The sixth round is where you find long-term special teams players. This describes Adkins to a tee. While he never got a true shot at linebacker outside of a couple of games in 2011, he showed he was a good special teams player during his three-year Falcons stint. Hit
Round 7, Pick 210: Vance Walker, Defensive Tackle, Georgia Tech
This is a hit based on Walker just making the roster and playing both on special teams and in the rotation in 2009. But he provided so much more than that. He showed he could be a legitimate NFL starter with his play in 2012. Hit
Hit rate: 4-of-8 (50.0 percent)
This draft wasn't nearly as good as the 2008 draft. However, the Falcons did still get some value from each of the picks even if it wasn't a true hit. This wasn't a great draft in the first place, but missing on Peria Jerry made it look much worse than it really was.
Round 1, Pick 19: Sean Weatherspoon, Linebacker, Missouri
Weatherspoon has been a starter and one of the better 4-3 outside linebackers in the league when he is healthy. He has been a bit injury-prone, but if he can stay healthy in 2014, he should be one of the top 4-3 linebackers in the game again. Hit
Round 3, Pick 83: Corey Peters, Defensive Tackle, Kentucky
When it comes to value, Peters has been better than anyone would have expected. On draft day, he looked like a big reach, but the Falcons wound up getting a guy who has been their starting 1-technique defensive tackle for four straight years. Hit
Round 3, Pick 98: Mike Johnson, Offensive Lineman, Alabama
Johnson was supposed to be the replacement for Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock or Tyson Clabo after the 2010 season when they were all free agents. Unfortunately, he was unable to beat out Reynolds and has been very injury-prone throughout his career. It's doubtful he gets brought back in 2014. Miss
Round 4, Pick 117: Joe Hawley, Offensive Lineman, Nevada-Las Vegas
Despite never getting a starting role until 2013, Hawley has shown he needs to be brought back in 2014 to at least compete for the job. He's proven to be at least solid depth, and at 25, he still has potential to get even better. Hit
Round 5, Pick 135: Dominique Franks, Cornerback, Oklahoma
Franks was given a starting role as a returner that was out of place for him. However, he's shown that he can be a competent special teams player and a solid reserve at both safety and cornerback. Unfortunately, he was never able to be the starting nickel he was supposed to be. Hit
Round 5, Pick 165: Kerry Meier, Wide Receiver, Kansas
Despite earning a role on special teams, injuries never allowed Meier to really make any sort of impact. For a guy who was supposed to be the next Brian Finneran, he wound up being just a waste of a roster spot for three years. Miss.
Round 6, Pick 171: Shann Schillinger, Safety, Montana
He was never the starter or even true depth guy whom he could have been. However, he was on the Falcons for three seasons and showed during those seasons that he is a talented special teams player and worthy of a roster spot. Hit
Hit rate: 5-of-7 (71.4 percent)
This is a high hit rate, but it didn't provide many starters. Some fans won't like the fact that only two players from this draft have proved to be reliable starters, but there is potential for a third and fourth if Hawley and Mike Johnson can get legitimate shots at their position moving forward.
Round 1, Pick 6: Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Alabama
This isn't taking into account the trade up for Jones. His play on the field has been that of a top-10 wide receiver in the league. He has shown he could be a top-five wide receiver when he is fully healthy, and hopefully, there aren't any side effects from an early-season foot injury. Hit
Round 3, Pick 91: Akeem Dent, Linebacker, Georgia
Despite Dent earning a job as the starting middle linebacker in 2012 and 2013, he never has lived up to the bidding of a third-round pick. Losing his job to an undrafted rookie proves he's just a special teams guy and backup thumper in the middle. Miss
Round 5, Pick 145: Jacquizz Rodgers, Running Back, Oregon State
Getting a starting kick returner and key change-of-pace running back may not be the ideal value for a fifth-round pick, but it's definitely worth the investment. Rodgers has also shown the ability to start in a pinch when the back in front of him is injured. Hit
Round 6, Pick 192: Matt Bosher, Punter, Miami (FL)
While taking a punter is probably a horrible idea at any point before the fifth round, taking one in the sixth round can be brilliant. When that punter plays like Bosher has for the past three seasons, it's genius. Sixth round is the special teams round, and Bosher has been a key component for Atlanta. Hit
Round 7, Pick 210: Andrew Jackson, Offensive Lineman, Fresno State
Despite being drafted in the seventh round, Jackson was unable to ever make the Falcons roster. He not only got cut in 2011, but he also was unable to impress his college head coach, Pat Hill, when Hill was the Falcons' line coach. Miss
Round 7, Pick 230: Cliff Matthews, Defensive Lineman, South Carolina
Matthews has been a pleasant surprise for the Falcons. While some players don't see many snaps as a seventh-round pick, Mattthews has seen an increase in snaps the past two seasons. Just by being on the roster for three seasons, he's been a solid pick. Hit
Hit rate: 4-of-6 (66.7 percent)
This is the third draft out of the first four where Dimitroff hit on over two-thirds of his picks. It's not an exact science, but he has a good idea of how to draft players for his coaching staff. This draft provided the explosive element the offense needed and a solid change-of-pace back. It's tough to ask for more.
