Steve Wyche - Staff
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Michael Vick's got to be loving this.
The quarterback buzz during most of the offseason centered around No. 2 man Matt Schaub and his trade appeal. Now, with minicamp starting today, Vick and Schaub will be trumped by the most anticipated seventh-round pick in recent Falcons' lore --- D.J. Shockley.
He is from Atlanta and played quarterback at Georgia. In addition, Shockley is the first Bulldogs' player to be drafted by the Falcons in more than a decade.
The kicker: Shockley has been given jersey No. 1.
"It's been crazy because I don't even think people realize I'm a seventh-round, a last-round draft pick," Shockley said. "If you could see how people are reacting around me, you would think I was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft."
Shockley better savor the love now because once he steps on the field, he'll be a fourth-string quarterback trying to steal clipboard-carrying duties from third-stringer Bryan Randall, who dons the No. 3 jersey Shockley has worn most of his football life.
"This guy's not a lock to make the team," coach Jim Mora said of Shockley. "Bryan Randall is a pretty good quarterback, and he's been in the system for a year. But we wouldn't have drafted D.J. if we didn't think he could compete and upgrade the position. We think he'll do that by him making it or by upgrading Bryan Randall's performance."
While the Falcons' drafting of the versatile Shockley has been met with mainly positive reaction, it also was greeted with suspicion.
Why draft Shockley when he probably would have been available as an undrafted free agent? Why not find another guy at a position of need, like defensive tackle or end, who could take a few snaps this season, like last season's seventh-rounder Darrell Shropshire --- a potential starter at nose guard this season?
Why cater to those who every year, a few weeks before the draft, bring up the Falcons long-standing avoidance of Georgia players?
It had to be image-conscious team owner Arthur Blank.
He was in the War Room. He wants to be Jerry Jones. He shot down all the personnel staff he pays to scout talent throughout the country to take the local kid with great character and UGA ties.
"Not true," president and general manager Rich McKay said of Blank pushing for Shockley ... or any player, for that matter. "The reason you don't pick players for PR is that it never ends up well for the player. He can't match up to the pick, ever. That doesn't make good sense.
"D.J. was a guy we had on our fifth-round list, our sixth-round list and our seventh-round list. When you get down in those ranges, you pick a player where you think you can get them. Sometimes you wait too long. Sometimes you pull the trigger too early. There are 31 other teams that might like the guy you like, and that's a lot of risk. We liked D.J., so we took him."
The Falcons planned on acquiring a fourth quarterback and contemplated using a third-round pick on Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who Minnesota took in the second round. Shockley, who Atlanta's staff watched at least four times in person and in several postseason workouts, always was an option, McKay said.
"It will not be easy for him," McKay said. "His local ties will get a lot of scrutiny."
The mobile Shockley, who was highly touted coming out of North Clayton High but sat behind David Greene for four years before starting and leading Georgia to an SEC championship, said he's ready for the good and bad that will come with playing for his hometown team.
"It's not going to be anything new for me," Shockley said. "I've been competing for a spot for the last four, five years. I've had people hate me. I've had people love me. The way I am, I just want to get on the field and compete and whatever happens, happens."