Dimitroff: Falcons had no plan to amass first-round draft picks

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team didn’t have a “master plan” to stockpile players who were first-round draft picks.

With the addition of cornerback Darqueze Dennard on Aug. 3, the Falcons signed or acquired eight first-round draft picks this offseason. On their roster, the Falcons have 18 players who were selected in the first round of the NFL draft, 11 on offense and seven on defense.

In addition to first-round pick cornerback A.J. Terrell (16th overall), the Falcons also added Dennard (24st overall, 2014), linebacker Deone Bucannon (27th, 2014), defensive end Dante Fowler (3rd, 2015), running back Todd Gurley (10th, 2015) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (23rd, 2016), defensive end Charles Harris (22nd, 2017) and tight end Hayden Hurst (25th, 2018).

“There was no golden plan to have as many firsts as we could,” Dimitroff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. “The reality is that we have some very talented football players on this football team.”

Most are blending in well with the team.

“I continue to see this group as I’m interacting with them and watching them in walk-throughs and such, I realize that there is this sort of evolving maturity and consistency about this team that we’ve been driving for that I feel like is starting to come into place,” Dimitroff said.

Terrell, Fowler, Gurley, Hurst and Dennard are expected to become starters and major contributors.

Treadwell, Harris and Bucannon all can provide depth. While Dimitroff said there was no golden plan, the team clearly wanted to add experienced veterans, who could play a game or two if there’s a rash of failed COVID-19 tests.

“I know that it’s really important for us in general, but even more so important in a pandemic year like we are dealing with,” Dimitroff said. “You can have all of the talent in the world, but if you’re not consistent and mature and accountable and focused, I don’t think a team would have a chance during (this) time.”

Treadwell, a former SEC star at Ole Miss, started his career with the Vikings. Treadwell, 25, played in 53 games and made 16 starts for Minnesota. He caught 65 of 107 targeted passes for 701 yards and two touchdowns.

“Really encouraged watching him move around,” Dimitroff said. “He’s a big cat. This guy has ability to be very versatile and play at different positions, which is important. He’s probably at 228 (pounds) now. His versatility and his focus is really, really sound. (He’s an) individual who’s focused on doing the best he can for our team.”

Treadwell could replace Justin Hardy, who was not re-signed. Hardy averaged 28.8 targets over his five seasons with the Falcons (2015-19). Hardy sometimes was a surprise red-zone target and caught nine touchdown passes.

“I like his makeup,” Dimitroff said of Treadwell. “I think he’s going to be an important part for our group of receivers.”

Harris was selected four picks in front of defensive end Takk McKinley, who was picked 26th by the Falcons.

Harris, 25, played in 41 games for the Dolphins over three seasons. He made eight starts and had 3.5 sacks. The Falcons sent the Dolphins a seventh-round pick in the 2021 draft to acquire Harris.

“We are encouraged by his addition,” Dimitroff said. “He is another guy that’s a makeup guy that we were looking for. He has athleticism and talent that we think fits into our group of pass-rushers. Our coaches have been very encouraged with him so far. He is focused and wants to prove that he can ramp up his production here.”

Harris was productive in college at Missouri. He recorded 61 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, two passes batted and two forced fumbles in 2016 for the Tigers. Harris had one of his better games against Georgia, when he had seven tackles and three sacks in 2016.

“We think again, in that whole rotation of pass-rushers, and as well the ability to play the run, he can be a significant contributor to us (from) the get-go,” Dimitroff said.

Bucannon, who began his career with the Arizona Cardinals, is 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds and turns 28 on Aug. 30. He played with the Cardinals from 2014-18 and played with the Giants (nine games) and the Buccaneers (five games) last season.

He started his career as strong safety. He was moved to right inside linebacker in 2015 and had a career-high 112 tackles.

He has played in 84 NFL games and made 57 starts. He has 434 tackles and two interceptions in his career.

Bucannon played safety in college at Washington State.

“He’s another guy that we think can run and is versatile,” Dimitroff said. “He’s a smart football player. He’s been around it. I know that he would like to contribute to this team like Charles would. Come in here and have a significant spot on this roster.”

The Falcons view Bucannon as a linebacker.

“We think that he adds to the depth (and) versatility of this linebacker group, again which we think is going to be really important in a division that is very athletic,” Dimitroff said. “We are going to have to be mindful of our versatility in that linebacker group. We think he can add to that for us.”

Here are the other former first-round picks on the roster:

· Quarterback Matt Ryan (No. 3 overall, 2008)

· Center Alex Mack (21, 2009)

· Wide receiver Julio Jones (6, 2011)

· Guard James Carpenter (25th, 2011)

· Left tackle Jake Matthews (6, 2014)

· Safety Keanu Neal (17, 2016)

· Defensive end Takk McKinley (26, 2017)

· Wide receiver Calvin Ridley (26, 2018)

· Right guard Chris Lindstrom (14, 2019)

· Right tackle Kaleb McGary (31, 2019)


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