Football Memo

NFC South Draft Grades: Atlanta Falcons

Offensive tackle Jake Matthews

Offensive tackle Jake Matthews

Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons made a mixed bag of safe selections, and ones that are a gamble on greatness. Grabbing offensive tackle Jake Matthews in the first round qualifies as one of the safer selections in the entire draft. Matthews will bring stability and consistent performance to an offensive line that struggled mightily in 2013. He can play either the left or right side, and should help keep quarterback Matt Ryan from taking too many hits. The Falcons moved to improve their defense by selecting defensive tackle/end Ra’Shede Hageman and safety Dezmen Southward in the second and third rounds, respectively. Hageman has a chance to be great if he can improve his consistency and take his craft seriously. Southward is a bit raw technically, but has everything you look for physically. He’s a big, fast, physical safety that has a chance to become a top-level player. The selection of running back Devonta Freeman was another good selection. I believe Freeman is the type of player every team needs. He plays with energy and passion, while also displaying versatility as a dual-threat back. To round out its draft, Atlanta added depth on defense with linebackers Prince Shembo, Marquis Sprull, Yawin Smallwood and Tyler Starr. They also added defensive back Ricardo Allen. In all, I think this draft grade will hinge on the performance of Hageman and Southward. If one or both reach their potential, the Falcons will look back on this as a very good draft.
Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons – 2014 Draft Selections
1 (6) Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
2 (37) Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, Minnesota
3 (68) Dezmen Southward, DB, Wisconsin
4 (103) Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
4 (139) Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame
5 (147) Ricardo Allen, DB, Purdue
5 (168) Marquis Sprull, LB, Syracuse
7 (253) Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
7 (255) Tyler Starr, LB, South Dakota

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