Re-Capping the Falcons Draft

Following up the Arizona Cardinals draft feature, we’re continuing alphabetically with the Atlanta Falcons.

As we get further towards the season, I’ll be adding more information gleaned from camp reports about each and every rookie.

Expect a new feature every Sunday and Wednesday, with completed segments posted on the Team-By-Team Selections page.

Round 1, Pick 22 – Washington CB Desmond Trufant

Senior 6’0″ 190 lbs 4.38 40-yard 16 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Corey Webster

Trufant is athletic and he’s scheme versatile. Like a younger Webster, he can press and will succeed in both zone and man coverage in the NFL.

He lacks top speed (he’s not as fast on the field as his 40 time may lead to believe) while at the same time lacking a fluidity of movement that could be a negative in man coverage at the professional level. All the same, Trufant has the skill set to start outside and versatility to move from side to side of the field.

Trufant should excel given time to learn the game, but he needs to improve as a physical corner if he’s to match up against true no. 1 receivers — Atlanta is reportedly looking to start Trufant opposite stalwart Asante Samuel with the intention of Trufant locking down top receivers. Expect the rookie to struggle at first, but there is talent capable of a starting corner in the first-round pick.

The addition makes sense for Atlanta, as the departures of Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson leave a definitive hole opposite Samuel outside. Slot corner Robert McClain will likely keep his role as a nickel and dime package sub, leaving Trufant with a starting position as a rookie.

Round 2, Pick 28 (60) – SE Louisiana CB Robert Alford

Redshirt Senior 5’10 188 lbs 4.34 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Alphonso Smith

Alford’s size is an unappealing sight for many when considering a cornerback. However, Alford’s vertical ability is similar to Alphonso Smith in that he plays like a much taller corner than his stature. Even with his height, Alford has a typical slot corner skill set, with burner wheels and ball-hawking abilities (10 interceptions at SE Louisiana — four as a senior).

As the second corner selected by Atlanta, there are less expectations being placed on the small-school product than first-rounder Desmond Trufant. Alford’s selection makes for a very talented corner group in Atlanta, as the starters are shaping up as Asante Samuel and Trufant with Robert McClain and Alford chipping in as nickel and dime backs at the least — there is still a chance that Alford could claim a starting role in camp over the more heavily lauded Trufant.

Round 4, Pick 30 (127) – Clemson DE Malliciah Goodman

Senior 6’4″ 176 lbs 4.78 40-yard 26 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Robert Ayers

Goodman’s assets as a run defender make him an ideal replacement for John Abraham in the long term, as the Falcons are needy in that area. While often criticized for lacking burst off the snap, the Clemson product has both big hands and long arms that give him an advantage gaining leverage on blockers and reaching to swat passes.

Goodman will see little time on the field as a rookie, with the likes of Kroy Biermann and free-agent acquisition Osi Umenyiora blocking his time at end, but will likely be involved in sub packages as an edge-setter in run defense. With some work on technique and time to prove doubters of his on-field motor wrong, Goodman could develop into a valuable defensive end for the Falcons.

Round 4, Pick 36 (133) – Stanford TE Levine Toilolo

Redshirt Junior 6’8″ 260 lbs 4.79 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Scott Chandler

As the complementary blocking tight end to fellow 2013 NFL Draft selection Zach Ertz in his time at Stanford, Toilolo is known more for his blocking chops than receiving abilities. However, that doesn’t mean the monstrous tight end can’t catch — Toilolo caught four touchdowns in his junior year before declaring for the draft.

Plus height and long arms make Toilolo a threat both as a vertical receiver and at the goal line, with his excellent blocking abilities allowing the Falcons to rely on the veteran Tony Gonzalez as the pass-catching end again this season.

Round 5, Pick 20 (153) – TCU DE Stansly Maponga

Redshirt Junior 6’2″ 256 lbs 4.84 40-yard 30 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Dwight Freeney

Maponga drew comparisons to Freeney in his junior year and leading into the draft because of a fine-tuned spin move, a pass-rushing technique that has made Freeney a household name with football fans.

Teams were scared away from the TCU product after the revelation that Maponga underwent foot surgery in March after playing his junior season with the injury — only managing four sacks after an extremely productive (13.5 TFL, 9 sakcs, 5 forced fumbles) in his sophomore season. With excellent technique and deceptive strength for a finesse end, Maponga makes for an excellent complement to fourth-rounder Malliciah Goodman for the future.

Round 7, Pick 37 (243) – Central Florida S Kemal Ishmael

Senior 5’11” 201 lbs 4.63 40-yard 21 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Derrick Martin

Ishmael was a productive tackler out of the defensive backfield at Central Florida, but athletic limitations place a clear question mark on how much the projected safety can do on the field. It’s tough to find a true comparison for Ishmael, but Martin is a good fit because of his reputation as a special teams stalwart and a hard worker. An above-average tackler, Ishmael will have an up-hill battle to establish a roster spot as a special teams player in camp.

Round 7, Pick 38 (244) – Notre Dame S Zeke Motta

Senior 6’2″ 213 lbs 4.75 40-yard 11 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Craig Dahl

Motta is a converted linebacker who’s tackling chops and overall lack of lateral ability made the Notre Dame coaching staff consider moving him to safety. Well-sized, yet a bit on the weak side for an in-the-box safety, Motta’s tackling abilities may earn him a special teams berth — if he can beat out the likes of fellow seventh-round rookie Kemal Ishmael.

Round 7, Pick 43 (249) – Duke QB Sean Renfree

Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 219 lbs 4.76 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Matt Hasselbeck

Renfree became a bit of a buzz-worthy prospect after quarterback guru Mike Mayock picked the Duke product as his sleeper quarterback of the draft due to his natural abilities under center — notably above-average anticipation and timing in combination with excellent work ethic and passion for the game. Essentially, Renfree has many of the ‘quarterback intangibles’ that draftniks like Mayock look for in sleeper picks.

With endorsements from many analysts and the coaching of Duke’s well-known quarterback coach David Cutcliffe, Renfree has high expectations for a compensatory pick, but will have plenty of time to mature behind Falcons starter Matt Ryan.

Renfree has little competition for the backup spot to Matt Ryan, with 2012 undrafted rookie Dominique Davis and 2013 undrafted rookie Seth Doege as the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

FINAL DRAFT GRADE: B

This draft class is a bit of hit-or-miss for the needs of the Falcons — while they did get the starting corner (or corners) they needed, the team didn’t manage to find a linebacker or starting defensive end to shore up positions of need. As of now, it looks as if the team is counting on Tony Gonzalez to put up another starter-caliber season before retirement and Osi Umenyiora to perform better than many teams expect out of the 31-year-old veteran. Atlanta managed to pick up an underrated signal caller in Renfree late in the draft along with a duo of defensive ends and corners that should contribute in the future.

Atlanta has a very well-off squad, and this draft class should help bolster the defensive backfield in the short term and several spots on the defense in the long-term, with Toilolo making for an interesting prospect at tight end.

Next up, Baltimore Ravens! Check in Wednesday for our next draft feature!

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