Thomas Dimitroff makes his yearly head-scratcher here with the selection of safety Dezmen Southward out of Wisconsin. There were other players that would have made much more sense, including some pass-rushers that had somehow slipped to the middle part of the third round.
Southward was part of the North roster during the Senior Bowl in January. That's the same roster the Falcons wound up coaching. There's no coincidence here that the Falcons have taken two players from that North roster during this draft.
On the Field
When sculpting a safety out of the block of clay, Southward is the ideal. He's 6'0", 211 pounds. He runs a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash with a 1.50 split after 10 yards. He's got a three-cone drill time of 6.50 seconds. He's got very fluid movement skills and has the versatility to drop down to nickelback if need be.
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He's more effective in zones or off man coverage than he is in press man coverage. This makes him ideal for free safety as opposed to outside cornerback. He's excellent in run defense, taking great angles to the ball. He is a sure tackler.
He also makes plays on the ball and is instinctual enough to know when to make breaks on routes. The Falcons have someone who does the three things they need their free safety to do now—knock balls away, tackle soundly and play the run properly. The three things Thomas DeCoud couldn't do last season.
Off the Field
Southward has some medical questions, including a fractured C-5 vertebrae that was red-flagged by combine doctors and later challenged by Peyton Manning's doctor (h/t Rob Rang of CBS Sports). The real question is what the Falcons doctors think about this.
A spinal injury could be a real issue if it doesn't heal properly. The Falcons have to be comfortable with it to take him this high. On one side, Southward has never been arrested or suspended and was a team leader for the Badgers. He was also a multiple-year starter and senior.
Why Dezmen Southward Instead of Pierre Desir or Scott Crichton?
Pierre Desir is a bigger corner who could have made the move to safety and been an instant starter. Scott Crichton is a pass-rusher who would have instantly earned a role at either linebacker or defensive end as a rotational guy.
Both of these guys would have been perfect for Atlanta as third-round picks. They are both Comrade Filter-type guys who would have been ideal for Atlanta off the field. They also would have been much better values than what Southward was.
Nonetheless, Southward will come right in and compete for the starting free safety role with Dwight Lowery, Kemal Ishmael, Sean Baker and Zeke Motta. If he winds up winning, he'll easily be the best athlete for the position and give the Falcons a good scheme fit.
For more information on Dezmen Southward, check out Ian Wharton's scouting report on him.
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 of 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.