The Atlanta Falcons have had a great 2014 off-season. They have beefed up the defensive line and as well as the offensive line in the NFL Draft. Let's take a look at the Falcons draft picks and see what grades I decided to give them.
T Jake Matthews (A) : You knew the Falcons were going to go offensive tackle in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and too many Jake Matthews was regarded as the NFL Draft's safest pick and best lineman. No need to explain or dig deeper into the Matthews family tree. Their Hall of Fame and productive NFL bloodlines already speaks for itself. Matthews is solid pass blocker and has great feet. He doesn't need to get a little stronger but he holds up well and rarely gets beat. The Falcons have their LT or RT starter or the next 10-12 years.
DT Ra'Shede Hageman (B): The Falcons spent a lot of money on upgrading the defensive line this past off-season. They signed a lot of quality veterans. But the Falcons need youth at the DT position and added a quality DT in Hageman. This is a boom or bust pick. Hageman has all the talent in the world to be a successful NFL player but he has to put it all together. Tyson Jackson and Paul Solai will help teach Hageman the NFL game and what it takes be a good pro. Hageman is a great 5 technique DT and excels against the run and has some rushing the quarterback skills.
SS Dezmen Southward (C): Last season the SS position was a glaring weakness for the Falcons. Thomas DeCoud wasn't re-signed due to consistent bad play. The Falcons added Dezmen Southward in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Southward is a speedy safety who lacks range and ball awareness skills. He is a tough player but is very limited. I thought Southward was more of a 5th-6th round pick. One could say the Falcons reached for Southward, but they did address a need.
RB Devonta Freeman: (B+): I always been a fan of Devonta Freeman's game. He is a tough versatile running back who can do it all. Freeman runs hard in between the tackles and looks to lower his pads to run a defender over. He is very solid in pass protection and is a threat to catch out of the backfield. Good draft pick right here for the Falcons.
OLB Prince Shembo (B-): Prince Shembo is another boom or bust pick. Shembo has the NFL size and talent but he has some off the field issues. He was known as a hothead and me first type of player. But that has to change in the NFL. Shembo is solid off the edge and has the speed to get to the quarterback. He is an explosive tackler but needs to develop some more pass rushing moves. But Shembo is versatile to play the DE or OLB position.
CB Ricardo Allen (B+): The Falcons got great value in the 5th round in selecting Ricardo Allen who I was a fan of in college. Allen will be a solid nickel corner for years in the NFL. He has good ball awareness skills and has a strong passion for the game of football. I love how physical he plays in run support. Solid pick here for the Falcons.
MLB Marquis Spruill (C): Spruill will be nothing more than a special teams player in the NFL. He didn't produce much when he was on the field at Syracuse. This is a depth pick here.
MLB Yawin Smallwood (B+): Getting a player who had a 3rd round grade this late in the draft is a good pickup. Smallwood was a productive sideline to sideline player at Connecticut. He is a solid tackler. Smallwood needs to add bulk if he wants to continue playing the MLB position. He also needs to work on being more of a discipline player. Too often in college he bit on play-action.
OLB Tyler Starr (B-): Starr made a name for himself during the East-West Shrine game where he dominated. He had a great career in the Missouri Valley Conference. Starr needs to get stronger and add bulk. He has good instincts and athleticism.