Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog — our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. The No Spin Zone. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has a bank of three television sets on a wall in a room off the kitchen in his house.
He has a set of phones, primary and back-up cellphones, a generator and an IT guy in the basement just in case something goes wrong during the virtual draft, Thursday through Saturday.
Based on his pre-draft inklings, Dimitroff is going to make a trade, and he’s using the final 48 hours leading to the draft to lay the groundwork.
You don’t want to start talking trade when you get on the clock and have only 10 minutes to finalize a deal.
In each of the past 12 drafts, Dimitroff made a trade.
It could be a big trade (Julio Jones deal) or it could be a small one (moving up to draft Kendall Sheffield and John Cominsky in the fourth round last year).
You don’t know when, but there’s going to be a trade.
Here’s a look at Dimitroff’s draft-day trades over the years.
2019: The Falcons traded with the Rams to get the 31st overall pick in the first round. The Falcons sent their second (45th) and third (79th) to the Rams. They also received a sixth (203rd) pick. The Falcons selected Marcus Green in the sixth round. He was cut.
The Falcons used the 31st pick to draft offensive tackle Kaleb McGary.
Falcons traded up twice, to get cornerback Sheffield and defensive end Cominsky.
The Falcons sent their sixth-round pick (186th overall) to the Lions to move up six spots to the 111 overall spot, where they drafted Sheffield.
The Falcons also sent a seventh-round pick to the Raiders to move up two spots to draft Cominsky 135th overall.
2018: The Falcons traded with the Rams to move up to get a sixth-round pick (No. 194, Russell Gage) and gave up two seventh-round picks, 244 (Justin Lawler, DE, SMU) and 256 (traded to Redskins).
2017: The Falcons traded up with Seattle to get the 26th pick overall (Takkarist McKinley) and gave up the 31st pick (traded to 49ers) and picks in the third round (No. 95, Delano Hill, S, Michigan) and seventh round (No. 249, Chris Carson, RB, Oklahoma State, Parkview High). The Falcons traded down with the Buffalo Bills, dealing their No. 63 overall pick (Deion Dawkins, G, Temple) for three picks - No. 75 (Duke Riley, LB, LSU), No. 149 (Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State) and No. 156 (Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming).
2016: The Falcons traded back into the second round with the Texans. They moved from 50 to 52 (Deion Jones) and picked up a sixth-round pick (195th), which they used to take Wes Schweitzer. The Texans took offensive lineman Nick Martin with the 50th pick. The Falcons gave up their sixth-round pick to Tennessee as part of the Andy Levitre trade.
2015: The Falcons traded up nine spots to land defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth round with the 137th overall pick. They traded with the Minnesota Vikings and gave up their fifth-round pick (146) and sixth-round pick (185). The Vikings used the 146th pick to select wide receiver Stefon Diggs and the other to select Oklahoma tackle Tyrus Thompson. Diggs made the PFWA All-Rookie team.
2014: The Falcons traded their sixth-round pick (182nd) and one of their three seventh-round picks (220) for the Vikings’ fifth-round pick (168). They selected Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill with the pick.
2013: The Falcons traded from No. 30 to 22 in the first round to land cornerback Desmond Trufant. The Falcons traded a third-round and a sixth-round pick to the St. Louis Rams. In the fifth round, the Falcons traded up 10 picks to get TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga. They sent a seventh-round pick (236) to the Chicago Bears.
2012: The Falcons made a trade with Baltimore to move down seven spots in the third round to take offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. They picked up a fifth-round pick and selected defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi with the 164th overall pick. The Ravens picked up running back Bernard Pierce with the 84th pick, which the Falcons sent them. The Falcons gave up a seventh-rounder (229th overall) to the Eagles in the Asante Samuel trade. The Eagles used that pick to select running back Bryce Brown.
2011: There was the 5-for-1 mega-deal with Cleveland to move up 21 spots to land wide receiver Julio Jones. Later, in the fifth round after the spotlight was off the Falcons, Dimitroff sent two picks to St. Louis to move up 10 spots to scoop up running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
2010: Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks, who left school a year early, was slipping in the draft. Dimitroff sent two picks to St. Louis to move up 14 spots to acquire Franks.
