Earlier this off-season we took a look back at the 2008 and 2009 NFL Drafts and assigned grades to Thomas Dimitroff. Now it's time to look at 2010. It's still a little early to provide a permanent grade to this draft but let's take a look at how it has turned out so far.
Looking back on the 2010 NFL Draft, I remember two things. First, nearly the entire fan base was split on rather to draft an OLB or DE. The 2nd is it was the first draft I followed all the way from the beginning of the college season up to the draft. This draft had a bleak outlook at first, but it could become Dimitroff's best draft so far.
With our first round pick that year we chose an OLB from Mizzou by the name of Sean Weatherspoon. Spoon was a high motor, high energy guy with good speed and great instincts. However, his rookie season was nothing short of abyssmal. He could not stay healthy and when he was on the field, opposing QBs had a 100% completion rating throwing against him. That's right every throw attempted against him was completed. He also had issues with missing tackles, but suffered a knee sprain early in he season that caused him to miss a couple of weeks. Spoon did show his motor and energy as he battled back and continued to steadily improve throughout the season.
Going into the 2011 season many had high hopes in Weatherspoon and not only did he meet those hopes and expectations, he blew them out of the water. Playing in all 16 games Weatherspoon acquired 115 Tackles, 4 Sacks, and 8 Passes Defended, and earned a spot on Football Outsiders' All Pro team. Aaron Schatz of the aformentioned Football Outisders had this excerpt about him:
Weatherspoon was involved in 16 percent of Atlanta's total defensive plays, third among outside linebackers. He was particularly strong when it came to stopping the run, and made his average tackle on run plays after a gain of just 2.0 yards, which ranked second among 4-3 outside linebackers. Weatherspoon was also part of a Falcons linebacker group that played excellent pass defense. The Falcons ranked first in the league in DVOA against tight ends and seventh in DVOA against running backs as receivers."
High praise for a guy who had about as bad as a rookie season as you could, but Spoon bounced back in a big way this year. So far this pick is looking like an A.
The 2nd pick by Atlanta in this draft (3rd Round) was Corey Peters, a DT from Kentucky. Many criticized Thomas Dimitroff for this pick as most draft experts had Peters as a 3rd day pick. To start his rookie season Peters was a rotational player with Johnathan Babineaux, Vance Walker, and Peria Jerry. Peters did a good job in his rookie season racking up 33 tackles and a sack. Peters really flashed his potential this year and despite his tackle numbers falling off a bit he recorded 3 sacks and was consistently getting pressure up the middle. If he can continue this trend of progression, Peters may very well be a probowler next year. If Peters can become more of a consistent force in the run game this may be looked back upon as a major steal instead of a major reach. Peters performed well enough in 2011 to earn him a spot on Pro Football Focus' "All-NFC South Team" along with teammate Johanthan Babineaux. Here's what the author of the article, John Breitenbach had to say about the DT duo,
It really hurt the Falcons that Babineaux was only able to play 500 snaps, as he is far and away their best defensive tackle. Eight QB knockdowns is pretty impressive for a guy that barely played half a season. Peters showed a lot of potential early on, but needs to be more consistent going forward. This really is a division lacking in quality tackle play.
Once again this is another good looking pick by Dimitroff. So far I would it a B+ on the fringe of becoming an A.
Mike Johnson was the next pick, an OG out of Alabama. I can't say much about Johnson as he hasn't seen any real playing time and had his year ended early with concussion and foot issues this year. He should have a shot at the guard spot this year after losing out to Garret Reynolds last year which isn't saying much. So far I would say this pick is around a C-.
The Pick after that was Joe Hawley. Hawley is a Center out of UNLV. Hawley was presumably drafted to be the heir to Todd McClure. Hawley has received some playing time at C, and while being an effective pass blocker he lacks in the run game. This year he got a shot at RG and filled in well, however he was still unable to get a lot of push on the ground game and even though he looked good at times in pass protection he also had issues with blitz pick up. Hawley has a long way to go before he is able to take the reigns of the offensive line, but he has been a serviceable player, so it's looking like a C+ right now.
Dominique Franks was the next name to be linked with Atlanta. Franks was a 2nd rounder who had fallen into the 5th, and Dimitroff quickly pulled the trigger. In today's league you can never have too many good CBs. Franks has shown instinctive playmaking abilities and good coverage skills. In his rookie year he didn't get much playing time but did notch an INT against Arizona. This year he was moved into the nickel slot and played well. When Brent Grimes went down with an injury he filled in and did a great job against Andre Johnson and other receivers. The only thing in my mind that is keeping Franks from reaching the next level is experience. As he gets more I expect him to become a very good CB, as his work ethic is certainly good enough for him to reach that level. Right now I have this as a B, but as Franks progresses this grade will continue to "rise up."
The Penultimate pick for Atlanta was WR Kerry Meier. Meier was initally a QB at Kansas, but moved to WR once Todd Reesing won the job. Meier was known for his sure hands in college. He hasn't had a whole lot of opportunity with Atlanta, as he tore his ACL in the preaseason his rookie year and didn't see the field due to being buried on the depth chart along with Mularkey's restrictive scheme. His sure hands and Koetter's passing attack might see him on the field a bit during the 2012 season. So far I'll give this a C.
The final pick in the 2010 draft for Atlanta was SS Shann Schillinger. Schillinger has been a good special teams player so far for Atlanta and I really don't see him being much beyond that, so I'll give this a C.
Overall this is looking like a very good draft for Atlanta, Weatherspoon looks like a future star. Peters and Franks have great potential and progressed tremendously during their two years here. Hawley has been a serviceable player, and we still don't know what we have in Johnson and Meier who each suffered season ending injuries during their careers. So far I'd give this draft a B+, it's looking like it has bequeathed us with a star, two future starters and a couple of serviceable players.