Continuing our roundup of the NFL season just gone it is time to review the performance of the Atlanta Falcons.
Finish: 3rd NFC South
Round 1 Pick 6 - Jake Matthews (Offensive Tackles)
Round 2 Pick 37 - Ra'Shede Hageman (Defensive Tackle)
Round 3 Pick 68 - Dezmen Southward (Safety)
Round 4 Pick 103 - Devonta Freeman (Running Back)
Round 4 Pick 139 - Prince Shembo (Linebacker)
Round 5 Pick 147 - Ricardo Allen (Cornerback)
Round 5 Pick 168 - Marquis Spruill (Linebacker)
Draft Pick Grades: C+
Without ever dazzling, the Atlanta Falcons rookie class didn't flame out. Fourth round pick Devonta Freeman looks like he could be a useful running back weapon on passing downs and, with the departure of Steven Jackson, the rookie's role should increase in his sophomore year. Whilst third round pick Southward showed flashed of quality particularly in the game against the Saints in New Orleans.
On the downside though, top two picks Matthews and Hageman perhaps struggled more than was expected. Their talent and physicality is undeniable though and this coupled with some new coaches should be enough to deliver an improvement in 2015.
Best Player: Julio Jones
Julio Jones is one of the top three wide receivers in the NFL. The fact that the Falcons managed to drag their way to six wins is mostly due to his 1,593 receiving yards and the seven games in which he had over 100 receiving yards.
Furthermore, although he was not able to single-handedly defeat the Packers at Lambeau Field Jones' 259 yards, one touchdown performance against them was one of the best 60 minutes of football that was put on tape all season.
Worst Performer: Mike Smith
It might be trite to blame a team's problems on the Head Coach but sometimes the fish, or falcon, rots from the head. Other than being unoffensive Mike Smith never seemed to have any sort of quality about him. Smith got fired and anyone who saw the Falcons snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Lions in London knows that this was a well deserved outcome.
Season Grade: F
Not only did the Falcons play well below their potential but, in the ultra-weak NFC South, even a just below-par performance would have been enough to clinch the division and book a place in the playoffs.
Hope for the future?
In the NFL if you have a franchise quarterback you have a fighting chance. In Matt Ryan the Falcons have a franchise quarterback. They also have a great wide receiver in Julio Jones and a new Head Coach in Dan Quinn. Not only do the Falcons have hope for the future but, if the next couple of seasons go well, then they will be setting themselves up for a legitimate shot at the Superbowl.