2009: Dimitroff felt he could get his guy by going back 13 spots in the fifth round. The Falcons made a deal to send their fifth-round pick to Dallas. They moved back 13 spots and picked up a seventh-round pick for their troubles. They drafted offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds in the fifth and defensive lineman Vance Walker of Georgia Tech in the seventh.
2008: There was a run on left tackles. With the Falcons needing protection for Matt Ryan, who the Falcons had taken with the third overall pick, Dimitroff sent two second-round picks and a fourth-round pick to Washington to move back into the first round and pick Sam Baker with the 21st overall pick. They also received third- and fifth-round picks. The Falcons used those picks to select wide receiver Harry Douglas (84th overall) and defensive end Kroy Biermann (154th).
2. SEC flavor: The SEC is expected to break NFL draft records.
There could be as many as 16 players selected from the SEC, including Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and running back D’Andre Swift, in the first round. That would top the previous record of 12, which was set in 2013 and matched in 2017.
The SEC set a record of having 64 players drafted last season, and that could be broken.
“The SEC may lead the way early, but there will be good players selected in a bunch of rounds,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
3. QB trend: We asked Dimitroff at the Senior Bowl about the trend toward more mobile quarterbacks and if that helped the plight of former Oklahoma and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Dimitroff said it would be an interesting trend to keep track of and that’s what he did during the pre-draft process.
Some were reading too much into his study of the trend that’s been led by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and to a lesser degree Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
“I mean, look, Matt Ryan is our quarterback and we have the big and best faith in him that he’s going to be the quarterback that we need to take us where we need to go, plain and simple,” Dimitroff said.
Ryan’s five-year, $150 million contract runs through the 2023 season.
“I am always interested in quarterbacks coming out of the draft,” Dimitroff said. “That is a fact. I’m always trying to continue to work on my skills to make sure I’m fresh on evaluating quarterbacks. That’s always an important thing, I think, as a team builder. Of course, there are some really interesting guys in this year’s draft.”
Behind Ryan, the Falcons are happy with Matt Schaub and trying to develop Danny Etling and Kurt Benkert.
“Again, our focus is on building this team and making sure we have depth,” Dimitroff said. “We’ll continue to do that at all the positions. We have some young guys in our quarterback group right now that we like as they’re developing. We have Matt Schaub back. That's going to be a real competitive group.”
4. IT and video shout-outs: Dimitroff gave a shout out to the Falcons’ lead IT and video guys in Carl Pierburg and Mike Crews.
“(They) just continue to kick butt getting everything set up because it is not easy to do what we’re doing right now,” Dimitroff said.
5. Draft poll: In our poll, the fans want the Falcons to trade up to get South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
Followed by Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson.
We didn’t have room to include Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons or LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson in the poll.
6. Vick picked 19 years ago Tuesday. Former Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick was selected No. 1 overall by the Falcons on Saturday, April 21, 2001 in New York.
He ignited the fan base, won a historic game in Lambeau Field and took the Falcons to the NFC championship after the 2004 season before his fall from grace for his role in a federal dogfighting case.
After serving his prison sentence, Vick returned to play with the Eagles and is currently a commentator with Fox Sports.
7. Review AJC’s position-by-position 2020 NFL draft series: The draft boards around the NFL are set with the first selection set for Thursday night and the final pick Saturday.
ESPN and NFL Network will join forces for this year’s NFL draft. They will produce a broadcast that will air on both networks over all three days.
The draft originally was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, but has been moved because of the coronavirus pandemic. It now will originate from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Below are the links to the AJC’s 12-part position-by-position draft series to help you get ready for the draft:
AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES
Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads class | Top 10
Running backs: Cam Akers’ life lesson | Top 10
Tight ends: Harrison Bryant top prospect | Top 10
Guards/Centers: Solomon Kindley a late-rounder | Top 10
Offensive tackles: Austin Jackson’s life lesson | Top 10
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand out | Top 10
Defensive ends: A ‘generational’ talent | Top 10
Linebackers: Simmons a position-less LB | Top 10
Safeties: Loaded with Georgia talent | Top 10
Special teams: Georgia’s kick-centered | Returner with flash | Top 10
Cornerbacks: Jeff Okudah a lockdown CB | Top 10
8. Free agency tracker. Who’s coming, who’s going and who’s staying:
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
» Todd Gurley, running back - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Justin McCray, guard - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Hayden Hurst, tight end – Acquired via a trade with Baltimore.
