Grading the Falcons 2010 Draft

Now that I’ve had a day to let the draft sink in, everybody wants to start grading drafts. Well, here are mine:

1/19. LB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
This pick didn’t have me jumping for joy, maybe because I expected it the minute Brandon Graham was snatched up by the Eagles. Perhaps I had set myself up to think we were going to fix our defensive end position with this pick. But that shouldn’t mean I’m disappointed with this pick at all. Weatherspoon is going to be a fixture on our defenses for years to come with the potential to make multiple Pro Bowls. He fits very well in our defense, with his speed, range, and his eagerness to hit. He has good coverage ability that means he’ll be able to cover tight ends like Kellen Winslow and backs like Reggie Bush in our division. His intensity and fierceness make him a near perfect match to put alongside Curtis Lofton. The only real question is just how soon will the Falcons try to reap the benefits of this selection. Weatherspoon is a natural weakside linebacker, and will be miscast on the strongside. The Falcons could move Peterson to the strongside where he played a bit in Jacksonville to try and put their best three linebackers on the field at once. Or they could keep Nicholas in the lineup, and instead trying to bring along Spoon a bit more slowly, incorporating him in subpackages, particularly on passing downs. It really doesn’t matter to me, either way I think Spoon will begin to make his presence known as a rookie. And he’ll almost certainly be the starter in 2011 regardless of what happens next year. GRADE: A

3/83. DT Corey Peters, Kentucky
Dimitroff indicated the team really wanted to address their depth at defensive tackle, and basically “reached” on Peters because they felt that he wasn’t going to be available later in the draft. I buy that, and I can understand why the Falcons liked Peters more than other defensive tackle prospects that were available. He has a good motor, is a capable pass rusher, and should fit nicely in our rotation behind our starters. I don’t really see starting potential with him, and in the middle of the third round you prefer to get guys that can start down the road. But Peters will definitely contribute even if it’s not as a starter. He should be the top tackle off the bench no later than 2011. GRADE: C+

3/98. OG Mike Johnson, Alabama
This pick really appears like the real coup of the Falcons draft. Johnson has Alan Faneca-like ability as a left guard. Johnson is one of the top run blockers in the entire class, and should be able to compete right off the start for a starting job at left guard. His ability to clear running lanes is exactly what the Falcons need at left guard, since Sam Baker is not exactly a road-grader. Johnson’s ability there will help offset that lacking ability from Baker, and allow the Falcons to be more productive running to the left. Johnson’s major weakness is that he’s inconsistent in pass protection. But Faneca has been the same way throughout much of his later career, but like Faneca he can also potentially be a fill-in at tackle as well, although his best position is left guard. Even if Johnson doesn’t unseat Blalock this summer, it’s highly likely that he’ll slide in as the starter in 2011 with Blalock headed to free agency. GRADE: A+

4/117. OC Joe Hawley, UNLV
I don’t know enough about Hawley to really have a strong opinion on this pick. He’s a center that can also play guard, a position he played more during his career than at center. But if he’s a physical player, and almost every thing I read suggests he is, he could be a nice developmental center. Basically he could be another Brett Romberg, and has a chance to be the heir apparent to Todd McClure at center at some point in the next year or two. He is not Alex Mack, but you don’t have to be in order to be a starting NFL center. GRADE: B

5/135. CB Dominique Franks, Oklahoma
Franks entered this draft early because the NFL draft advisory board probably told him he would be a second round pick back in January. Well they were obviously wrong, because he fell. But he could be a potential steal. Franks isn’t great, but is a solid corner that should definitely be able to compete for a starting job in the near future. For now, he’ll probably push Grimes and Owens for the nickel job, but with his size he could leapfrog both as the heir apparent to Brian Williams as the starter in 2011 and beyond. At the very least, he should add depth if not becoming a serviceable starter down the road. GRADE: B+

5/165. WR Kerry Meier, Kansas
Meier is a player you like when you watch him play. He has good hands, nice size, and does a good job moving the chains in Kansas wide-open spread attack. He was very productive, but I’m not convinced he’ll be a factor on offense at the NFL level because of a lack of burst and speed. He’s targeted to fill the role that Brian Finneran holds on the team, and his first duties will be on special teams. He’s a guy that I think could bulk up and work as a wideout/H-back, a role that Finneran filled for much of last season before he got hurt. GRADE: C

6/171. S Shann Schillinger, Montana
Schillinger was drafted to fill depth and will push Matt Giordano as the reserve free safety and special teams. Again, don’t know much about him, but I’m at least hopeful that there’s a chance he can be developed somewhat and fill the role as a reserve safety that Erik Coleman is expected to fill this year. If he can be a stud special teams player and a capable reserve a few years down the road, then this is a solid pick. GRADE: B-


This draft will largely be judged down the road on how good of NFL players Weatherspoon and Johnson will be. Both have Pro Bowl potential, and if they develop into that then no one is really going to care about the rest of this class. If Peters also develops into a solid No. 3 defensive tackle, Hawley is a competent starter, and Franks, Meier, and Schillinger can contribute off the bench, then that only makes this draft class stronger.

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Aaron Freeman
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