Round 2, Pick 55: Peter Konz, Offensive Lineman, Wisconsin
After being forced into the starting role too early, Konz looked lost at both guard and center in both seasons he's played. The Falcons need to bring back Hawley or bring in someone else to compete with him for the starting role. Miss
Round 3, Pick 91: Lamar Holmes, Offensive Tackle, Southern Mississippi
Holmes was not a good left tackle at all in 2013. However, in limited time at right tackle, he showed flashes and should be allowed to compete for the starting role there. If they play him at left tackle, he will stay a miss. But if he can turn it around, it'd be at right tackle. Miss
Round 5, Pick 157: Bradie Ewing, Fullback, Wisconsin
Ewing has played just over one regular-season game in his two seasons with the Falcons. The only way he could turn this one around is if he makes the Pro Bowl at fullback in 2014. While both seasons were cut short due to injuries, how much patience can the Falcons have for that? Miss
Round 5, Pick 164: Jonathan Massaquoi, Defensive End, Troy
When the first pick that's a hit in a draft is in the fifth round, the draft is a bit of a failure. However, Massaquoi looks like he could be a legitimate starter at right end with 10-sack potential. With better players around and across from him on the line, it's a real possibility he could provide better stats. Hit
Round 6, Pick 192: Charles Mitchell, Safety, Mississippi State
After a good rookie season as a special teams player for the Falcons, Mitchell was beat out by a pair of seventh-round rookies in 2013. The Falcons could have gotten a good bit more than they did from the Mississippi State product. Miss
Round 7, Pick 249: Travian Robertson, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina
Robertson made the roster both seasons and looks like he's going to be a long-term reserve at defensive tackle. If the Falcons do find someone better than him, he's at least been worth the late pick as a two-year reserve. Hit
Hit rate: 2-of-6 (33.3 percent)
There should be an asterisk on the Holmes and Konz picks. While they are currently misses, the Falcons could easily turn those around if they start performing to their draft value in 2013. Holmes playing right tackle would be a huge help, and Mike Tice at offensive line coach could turn them both around.
While going over 2013 would be helpful to see, it's too early to grade that draft. As of now, all eight picks look like hits, but that could change by the time opening day rolls around. But when looking at the undrafted players who made an impact along with the drafted impact players, it could wind up being Dimitroff's best draft.
|Hit Rate by Year|
|Year||Hits||Misses||Total Picks||Hit Rate|
Out of the first 38 picks Comrade made, the Falcons hit on 23 of them or 60.5 percent. That's a very good hit rate considering how inexact the science of drafting players can be. And sure, there were some mistakes along the way, but the Falcons did do well in the first and second rounds.
|Hit Rate by Round|
On top of that, they may not have hit with starters in the late rounds, but they have been able to get some solid reserves in Rounds 4 and later. It would be tough for the Falcons to find someone who is better at drafting than Dimitroff has been for the past six years.
And if the 2013 draft turns out much better than expected and all picks hit, the Falcons could potentially have a Super Bowl-caliber roster with a good defense to boot. He just has to add even more talent with a good 2014 draft to get there.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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