Atlanta Falcons: This is the year for Dimitroff to trade down
By Adnan Ikic
Since taking over as Atlanta Falcons’ general manager before the 2008 NFL draft, Thomas Dimitroff has been the main figure in the Falcons’ war room on draft day for eight years. In those years, Dimitroff has overseen seven first round selections, traded up twice, and has never traded back. This is the year for him to finally trade down, in the first round.
Due to noise-gate: Atlanta’s illegal pumping in of crowed noise during the 2013 and 2014 NFL regular seasons, the Falcons will be without this year’s fifth round draft pick. They also traded their sixth rounder for Andy Levitre, at the beginning of this past year’s regular season.
Not having added any extra draft picks to this year’s supply, Dimitroff will only have five picks total to work with: the lowest number in any draft he has overseen, since taking over as general manager of the Falcons in 2008.
Having only five draft picks is a problem for a team that has so many holes to fill, as it’s a given that free agency can only take you so far. The Falcons could use an upgrade at the second wide receiver position, safety, multiple linebacker positions, defensive end (opposite Vic Beasley), center, both guard positions, and possibly tight end.
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There is no easier way to beef up the number of draft picks you have to work with than by trading down in the first round. I’m not saying to trade out of round one completely, but rather to go down by a few spots while picking up an extra third or maybe even second round pick.
Ezekiel Elliot is the best running back in the draft (mock drafts have him going around the middle of the round, where Atlanta is picking), the Falcons could possibly work out a deal with a team needing a running back, and looking to jump into the middle rounds to guarantee themselves the Ohio State alum’s services.
The Houston Texans at 22 and the Green Bay Packers at 27 both come to mind; there is some logic for them to move up to 17 if they fall in love with Elliot, as the New York Jets could call his name at 20.
This is just an example. The combine has seen teams fall in love with certain players and make moves trading up in an attempt to guarantee themselves that player’s services.
Thomas Dimitroff himself has done just that in the past, trading up to get Julio Jones in 2011 and Desmond Trufant in 2013, after worrying that neither of those players would have slipped to where the Falcons were slated to pick (Jones definitely wouldn’t have slipped to 26).
This would be the ideal year for Dimitroff to demonstrate some savvy and play on another team’s emotions, in an attempt to get as much as possible out of a trade down.
As for Atlanta’s own pick, there doesn’t need to be much worry, as ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. claims that the defensive line depth in this draft is maybe the best he’s ever seen:
“Defensive line is the best it’s been since probably in my history of doing this, in terms of depth. I don’t remember … I’ve been doing it since the ’78 college football season, and I don’t remember as many outstanding defensive ends, defensive tackles, combo guys, as there are this year. It’s loaded with elite guys in the first and second round. So if you need a defensive lineman — end or tackle — this is the year to get one.”
At the top of Atlanta’s list of many needs is pass rusher, after the team finished last in the NFL in sacks last season. Going with a defensive end in the first round to put opposite Vic Beasley (last year’s first round pick) would probably be the best move to make. Defensive ends available in the early to mid-20’s won’t feature much drop-off from those available at 17, if any at all.
While trading down will probably mean missing out on a chance to take excellent ILB (which is probably number two on Atlanta’s list of needs) Reggie Ragland, pass rushers such as Kevin Dodd, Shaq Lawson, Robert Nkemdiche, and Leonard Floyd could still available in the mid-20s.
Next: What are the Falcons' second-round options?
Thomas Dimitroff has boasted successful results in his two major trade ups in 2011 (Jones) and 2013 (Trufant); however, sometimes it’s smartest to take a more passive approach and concede a few spots in the first round. With the circumstances being the way that they are, this is one of those times.