Grade : B+
Round 1 Pick 6 – Jake Matthews OT
Round 2 Pick 37 – Ra'Shede Hageman DT
Round 3 Pick 68 – Dezmen Southward S
Round 4 Pick 103 – Devonta Freeman RB
Round 4 Pick 139 – Prince Shembo LB
Round 5 Pick 147 – Ricardo Allen CB
Round 5 Pick 168 – Marquis Spruill LB
Round 7 Pick 253 – Yawin Smallwood LB
After a disappointing 2013 season the Falcons looked to set the groundwork for a huge 2014 bounce back campaign by strengthening in the NFL draft. Did the Falcons manage to do this
The Falcons first round pick wasn't a difficult one to work out. The Falcons needed an offensive tackle and with the sixth overall selection they took offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
The 6'6'' 308 pound Jake Matthews is about as pro-ready of an offensive tackle as you can get. In pass protection Matthews' speed off the snap, quick feet and long arms allows him to control the player in front of him ensuring that he doesn't get near the QB. In pass protection Matthews is similarly strong.
Scouts who have looked at Matthews had said that he can get in trouble when he stops moving his feet and becomes stationary. The thing is though that is just a basic tenant of playing on the line. If you stop moving your feet you are unlikely to beat the other player. Matthews doesn't have any big weaknesses and theoretically should take to the NFL like a duck to water.
After strengthening on the offensive line in round one the Falcons followed this up by taking giant defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman in round 2. At 6'6'' and 310 pounds Hageman is able to use his size and frame to dominate in the interior of the line.
In 2013, Hageman picked up 38 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and two sacks. He also used his height to break up seven passes and grab an interception. Hageman should add some
steel to the Falcons defensive line.
In round three the Falcons looked to improve the secondary by drafting safety Dezmen Southward. If you want a safety that is going to deliver hard hits on receivers and running backs then Southward is the guy for you.
In 2013 he chalked up 40 tackles, an interception and five passes broken up. For a player that plays so hard and with little regard for his safety Southward also displays impressive durability by playing in a Wisconsin school record 54 games.
For all his heavy hitting though Southward can be made to look silly with clever routes that force him to move laterally and change direction. This could be a big problem in the NFL where clever receivers and offensive co-ordinators will target this weakness. The Falcons will back themselves to improve Southward's choppy backpedal and iron out this weakness. If they can do this then Southward has the character and physique to star as a defensive back.
The Falcons also added some depth at RB. With Steve Jackson's contract winding down, Jason Snelling's retirement and Jacquizz Rodgers rookie deal also up the Falcons needed to add depth in the running back position.
By drafting Devonta Freeman the Falcons have got a workhorse back who is capable of hitting gaps and running over players. In 2013, he ran for 1,016 yards on 173 carries with 14 touchdowns. Interestingly Freeman has also shown his ability as a receiver. Last season he took 22 catches for 278 yards and a single touchdown. Overall Freeman adds some much needed depth to the running back corp.
Ultimately, there is much to like about the Falcons draft. They have got much stronger on both sides of the line of scrimmage and there is every reason to think that the Falcons
will be returning to the playoffs after their absence last year.
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