Atlanta Falcons 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterMay 10, 2014

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling

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    The Atlanta Falcons turned nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft into what the franchise hopes is the culmination of an offseason reversal of fortune.

    After a 13-3 season in 2012, where the Falcons played in the NFC Championship Game, Atlanta plummeted to 4-12 last year after injuries and a lack of depth hampered the team.

    If the Falcons can fix glaring holes (offensive line, defensive line, safety), get and stay healthy and find answers to depth issues, Atlanta could indeed make its way back into the playoff picture. Picking at the top of every round, and having three compensatory picks, helped a bunch too. 

    The Falcons, under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, have always been a draft-for-need team. There’s no sign of that changing with the team’s 2014 picks. Fix those needs and the Falcons can get back to NFC South relevance.

    That makes this draft a make-or-break event for Dimitroff. How’d the Falcons do?

2014 Draft Picks

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    1. Round 1, Pick 6 (6th Overall) – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
    2. Round 2, Pick 5 (37th Overall) – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, Minnesota
    3. Round 3, Pick 4 (68th Overall) – Dezmen Southward, FS, Wisconsin
    4. Round 4, Pick 3 (103rd Overall) – Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
    5. Round 4, Pick 39 (139th Overall) – Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame
    6. Round 5, Pick 7 (147th Overall) – Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue
    7. Round 5, Pick 28 (168th Overall) – Marquis Spruill, ILB, Syracuse
    8. Round 7, Pick 38 (253rd Overall) – Yawin Smallwood, OLB, Connecticut
    9. Round 7, Pick 40 (255th Overall) – Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota

The Good

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    Round 1, Pick 6 (6th Overall) – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

    Jake Matthews is a perfect fit for the Falcons for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Matthews fills an area of great need for the team. Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times last season, and Matthews needs to help fix that.

    Another thing that makes Matthews great for Atlanta is the fact that he’s ready to play in the NFL right now. He’ll be the Week 1 starter at right tackle and could move over to the left side in 2015.

     

    Round 2, Pick 5 (37th Overall) – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, Minnesota

    The fact that Hageman was still available in the second round when the Falcons were picking is truly amazing. Hageman plays mean, can move all around on the defensive line and can help both stop the run and rush the quarterback.

    The Falcons will immediately move Hageman from the inside to a 5-technique and use his pass-rush skills against an offensive tackle or tight end.

     

    Round 5, Pick 7 (147th Overall) – Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue

    The Falcons were pretty set at the cornerback position with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Robert McClain anchoring the team’s defensive backfield. But the NFC South (outside of the Falcons) teams all added first-round wide receivers, and Atlanta adding some depth at cornerback to combat that seems like a sound maneuver.

     

    Round 5, Pick 28 (168th Overall) – Marquis Spruill, ILB, Syracuse

    The Falcons have missed recently with middle linebacker picks, or have been forced to use undrafted rookies when injuries happened because of lack of depth. Adding Spruill here helps with depth, and with his ability to help on special teams, added to his intangibles (vocal leader, always-on motor), Spruill could eventually see snaps on defense too.

     

    Round 7, Pick 38 (253rd Overall) – Yawin Smallwood, OLB, Connecticut

    Any middle linebacker that’s a seventh-round pick that has plus coverage skills should be revered. Smallwood can also fight his way through traffic and is the kind of linebacker that can make tackles anywhere on the field.

     

    Round 7, Pick 40 (255th Overall) – Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota

    The Falcons need a ton of help rushing the passer. Starr produced 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks for South Dakota last season and will be welcomed into camp to fight for a spot. If he can get to the quarterback at the professional level like he did in college, this seventh-round pick will make the team.

The Bad

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    Round 3, Pick 4 (68th Overall) – Dezmen Southward, FS, Wisconsin

    Southward was a reach pick here. The Falcons had to have a free safety that could challenge in training camp to earn a starting spot. Southward, who’s both a thumper and very versatile, bolstered his draft stock with a great pro day, but his tape shows a guy who doesn’t move well and is still learning the position.

The Baffling

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    Round 4, Pick 3 (103rd Overall) – Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State

    The Falcons had need for a running back. It wasn’t a pressing need, but with Steven Jackson aging and Jason Snelling moving on into retirement, adding a running back was a good thing. The issue is the fact that Freeman seems to be a very similar type back to Jacquizz Rodgers, who was already on the Falcons’ roster.

     

    Round 4, Pick 39 (139th Overall) – Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame

    Shembo fills a huge need as someone who can be released to go attack the quarterback. If that were the only consideration here, this pick would be up under the “good” heading. But Shembo carries some off-the-field baggage with him to Atlanta, and the Falcons rarely pick guys with checkered pasts.