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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades

Scott CarasikContributor IIMay 6, 2014

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons top brass, Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff, are preparing for their biggest draft since 2008. They have to get their situation turned around from the 4-12 season to another winning one. This team has too much talent, both on and off the field, to finish with a losing record.

    In 2012, they were in the NFC Championship Game and just 10 yards from the Super Bowl.

    The lost 2013 season left them with a ton of inexperienced depth playing almost every snap of the year. They need to improve depth throughout the squad.

    With 10 picks, Atlanta could trade up in the draft and still address the necessary depth needed throughout the team. A few starters at some vital spots, or at least added competition in those areas, are needed as well.

    To catch all of the action, check out every selection either on ESPN or NFL Network live. For more advanced coverage, check back here after every pick is made. 

Round 1, No. 6 Overall: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

2 of 10

    The Atlanta Falcons needed a starting left tackle in the worst way. Jake Matthews is going to be a long-term starter at the position. He should instantly step in like Matt Kalil did for the Minnesota Vikings and provide fringe Pro Bowl-caliber play at left tackle.

    Adding Matthews to the free-agency signing of Jon Asamoah and current Falcons Sam Baker, Peter Konz, Joe Hawley, Justin Blalock and Lamar Holmes gives this team the talent to protect quarterback Matt Ryan.

    There's now a lot of talent on the Falcons offensive line, and at this point, they should be able to protect their franchise signal-caller the way he deserves. Ryan won't be getting hit over 60 times this year. Matthews is also a perfect Comrade Filter fit.

    He's from a great bloodline, being from the football royalty known as the Matthews family. His dad is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. He also was the team captain for the Texas A&M Aggies as a senior and will be a perfect influence for the Falcons' locker room.

    Grade: A

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 6'5-1/2"

    Weight: 308 pounds

    Arm Length: 33-3/8"

    Hand Measurement: 9-7/8"

    40-yard dash: 5.07 sec.

    10-yard split: 1.70 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.47 sec. 

    Three-cone Drill: 7.34 sec.

    Bench Reps: 24 reps

    Vertical Jump: 30.5"

    Broad Jump: 8'9"

     

    Stats

    2013: 13 Games Started at Left Tackle

    2012: 13 Games Started at Right Tackle

    2011: 13 Games Started at Right Tackle

    2010: 7 Games Started, 10 Games Played at Right Tackle

Round 2, No. 37 Overall: DL Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

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    While this pick doesn't make much sense if you look at it for the Falcons in a 4-3 look, it makes a ton of sense for them in a 3-4 look. Ra'Shede Hageman can play anywhere from the 1-technique to the 5-technique and fits in well as a pass rushing force on the line.

    Atlanta will likely put him in rotation at defensive end with Jonathan Babineaux, Tyson Jackson and Malliciah Goodman. This will allow the Falcons to get bigger and stronger up front while still maintaining pass rushing potential.

    Atlanta fell in love with Hageman at the Senior Bowl when they coached him. The pick here just shows that Atlanta cares about one thing more than anything else this year. They want to get bigger, stronger and tougher up front. That's it.

    Grade: B

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 65-7/8

    Weight: 310 lbs

    Arm Length: 34-1/4

    Hand Measurement: 10-1/4

    40-Yard Dash: 5.02 secs

    10-Yard Split: 1.75 secs

    20-Yard Shuttle: 4.50 secs

    3-Cone Drill: 7.87 secs

    Bench Reps: 32reps

    Vertical Jump: 35.5

    Broad Jump: 96

     

    Stats

    2013: 13 games played, 38 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 QB hurry, 8 pass deflections, 2 blocked kicks

    2012: 13 games played, 35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 2 pass deflections

    2011: 12 games played, 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 1 fumble

    2010: 7 games played, 5 tackles

    2009: Redshirted

Round 3, No. 68 Overall: FS Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin

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    The Falcons needed someone who could come right in and start at free safety for them. However, there aren't many guys at this point who would have made a ton of sense. The Falcons decided to go with a reach here in Dezmen Southward—someone who should have gone a round or more later.

    Southward is a great athlete and has shown to be instinctual in coverage. He makes plays towards the ball and takes good angles in coverage. As a former cornerback, he's able to stick with almost any man in coverage in the slot.

    He's also a solid tackler despite not being a head hunter. The fit for the Falcons' defense makes sense as he's a safety who can do it all. The only real question is whether the value was here. Atlanta could have waited on this pick and taken a pass rusher here.

    This was yet another Senior Bowl player from the North roster, though. If you are starting to sense a trend, then you aren't alone. Second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman was also on the North roster back in January's All-Star game.