» Khari Lee, tight end -- signed by Falcons
» Edmond Robinson, linebacker – signed by the Falcons to a one-year deal March 28.
» Sam Irwin-Hill, punter – Signed to a one-year contract worth $510,000.
» Matt Schaub, quarterback – Club picked up his option, according to his agent.
» Keith Smith, fullback – Re-signed to a three-year deal.
» John Wetzel, offensive lineman – Vested veteran contract terminated and then re-signed.
» Blidi Wreh-Wilson, cornerback - Agreed to one-year deal with the team.
» Tyeler Davison, defensive tackle - Agrees to three-year deal.
» Steven Means, defensive end - Re-signed to a one-year contract March 9.
» Sharrod Neasman, safety - Signed to one-year contract.
» Ryan Allen, punter – Signed to a one-year contract extension for $945,000 on Feb. 18.
» Austin Hooper, tight end – Will be allowed to hit the market. Has agreed to terms with the Browns.
» Devonta Freeman - Cut by the team March 17.
» Luke Stocker, tight end - To be released pending a physical.
» Kenjon Barner, running back - Unrestricted free agent.
» Justin Hardy, wide receiver - Will not re-sign with team.
» Matt Simms, quarterback -- Unrestricted free agent.
» Wes Schweitzer, offensive guard/center – Will be allowed to hit the market. Set to sign with Washington.
» Ty Sambrailo, tackle - Released by the team March 16. Signed by the Tennessee Titans.
» Desmond Trufant, cornerback - Released by team. He signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the Detroit Lions.
» Vic Beasley, defensive end/linebacker – Will not re-sign. Will join Titans on a one-year deal.
» De'Vondre Campbell, linebacker – Will be allowed to hit the market. Agreed to one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million with Arizona.
» Adrian Clayborn, defensive end - Agreed to terms with the Browns on Tuesday, March 31.
» Jack Crawford, defensive tackle - Signed with Tennessee on March 31.
» Johnathan Cyprien, safety - Unrestricted free agent.
» Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive tackle – Waived by the team Jan. 13.
» Kemal Ishmael, safety/linebacker – Will not re-sign with Falcons.
» Jamar Taylor, cornerback - Unrestricted free agent.
» J.J. Wilcox, safety -- Unrestricted free agent.
» Matt Bosher, punter -- Unrestricted free agent.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
» Brian Hill, running back - signed his $2.1 million tender.
» Michael Bennett, defensive tackle – free agent
» Younghoe Koo, placekicker – Signed a one-year contract extension for $660,000 on Feb. 18.
9. Depth chart: With the addition of cornerback Josh Hawkins, and Hill signing his $2.1 million restricted free-agent tender, the Falcons’ depth chart heading into the draft is firm.
The analysis of the depth chart points to the Falcons adding a cornerback, a left guard/center prospect, swing tackle candidate, defensive lineman (tackle or edge), linebacker and perhaps a running back in the draft.
The draft is historically rich at wide receiver position, and the Falcons could take a flyer on one late.
Here’s a look at the Falcons’ updated depth chart:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 19 Devin Gray, 80 Laquon Treadwell
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel
LG 73 Matt Gono, 77 James Carpenter, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack, 65 Justin McCray, 64 Sean Harlow
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Justin McCray
RT 76 Kaleb McGary
TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 86 Khari Lee 87 Jaeden Graham, 85 Carson Meier
WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert, 16 Danny Etling
RB 21 Todd Gurley, 25 Ito Smith, 30 Qadree Ollison, 23 Brian Hill, 42 Craig Reynolds
FB 40 Keith Smith
DE 56 Dante Fowler 53 Austin Larkin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 50 John Cominsky
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 55 Steven Means
DE 98 Takk McKinley 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 46 Edmond Robinson, 52 Ahmad Thomas
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 LaRoy Reynolds
RCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 29 Josh Hawkins, 39 C.J. Reavis,
LCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller
NCB 37 Ricardo Allen, 34 Chris Cooper
SS 22 Keanu Neal, 35 Jamal Carter
FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman
K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen, 9 Sam Irwin-Hill
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 9 Ryan Allen
KOR 15 Brando Powell, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus
PR 15 Brandon Powell, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus
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