D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas will miss the start of Falcons’ organized team activities which begin next Tuesday due to their recoveries from off-season surgeries. Weatherspoon had arthroscopic knee surgery, while Nicholas is recovering from a sports hernia. Both players are expected back by mid-to-late June in time for the team’s mandatory minicamp which begins on June 18.
Ledbetter also reports that a pair of rookies will be limited for the start of OTAs: defensive end Stansly Maponga who is recovering from surgery on his broken foot in March, and quarterback Sean Renfree who suffered a torn pectoral at the end of December both were limited throughout the pre-draft process and off-season.
Here’s a look at the second safety the Falcons selected in the seventh round in Zeke Motta.
Height: 6-2 1/4
School: Notre Dame
Speed: 4.71 (Campus)
He split reps with Jamoris Slaughter during his sophomore and junior seasons at strong safety, playing opposite Harrison Smith. After Smith was drafted in 2012, he moved to free safety as a senior in his lone season as a full-time starter. He had career highs in tackles. Not a great coverage guy, Motta has good size and is an active run defender. But like many of his Notre Dame brethren, Motta’s stock was hurt by the fact that he had an underwhelming game against Alabama in the National Championship. He did lead the team with tackles in that game, recording a career-high 16 but many of those were made several yards downfield after successful Alabama runs or throws. Then his stock was hurt even more with a slow 40 time at the Combine (4.83). His first name is short for Ezekiel.
I have to be honest, when the Falcons made Kemal Ishmael the first of three seventh round picks, I didn’t have a clue who he was. But I went back and watched tape of him while he was at Central Florida, and here is what I came away with…
Height: 5-10 3/4
School: Central Florida
Speed: 4.63 (Campus)
A four-year starter that started 49 consecutive games over his career at UCF at free safety. Ishmael was a highly productive run-defending safety that was a tackling machine during his days in school. He led the Golden Knights defense in tackles in his last three years, culminating in a senior year where he had career highs in every statistical category. He had a knack for making plays, including a total of 6 turnovers (3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles). He set the school record for career tackles among defensive backs. A player that lacks ideal NFL measurables, but managed to get by with toughness, work ethic, and leadership. He hails from the same high school in Miami as Louis Delmas, currently with the Detroit Lions.
Last night the Falcons announced the signing of tight end Levine Toilolo, their second fourth round pick of the 2013 draft class. He now becomes the fifth of the Falcons’ eight picks to sign on the dotted line.
Terms of Toilolo’s deal were undisclosed, but he will receive a four-year deal in the ballpark of $2.5 million with a signing bonus around $300,000 based on the rookie contract slotting system. Toilolo is expected to compete for a backup spot behind Tony Gonzalez at tight end, where his size and blocking ability could carve out a significant role for the rookie.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go back and watch more than one game from Maponga this past season. But I had broken down last year’s bowl game, so I will also factor in my notes from that game as part of this evaluation.
Height: 6-1 7/8
School: Texas Christian
Speed: 4.81 (Campus)
Maponga was born in Zimbabwe, but moved to the United States when he was a child. His career path to the NFL mirrors that of Falcons teammate Jonathan Massaquoi. Massaquoi, a native of Liberia came to the U.S. at a young age as well. Massaquoi shined at Troy during his sophomore year, but his production fell off as a junior. But he wound up declaring for the NFL draft and probably not going as high as he initially envisioned (fifth round). Maponga had a strong sophomore campaign, emerging as one of TCU’s top pass rushers with 9 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He looked much more pedestrian as a junior, although he was somewhat limited by a broken foot in October. But he only managed 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in the six games prior to the injury. His production actually went up over the final 5 games with 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Maponga opted to declare for the draft. TCU has been a school that has produced a steady line of productive pass rushers at the collegiate level, but not as many have translated well to the pro game in recent years. Jerry Hughes has struggled in Indianapolis since being a top pick, and players like Chase Ortiz, Tommy Blake, and Wayne Daniels are recent players that produced at TCU, but could not translate at all to the NFL level. If Maponga does find success at the next level, he will be the first former Horned Frog since Aaron Schobel (2001-09). Maponga was primarily used as a left defensive end while at TCU, able to exploit the slower feet of many right tackles.
Josh Freeman looks geared for failure
The Tampa Bay Bucs are going to be an interesting team to watch in 2013. Josh Freeman is entering the final year of his contract, and recently it was reported
that the Bucs wouldn’t mind seeing rookie Mike Glennon get an opportunity.
How Josh Freeman handles this sort of adversity could impact the next five years of that franchise. I think Freeman is a talented quarterback, but I’ve never thought he had the intangibles to be a top-level starter. I liked Mike Glennon a lot, as he was the highest-rated quarterback in this draft class for me.
