To see how this scoring system was devised, you can click here. The 29th-ranked Falcon player is middle linebacker Akeem Dent.
Total Score: 43
Player Grade: 52 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 6 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 16 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +3
Full disclosure, I wasn’t a fan of the selection of Dent in the third round back in 2011. While, I was disappointed with what the Falcons gave up in the Julio Jones trade that year, I at least knew that Jones was a great NFL prospect and my favorite wide receiver prospect since Larry Fitzgerald came out seven years before. In the case of Dent, I wasn’t convinced that he was more than a late round prospect that was a career backup. Taking him in the third round seemed like the most grievous of Dimitroff’s mid-round reaches. His play in 2012 did not inspire with much confidence that my initial assessment of him was wrong.
Dent is a player that I’m expecting to improve this year, but I’m just not sure by how much. I believe much of his struggles in 2012 came from his lack of experience and the fact that he was playing too much on his heels. He was thinking too much rather than simply reacting, something that comes with experience.
So it seems odd to say but 2013 might be a make or break season for Dent. I don’t expect him to come out and become one of the league’s best linebacker, but he does need to make significant improvement. Otherwise the Falcons are going to be in a position next off-season where they might have to look at replacing him as their middle linebacker. I’ve spoken before about the possibility that Dent could potentially move to strongside linebacker in 2014 as a potential replacement for Nicholas, who will be 31 and count $4 million against the 2014 salary cap.
Dent’s ranking is largely due to the fact that a number of NFL teams are also going with young and unproven players at middle linebacker, e.g. Denver and Buffalo, and the same for some 3-4 teams such as the New York Jets, Cleveland, and Houston. But without a significant improvement this year, Dent would rank as a quality backup for the majority of NFL teams similar to players such as Dan Connor, Tim Dobbins, and Chase Blackburn. Those are players that have started games in this league (combined 85 since 2005), but very few teams have counted on them year after year to be starters. Instead, they are seen more as journeyman stopgaps. Dobbins had already joined his third team by his sixth season, and Connor just joined his third this past off-season in now his sixth season. Without significant improvement from Dent this year, his career path could easily go down that road.
But going well for Dent is his youth and the fact that even if that is all his career amounts to be, then like those players he can still make a nice NFL career and potentially play 8-10 years and be a solid contributor.