Atlanta Using New England's Strategy

Can Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff replicate his Draft success from New England, some say he already has. What's his strategy in finding quality talent? Here's a snapshot of his recent work.

   Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is just fine with drafting in the second half of the first round.

   After the Falcons went 13-3 and won the NFC South, the team will pick 27th. The late pick will save owner Arthur Blank some cash and has the franchise out of the high-rent district of the first round.

   It's a place where Dimitroff is accustomed to living. He was New England's director of college scouting and played a key role in their drafts from 2003 to 2007.

   He was a national scout with New England in 2002. He was named the Falcons' general manager on Jan. 13, 2008.

   With the Falcons, Dimitroff entered the last three drafts with the third, 24th and 19th picks in the first round. From 2003 to 2007, New England picked 13, 21, 32, 21 and 24.

Here's who the Patriots selected:
2007 - 24th overall - Brandon Meriweather, S, Miami.
2006 - 21st Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota.
2005 - 32nd - Logan Mankins, OG, Fresno State.
2004 - 21st - Vince Wilfork, NT, Miami.
2003 - 13th - Ty Warren, DE, Texas A&M.

Here's who the Falcons have selected:
2008 - 3rd overall -- Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
2009 - 24th -- Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
2010 - 19th - Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

   There has been a lot of draft talk about teams trading back up into the first round to pick-up one of the second-tier quarterbacks. Texas Christian's Andy Dalton and Florida State's Christian Ponder are targets of a few teams. If Ryan Mallett continues to slip on the heels of his missed meetings in Charlotte, some team my jump up to select him.

   Also, if Washington's Jake Locker gets past Seattle at 25, some team may covet the Falcons' pick to select him. But those teams will need to call Dimitroff with a really sweet deal. He is clutching that 27th pick pretty tight.

   "There is no question that we'd contemplate that, but with that said, you go into each draft thinking that you want to get the players that you want," Dimitroff said. "There are going to be a lot of players there in my mind at 27 that can still help us."

   While most of the pre-draft focus is on what the Falcons will do with the 27th pick in the first round, Dimitroff is bracing for the full seven rounds and the ensuing period of signing undrafted free agents, although the lockout will prevent undrafted players from being signed.

   "That's why we put so much time and effort into combing all ends of the country in order to make sure we've done our research and our evaluations at every level," Dimitroff said.

   The Falcons have had some success in the later draft rounds under Dimitroff. Kroy Biermann, a starter at left defensive end last season, was a fifth-round pick in 2008. Defensive tackle Vance Walker, a rotational player, was a seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech in 2009. In the 2010 draft, safety Shann Schillinger, who was a key contributor on special teams before fracturing his ankle in the 15th game of the regular season, was drafted in the sixth round.

   In the later rounds, the Falcons are looking for potential late bloomers who can contribute early and possibly develop into starters.

   While with New England, Dimitroff spent time around the classic late pick, quarterback Tom Brady, who was selected in the sixth round (199th overall) in 2000. His thoughts on emphasizing the entire draft and the post-draft period are rooted in New England.

   "We have to enter every draft of every year assuming that we are going to find someone in the late rounds that is truly going to affect the direction of this team," Dimitroff said.

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