Draft Analysis: The Falcons Future Can Be Found by Studying Their Past

The cycle is always the same.

After the NFL Draft is complete, columnists, reporters, writers, bloggers and fans all have the same basic reactions.

  • The Eternal Optimist: “The Draft was amazing! Our GM can do no wrong. We are Super Bowl-bound.”
  • The Standing on the Fence: “It was okay, let’s wait and see. You can’t judge a draft for 3 years.”
  • The Reactionary: “What were they thinking?!? I can’t believe we passed up (insert highly ranked prospect here)!”

If the reaction is mostly positive, you’ll see columnists write about how the draft was not as good as fans believe. The same applies to the reverse. If the general consensus is negative, articles will begin popping up stating why this draft is actually quite good and to give it time.

A Common Theme

This is nothing new. We just have short memories. Jason Kirk of The Falcoholic has an epic piece illustrating my point. In it he states that the reactions from fans and writers after a draft is pointless because no one knows for sure and NFL executives are more qualified than the armchair GMs.

Obviously, the Falcons front office (or any other front office) is more qualified to make a draft pick than myself, The Falcoholic, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution or anybody else outside Flowery Branch. No one questions this.

However, that shouldn’t prevent fans and writers from voicing their opinions on the team. It would be a pretty boring internet if everyone was calm and rational and defferred to the more educated. It does take 3-5 years to truly evaluate a draft. The problem is most coaches struggle to last that long. They are judged on the “Now” and not the “Future”. And that is what we write about.

Proof is Proof

So in light of all the “In TD We Trust” kool-aid being swilled, I wanted to see how exactly the Falcons (and the rest of the league) have drafted using the always underrated hindsight. Most of the national media is giving the Falcons a low grade for their draft, but how have they done since 2005?

Using the Associated Press article published on NBC Sports.com, I gave each category a number value so we could accurately judge which teams have the best track record and which ones have struggled over the past five years. I weighted the scale to reward Pro Bowl selections and punish teams with players no longer in the NFL.

This data is weighted more toward Rich McKay (3 years) than it is to Dimitroff (2 years) so it’s not a perfect system, but it gives us a jumping off point.

Surprising Results

The Falcons rank 21st out of 32 teams since 2005. Of the 43 players drafted between 2005 and 2009, 12 are starters, 20 are backups and 11 are out of the NFL. They have had only one Pro Bowl player in that time (Roddy White, 2009).

Now let’s see how the Falcons have done in their conference and division.

The Falcons rank 10th in the NFC only, but are 2nd in the NFC South behind the Carolina Panthers – ahead of the Saints and Buccaneers.

Keep this in mind when pundits are giving the Buccaneers a high grade for their draft. It could be a good draft, but the track record shows they have been the worst over the past five years.

On the flip side, there were some who questioned the pick of Dez Bryant to the Cowboys, but a quick peek at the chart says Jerry Jones knows what he is doing.

Final Analysis

What can we take away from this? Unfortunately nothing that really means anything on the field. The four teams that have won the Super Bowl over the past five seasons have mixed results.

The Saints and Steelers have low draft rankings but because of the impact of free agency, they have three Super Bowl titles between them. Free Agency has been great for the Falcons as well (Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez) and that helps conceal some of the draft missteps.

At the end of the day, drafting well is important but it is only part of the equation. We have faith in the Falcons player personnel staff but based on the results over the past five years, we should be careful not to get carried away.

What are your thoughts? Are you surprised by this chart? Will the Falcons move up the longer Dimitroff is here? Let me know in the comments or start the conversation on Twitter.

Tags: Atlanta Falcons Atlanta-Journal Constitution Jamaal Anderson Mike Smith NFL Rich McKay The Falcoholic Thomas Dimitroff

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