Last season, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, Head Coach Mike Smith and Owner & CEO Arthur Blank conducted their first draft together and pieced together a class which provided tremendous results. Three rookies last season, including QB Matt Ryan, OT Sam Baker and LB Curtis Lofton all earned the starting job at their respective positions while another four first-year players saw significant action (WR Harry Dougals, CB Chevis Jackson, DE Kroy Biermann and S Thomas DeCoud) as Atlanta posted an 11-5 record and earned its first playoff berth since 2004.
Last year, the League changed the draft format as rounds one and two are held on the first day. The time limit for a selection was also reduced as team's will have 10 minutes between picks in the first round, seven minutes between selections in the second round and five minutes between picks from rounds 3-7.
In his first NFL Draft as General Manager of the Falcons, Thomas Dimitroff applied his expertise and constructed a class that has the potential to go down as one of the finest in franchise history. Ten of the 11 players selected earned a spot on the Falcons roster while three players were named starters and another four players logged significant playing time.
Dimitroff's draft was one of the many reasons why the first year GM was named Sporting News Magazine Executive of the Year. Dimitroff, along with Head Coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, became the first trio in the publication's 123- year history to earn Executive of the Year, Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. Dimitroff was chosen for the annual award by a panel of 40 NFL coaches, general managers and personnel from around the league.
The Falcons considerably improved their draft order after trading wide receiver Laurent Robinson, its fifth round (160th overall) and sixth round (196th overall) draft choices to St. Louis for its fifth round (138th overall) and sixth round (176th overall) selections on April 6. With the trade, the Falcons moved up 22 spots in the fifth round and 20 spots in the sixth round.
The move marks the first trade for the Falcons since September 2, 2008 when the team gave the Denver Broncos a 2009 seventh round draft pick in exchange for cornerback Domonique Foxworth. On March 20, 2008, Atlanta General Manager Thomas Dimitroff conducted an advantageous trade with Oakland, which sent cornerback DeAngelo Hall to the Raiders for a second round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and a fifth round selection in this year's draft (143rd overall).
Using Oakland's second round choice last season, the Falcons drafted linebacker Curtis Lofton who started 15 games last season while contributing with 108 tackles (67 solo), one sack, one forced fumble and three passes defensed. Lofton finished second in the NFL among all rookies in tackles.
?In 2008, the Falcons rookie class played a key role in helping the team to a successful campaign. Three rookies, including QB Matt Ryan, OT Sam Baker and LB Curtis Lofton all earned the starting job at their respective positions while another four first-year players saw action.
Quarterback Matt Ryan - Started all 16 games under center and completed 265 of 434 passes for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for an 87.7 passer rating. Ryan completed a 62- yard touchdown strike on his first career NFL pass.
Offensive Tackle Sam Baker - The USC graduate pieced together an impressive preseason and started five games at left tackle.
Linebacker Curtis Lofton - In 2008, ranked second in tackles among all rookies in the NFL and ranked fourth on the team with 108 stops (67 solo). Named to the Sporting News All-Rookie Team.
Wide Receiver Harry Douglas - Douglas posted his first two career touchdowns in Week 12 against Carolina. His first came on a seven-yard end around in the first quarter. Douglas stuck again with a 61-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. In 2008, he totaled 320 receiving yards, 69 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Cornerback Chevis Jackson - Posted 33 tackles and five passes defensed in 2008. Returned his first career INT 95 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans in Week 10.
Defensive End Kroy Biermann - Posted his first career sack in a Week 13 matchup against San Diego and added his second in the season finale against St. Louis. Also contributed with 14 tackles.
Safety Thomas DeCoud - Saw action on special teams and finished the season with five special teams tackles.