    Grade: C

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 211 pounds

    Arm Length: 30-5/8"

    Hand Measurement: 10"

    40-yard dash: 4.38 sec.

    10-yard split: 1.50 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.37 sec.

    3-cone Drill: 6.50 sec.

    Vertical Jump: 42.0"

    Broad Jump: 10'4”

     

    Stats

    2013: 13 Games Played, 40 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 5 Pass Deflections

    2012: 14 Games Played, 69 Tackles, 8.0 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 Pass Deflections

    2011: 13 Games Played, 35 Tackles, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections

    2010: 13 Games Played, 8 Tackles

    2009: Redshirted

Round 4, No. 103 Overall: RB Devonta Freeman, Florida State

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    The Falcons had some contract situations dictate their selection here. Steven Jackson is heading into some of his final years in the NFL and has just two years left on his contract. Jacquizz Rodgers is in the final year of his rookie deal. Jason Snelling just retired this offseason.

    So the need for another change of pace running back was needed. Devonta Freeman was the workhorse back for the national champion Seminoles during 2013. He's someone who will step right in and replace Snelling as a change of pace in the Falcons' backfield.

    He's also the ideal fit for the Falcons as a long term change of pace if they decide to let Rodgers go after this season. Freeman is an ideal Falcon off the field as well. The only question is why you go with Freeman when guys like Lache Seastrunk and Storm Johnson are still on the board.

    Grade: B+

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 5'8-1/4" Weight: 206 pounds

    Arm Length: 29-3/8" Hand Measurement: 9-5/8"

    40-yard dash: 4.58 sec. 10-yard split: 1.59 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.26 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.11 sec. Bench Reps: 14 reps

    Vertical Jump: 32.0" Broad Jump: 9'10”

     

    Stats

    2013: 14 Games Played, 173 Carries, 1,016 Yards, 14 Touchdowns, 22 Catches, 278 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 1 Tackle

    2012: 14 Games Played, 111 Carries, 660 Yards, 8 Touchdowns, 10 Catches, 86 Yards, 1 Tackle

    2011: 12 Games Played, 120 Carries, 579 Yards, 8 Touchdowns, 15 Catches, 111 Yards, 1 Tackle

Round 4, No. 139 Overall: LB Prince Shembo, Notre Dame

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    Prince Shembo will be a great fit for the Falcons as either an inside or outside linebacker for the Falcons depending on the set. He could be the next great Falcons special teams player. He's able to play on all special teams formations and could turn into a pass rushing specialist as well.

    Shembo created a lot of pressure for the Notre Dame defense and was protected quite a bit by the massive Stephon Tuitt. He'll have similar setup in the NFL with Tyson Jackson, Malliciah Goodman and Ra'Shede Hageman in front of him depending on which side he plays on.

    Shembo adds a lot of depth to the linebacking corps as he can also play inside behind either Weatherspoon or Worrilow. However, his career should look very similar to what Ike Reese's was where his primary role will be a special teams and rotational linebacker.

    Grade: B

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height6'1-3/8" Weight253 pounds

    Arm Length33-1/8" Hand Measurement10-1/2"

    40-yard dash: 4.71 sec. 10-yard split: 1.59 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.31 sec. Three-cone Drill: 7.29 sec. Bench Reps:26 reps

    Vertical Jump38.5" Broad Jump10'2"

     

    Stats

    2013: 13 games played, 48 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 17 QB hurries, 1 fumble forced

    2012: 13 games played, 51 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 12 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

    2011: 12 games played, 31 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 2 QB hurries

    2010: 13 games played, 14 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 QB hurries

Round 5, No. 147 Overall: CB Ricardo Allen, Purdue

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    The Falcons continue to build their depth at cornerback this offseason. Ricardo Allen was a playmaker for the Boilermakers during his time at Purdue. He's a bit undersized compared to the average cornerback, but he could be the man who winds up as the Falcons nickel back long term.

    He's a great special teams player as well and isn't afraid to hit someone. He could be a dark horse at free safety, as he's a ball hawk in the secondary. His speed would also be better suited for safety then for cornerback.

    The Falcons get an upgrade here from what they had last season in Dominique Franks. However, he will have to compete with Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas just to make the roster. This could signify a move of one of the cornerbacks to safety.

