The Atlanta Falcons have gone 56-24 in the five years that Thomas Dimitroff has been the general manager. That's because he has character guidelines for all of his draft picks.
Due to his nickname being Comrade (h/t The Falcoholic Dave Choate) and Rich McKay already putting in the "Falcon Filter" in 2004, I've dubbed his guidelines to be the "Comrade Filter."
Because the Comrade Filter has led to such success, there's a question as to what the exact guidelines of it might be or even how it works. It's a color coded system that was based around the scouting guidelines that Dimtiroff developed while he was an assistant with the Patriots.
According to War Room by Michael Holley, players who do not fit or are considered high-risk get designated with a black dot at the first sign of trouble on Dimitroff's board—the same as being completely scratched from anyone else's.
Good character players earn green dots based on what are considered characteristics any team wants. Captainship, production and "urgent athleticism" are highlighted, while off-the-field problems drop them into high-risk categories.
Dimitroff's guidelines are a bit extreme though. Another thing pointed out in Michael Holley's book was Arthur Blank's concerns that he may have gotten too out of whack with his guidelines, but Comrade chose to stick to his convictions.
The following guidelines seem to be what Dimitroff has wanted in players over the past five drafts. Because the Falcons have been wildly successful, expect them to stay the same in the coming drafts.
Players Need to Be Both Productive and "Urgently Athletic"
An interesting thing that all of the Falcons selections under Thomas Dimitroff have shared is that they were productive in college. Thirty-four of the 38 players showed All-Conference abilities in their college days.
Most of these players also had great size, speed and agility combinations shown through their play on the field even if their combine numbers didn't support it. The best example of this is Curtis Lofton, who was an exceptional athlete despite not being the biggest or strongest or fastest at the combine.
A great example in the 2013 draft of someone who fits these traits is Bjoern Werner. He had 20 sacks, 13 hurries, 29 tackles for loss and 13 forced fumbles over the past two seasons.
Werner also had a solid combine, where he measured in at 6'3-1/4", 266 pounds, ran a 4.83 in the 40 and had a 31" vertical jump. Atlanta would love to get a player of Bjoern Werner's caliber on and off the field.
Team Leaders and "Team First" Players Are Pursued
It's amazing the amount of leadership that Thomas Dimitroff wants on his team. To go along with a team-first concept, he also wants guys who are going to be leaders in the locker room and not followers of the crowd.
The amount of players that he has taken that were either college team captains or locker room leaders is at 66 percent, or 25 of the 38 selections. This is important as the Falcons prefer to have guys who want to win and put the team ahead of themselves.
This shows a big reason as to why the Falcons have not just gotten rid of players such as DeAngelo Hall and Ray Edwards, but also why they have gone 56-24 over the past five seasons. When everyone believes in a team concept, the wins will stay consistent and the team will continually be in the playoffs.
There are a few players in free agency and the draft that will be scratched from Dimitroff's board and list due to the Comrade Filter. This would include players like DaMontre Moore—someone who is a "mess off the field" according to scouts.
Hard Workers Are Also Priorities to Search For
Out of the 38 players that Thomas Dimitroff has selected, every one of them has been known as a hard worker on and off the field. It's another thing that works into the team concept because when someone is giving their all for the team, they'll show it in the weight room and film rooms.
A huge part to why Matt Ryan was selected No. 3 overall in the 2008 draft and became the Falcons' franchise quarterback was his work ethic. Known as a film junkie and a gym rat in college, all he had to do to prove he was the right choice was get interviewed.
After acing the interview, the Falcons knew they had their guy. If a player is known as lazy or doesn't care about the game on or off the field, the Falcons will take them off the board.
Sam Montgomery fits here as someone who will get filtered out due to his admission of taking games off versus lesser competition and this photo from the LSU strength trainer.
No Knuckleheads Allowed
Another thing that Thomas Dimitroff uses in his Comrade Filter to eliminate players is the "knucklehead" factor. Out of the 38 draft picks, Dimitroff has drafted a combined zero arrests and zero suspensions. Don't expect that to change this year.
Taking players who don't have arrests or suspensions makes it easier to have players in the NFL who won't have suspensions or arrests. It's essentially the "Vick Rule." The Comrade doesn't want to get blindsided the way Rich McKay was by another Michael Vick.
An example of a solid player with good character outside of a suspension is Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce—who was suspended in 2010 and later became a team captain. And then there's Kenny Stills, who would be filtered for a DUI arrest in 2011.
Knuckleheads who get arrested or suspended will be filtered. It's a shame that the Falcons may miss out on some talent. But would you rather have a talented player who creates trouble off the field, or a talented player who does charity work off the field?
The Guys Who Fit Best
In looking into the draft, the Falcons have four major needs: a coverage linebacker, a pass-rushing defensive end, a tight end to take over for Tony Gonzalez and a long-term option at cornerback to take over for Asante Samuel and Brent Grimes as the playmaker.
In a projected mock draft situation, I could see Thomas Dimitroff selecting the following based on the Comrade Filter: Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round, North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson in the second round, Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden in the third round and Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman in the fourth round.
Tyler Eifert is a tight end from Notre Dame who fits exactly what the Comrade Filter wants. He's a team captain with a ton of production and great size and speed. He's also never been arrested or suspended and is known off the field as a tough, hard worker.
David Amerson is a playmaking cornerback from North Carolina State that wasn't a team captain. However, he's a hardworking player with that urgent athleticism and understands how to correct issues in his game on the field. Off the field, he's never had any issue with the law and never missed time from suspension.
Zaviar Gooden is a team captain and coverage linebacker from Missouri. He's one of the hardest workers on a Tigers defense that surprised with its effectiveness in the SEC. He's a great athlete who fills a need and also has never been arrested or suspended—notice the trend here.
Finally, Malliciah Goodman is someone who was not just a team captain on the field, but was also a Carolina Panthers community captain for college players in the local areas. He also had a great season in 2012 as far as his production.
While he always had great size and speed, the on-field production finally clicked in the second half of the season when he had 7.0 sacks in seven games. But again, he fits the Falcons' character profile of no arrests and suspensions off the field and a captain on it.
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"