Let me start out by saying I don’t love this draft. But i do like it. I do think this is a nice start for the Dimitroff and Smith era.
I really like the Matt Ryan pick. I’ve been firmly on the Matt Ryan bandwagon since the BC-Georgia Tech game this past season. I think we got a really solid quarterback that is going to be a leader for this team. The way I’d describe Ryan is Carson Palmer in Matt Schaub’s body.
I know most Falcon fans wanted Glenn Dorsey, and frankly I would agree with anyone that says that Dorsey is the better player. But I don’t think the difference is as pronounced as some Falcon fans think. Dorsey is the “safe” pick, but I don’t think he’s any more of a slam dunk that Ryan is.
I like Sam Baker as well. I wasn’t psyched that we gave up our two second round picks to get him, but I understand it was probably a necessary evil since it was likely we were about to miss out on the quality offensive tackles had we stayed pat at No. 34 overall. And while I think Baker will be slated to man the left tackle position, I’m not sure that’s where he’ll be playing four or five years from now. I have much higher prospects for his NFL career on the inside, but I’m optimistic about him. He’s a tough, hard-working guy that I’m not exactly going to bet against.
Curtis Lofton is a solid interior player. I liked Dan Connor a lot more, but Lofton is not a bad “settlement.” Lofton is a tough, mean interior player, something the Falcons have lacked since the heyday of Jessie Tuggle. I think he’ll be a starter for us by 2009 at the latest, and should be a solid force for years to come.
I like all three of our third round selections. Chevis Jackson I think will eventually emerge as a starter in Mike Smith’s defense. He’s a smart, steady zone corner that I would not be surprised if he surpasses both Chris Houston and Von Hutchins in the near future. But for now he gives us a solid nickel corner.
I really like the Harry Douglas pick. He’s a solid slot receiver. Cris Carter on ESPN was comparing him to Wes Welker, and I think he can be that sort of player for us. He was the security blanket of Brian Brohm at Louisville, and I think will be the same for Ryan in years to come. I know most thought we were solid at wide receiver, and that would be true for 2008, but beyond this year, we aren’t. It remains to be seen if Laurent Robinson is truly starting material. Joe Horn, Brian Finneran, and Michael Jenkins, unless any can have a breakout year close to the level that Roddy White had last season probably won’t be back in 2009, which would potentially leave the Falcons thin at wide receiver. With Douglas, Robinson, and White, now we are set at the position.
Thomas DeCoud is another solid player. A good run-stopping free safety that I think will surpass Erik Coleman within a few seasons, particularly if he can make improvements in coverage. I also like this pick because it may mean that if Jimmy Williams remains a Falcon, he’ll move to his more natural spot of strong safety, which I think increases the odds we finally get some value out of J-Will.
Our two fifth round picks didn’t wow me, but I think we improved our special teams with Robert James and Kroy Biermann. And you never know, James might surpass Stephen Nicholas within a few years and be a starter. And Biermann might be a valuable asset as a situational pass rusher.
In the sixth, we got Thomas Brown. From what little I saw of Brown last year, he was a solid running back. He gives us some insurance as a complementary runner to Turner in case Norwood’s durability does not improve.
Fontenot and Zinger I think will be hard-pressed to make the roster this year, but could potentailly provide good depth. Fontenot seems like insurance in case Irons doesn’t progress as much as hoped in the No. 4 role this year. And we already have several blocking tight ends already on the roster, but since only Hartsock is guaranteed a job, the rest of the depth chart is pretty wide open.
It would not surprise me that if four or five years from now, this draft yielded six starters with our top six picks. I’ll be a bit more modest and predict four starters and two valuable role players, and the chance that at least one of our final five picks emerges as a solid role player as well.
But we all know that five years from now, this draft will be graded solely on Matt Ryan’s success with this team. If Ryan turns into the player that Dimitroff (and myself) think he’s capable, it won’t matter if the other ten guys wash out, not many people are going to notice. And while I don’t think this draft alone is going to provide Ryan will the necessary weapons and talent around him to succeed in Atlanta, I do think this draft puts us well on our way.