    Grade: B

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 5'9-1/8" Weight: 187 pounds

    Arm Length: 30" Hand Measurement: 9-1/4"

    40-yard dash: 4.61 sec. 10-yard split: 1.67 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.15 sec. Bench Reps: 13 reps

    Vertical Jump: 35.5" Broad Jump: 9'9"

     

    Stats

    2013: 12 Games Played, 53 Tackles, 4.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack, 6 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Forced, 3 Pass Deflections

    2012: 13 Games Played, 45 Tackles, 4.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack, 1 Interception, 4 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown, 1 Punt Return, 25 Yards

    2011: 13 Games Played, 79 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 3 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick, 1 Defensive Touchdown, 1 Punt Return, 7 Yards

    2010: 12 Games Played, 73 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack, 3 Interceptions, 4 Pass Deflections, 2 Defensive Touchdowns

Round 5, No. 168 Overall: ILB Marquis Spruill, Syracuse

8 of 10

    The Falcons took a depth linebacker here because they had to play undrafted free agents last year in Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. That's not a knock on Bartu or Worrilow, as they filled in and proved to be a bright spot on what was a bad defense.

    It's more of a commentary on the lack of talent behind those two. Spruill will compete with Akeem Dent and Bartu for a backup role behind Sean Weatherspoon and Worrilow at inside linebacker. If he can prove to be a good special teams talent as well, he'll be on the roster.

    At this point, the Falcons are taking guys who could very well be cut. They traded up for Spruill, but he wasn't a good value here. Hopefully, he surprises everyone and proves to be a talented reserve for Atlanta at inside linebacker.

    Grade: D

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 6'1-1/8" Weight: 231 pounds

    40-yard dash: 4.53 sec. 10-yard split: 1.64 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.46 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.33 sec. Bench Reps: 21 reps

    Vertical Jump: 34.5" Broad Jump: 9'9”

     

    Stats

    2013: 13 Games Played, 66 Tackles, 14.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries

    2012: 13 Games Played, 64 Tackles, 9.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection

    2011: 12 Games Played, 62 Tackles, 8.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 2 Pass Deflections

    2010: 13 Games Played, 51 Tackles, 9.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Pass Deflection

Round 7, No. 253 Overall: LB Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

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    The Falcons needed some better depth at inside linebacker to compete with Akeem Dent for primary backup to Paul Worrilow at strong-inside linebacker in a 3-4 conversion. Combining this selection with the pick of Marquis Spruill will be excellent for the Falcons.

    Smallwood will have to learn how to become better in coverage before he would be able to earn a starting spot. He's a good fit for the Falcons as a 3-4 inside linebacker or 4-3 middle linebacker and could have been picked much higher if the right team needed a thumper.

    Atlanta lucked out in this selection and got a really good player for a really late pick. This is similar to when Atlanta got Zeke Motta last season in the seventh round. He's a good college player like Motta was, but he'll be an average depth player in the pros.

    Grade: A+

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height6'2-1/4" Weight246 pounds

    Arm Length31-3/4" Hand Measurement9-1/2"

    40-yard dash: 5.01 sec. 10-yard split: 1.60 sec.

    Bench Reps18 reps Vertical Jump36.5" Broad Jump9'0"

     

    Stats

    2013: 12 Games Played, 118 Tackles, 9.5 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 9 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2012: 12 Games Played, 120 Tackles, 15.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 2 Fumbles Forced, 4 Pass Deflections

    2011: 12 Games Played, 94 Tackles, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 3 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2010: Redshirted

Round 7, No. 255 Overall: DE/OLB Tyler Starr, South Dakota

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    In a draft where the Falcons were supposed to leave with the best possible pass rushers they could get, Tyler Starr could be the best pick out of all of them. He had talent that could have had him selected in the middle of the draft in any other year.

    He's a pass rush specialist with great hip movement. He could be the ideal long-term replacement for Kroy Biermann, as he's got the same kind of physical makeup as the Falcons long time edge player. Starr has better length than the Falcons 2008 fifth-round pick.

    Nonetheless, the Falcons got themselves a great fit for their hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense in Starr. He's going to be a fun piece for Mike Nolan's amoeba defense and could develop as a coverage player if given time to sit and develop behind a deep linebacker corps.

    Grade: A+

     

    Combine/Pro Day Measurements

    Height: 6'4-1/8" Weight: 250 pounds

    Arm Length: 32-1/2" Hand Measurement: 9-1/2"

    40-yard dash: 4.85 sec. 10-yard split: 1.63 sec.

    20-yard shuttle: 4.15 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.64 sec. Bench Reps: 24 reps

    Vertical Jump: 32.0" Broad Jump: 9'9”

     

    Stats

    2013: 12 Games Played, 71 Tackles, 15.0 Tackles for Loss, 9.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 4 Fumbles Forced, 5 Pass Deflections

    2012: 11 Games Played, 74 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick

    2011: 12 Games Played, 51 Tackles, 19.0 Tackles for Loss, 14.0 Sacks, QB Hurries, Interceptions, 7 Fumbles Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

    2010: Did not play as a redshirt freshman

    2009: Redshirted

     

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

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

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