But I don’t think Glennon will really work as a rookie starter. The main issues I had with Glennon was that he wasn’t particularly mobile, nor does he have the intangibles that I think he could flourish as a rookie starter. In Dan Pompei’s piece linked to above, they make the comparison to Joe Flacco.
I do think that fits somewhat. You may or may not be surprised to discover that I don’t think Flacco possesses ideal intangibles. Flacco is a player that I think has benefited greatly from being on the right team. In Baltimore, he became a rookie starter because of injuries to Troy Smith and Kyle Boller. He made the most of that opportunity. But I think it helped greatly how much of the Ravens were a run-first, defensive-minded team that already had a leader in Ray Lewis. Flacco essentially never really had to assert himself as the guy up to this point. Moving forward with Lewis and others gone, and fresh off a Super Bowl he will now.
I think that’s why I’ll likely always consider Matt Ryan to be a better overall quarterback than Flacco. I know Flacco has better physical tools, and he’ll make throws look easy that Ryan will never be able to make in a million years. And for that, there are those that will consider him the better player. But I think given what Ryan has had to be in Atlanta from the very beginning, a stabilizing force, that makes him the better overall player. I just believe that if you had put Ryan in Baltimore in 2008, you’d likely to get the same if not better results. If you had put Flacco in Atlanta, I don’t think he would have had the same success. Flacco reached a level the past two years (running no huddle) that Ryan was doing Day One.
Let’s look at what I thought was an underrated tight end prospect in this year’s class in Levine Toilolo.
Height: 6-8 3/8
Speed: 4.86 (Combine)
Toilolo continues the trend that the Falcons apparently adopted in 2013 by selecting a player with NFL bloodlines. Three of his uncles: Dan Saleaumua (1987-98), Edwin Mulitalo (1999-2008), and Joe Salave’a (1998-2006) all played in NFL. Toilolo comes from an athletic family of Samoan Americans. A top recruit for Stanford, he started as a redshirt freshman back in 2010 in the season opener, but tore his ACL which lost him for the year. He came back the following year mixing in the rotation with Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener. He had a solid year, putting up slightly better production than Ertz. But as junior, Ertz would take off while Toilolo would sort of languish at the status quo. Didn’t have the breakout year expected, and had basically the same production despite the uptick in opportunities with Fleener in the NFL. He is primarily a blocking tight end, but possesses the length and athleticism to create matchup problems and wreak havoc in the secondary. He continues a strong tradition of Stanford tight ends in the NFL, with Ertz being taken in 2013. Fleener was the top TE drafted in 2012. Jim Dray and Evan Moore each were backups this past year, while Alex Smith was a productive starter in Tampa Bay before becoming a backup in Cleveland. His name is pronounced La-Veen Toy-lo-lo.
Here’s my take on defensive end Malliciah Goodman, the first of a pair of fourth round picks by the Falcons in 2013.
Height: 6-3 5/8
Speed: 4.87 (Combine)
Goodman was a highly recruited prospect at Clemson, and finished his career strong with a 3-sack effort against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In that game, he was working against a true freshman who began the season as a backup and dominated him early before LSU made adjustments. He began his career as the backup to Da’Quan Bowers, recording 3 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. In his first year as a starter, he had 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. As a senior, he was shut out in terms of sacks for the first four games of the season. But finished the year with 7 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in the final 6 games, including the 3-sack, 3-TFL performance in the finale vs. LSU. Goodman transitioned to the Combine where he impressed again with his long arms. They were measured 36 and 3/8 inches, making them the longest of any of the prospects in Indianapolis. Those long arms give him a lot of developmental potential as a defensive end where they can be highly valuable as an edge rusher. He played exclusively at left end at Clemson.
Following up on previous report, the Falcons announced the signing of four draft picks today including the previously reported move to get safety Kemal Ishmael under contract. Also signing were Falcons 2013 fourth round pick defensive end Malliciah Goodman, fifth round defensive end Stansly Maponga, and seventh round safety Zeke Motta. That leaves four remaining unsigned draft picks for the Falcons.
All agreed to four-year deals, although exact terms of their contracts were undisclosed. Based on deals signed by players taken in last year’s draft, Goodman’s four-year deal will likely be worth around $2.55 million with a signing bonus under $400,000. Maponga will likely sign a deal worth around $2.35 million with a signing bonus in the area of $190,000. Similar to Ishmael, Motta’s deal should be worth roughly $2.2 million with a signing bonus around $45,000.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons have agreed to terms with seventh round pick safety Kemal Ishmael. Ishmael becomes the first of the Falcons eight draft picks to agree to terms on a contract. Terms were undisclosed, but Ishmael almost certainly signed a four-year deal worth around $2.1 million. Ishmael was the first of three seventh round picks selected by the Falcons out of Central Florida. The Falcons have yet to officially announce the move.