Falcons at drafting O-linemen: Not quite an 0-fer, but close

Here's Jake, the last man standing. (AJC file photo)

Here’s Jake, the last man standing. (AJC file photo)

Here's Jake, the last man standing. (AJC file photo)

Here’s Jake, the last man standing. (AJC file photo)

Since Thomas Dimitroff became general manager in January 2008, the Atlanta Falcons have drafted nine offensive linemen. Not a lot, when you think about it — nine in eight drafts — but still: That’s the number of O-linemen they took. We now call the roll of all those who remain on the active roster.

Jake Matthews.

End of roll call.

Technically, Lamar Holmes is on the physically unable to perform list, but everyone else is gone. Joe Hawley was just cut. Peter Konz took an injury buyout and went away. Sam Baker was released in June. Mike Johnson retired in June. Jake Rodgers, who was a seventh-round pick in April, got cut. (He was considered a project, but still: Who made that pick?)

Under Dimitroff, the Falcons have drafted one offensive lineman — Baker — who was able to hold a job. (We assume Matthews will, but he was, given that he was the sixth overall pick in 2014, underwhelming as a rookie. He was also hurt. Funny how many Falcons draftees get hurt.)

I’d argue that Baker was actually given a bad rap in this burg: The Falcons needed a left tackle to give the then-rookie Matt Ryan a chance, and Baker sufficed. Then he got hurt, too.

But there are your numbers — nine linemen drafted over eight years, one on the 53-man roster. The Falcons did sign Ryan Schraeder (now a starter) and James Stone (sometimes a starter) as undrafted free agents, but botching nearly every O-line pick means you have to scrounge. And now, with rookie head coach Dan Quinn given control of the final roster, we’re seeing how desperate this team has become.

The Falcons’ depth chart lists Mike Person, who has worked in five organizations since 2011, as the starting center. The starting guards are Chris Chester, released by Washington in May, and Andy Levitre, who started for the Titans (a terrible team) last season but was available in trade for two draft picks.

Backups include Gino Gradowski, waived by Denver; Tyler Polumbus, benched in Washington last season and on his fifth organization since 2010; Bryce Harris, released by New Orleans last week, and the aforementioned Stone.

The good news, I guess, is that this cobbled-together line cannot possibly be worse than its predecessors. (Well, can it?) The bad news is that the Falcons, on the cusp of Opening Night, are still in the market for linemen. On Wednesday they signed another — Ben Garland, cut by Denver last week — and assigned him to the practice squad.

If nothing else, we might have gotten an answer to the question often asked: Why didn’t Dimitroff draft more linemen? Maybe because he realized he wasn’t very good at it. As Inspector Harry Callahan of SFPD famously said: A man has to know his limitations.

Reader Comments 0

39 comments
TheBystander
TheBystander

no excuse for Dimitroff to have such a sorry O line. This team still has a lot of holes to fill. One draft and one year of free agents will not do it. This team needs several productive drafts to be a yearly contender. 

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Dimitroff can't seem to give this team a chance to win it all--- because he hasn't done a good job building a lasting infrastructure.

Guyon
Guyon

The offensive line will be the Falcon's downfall for the third straight year. This is not a surprise to me. Dimitroff does not know the importance of the offensive line, and has not taken steps to have a good line.  

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

How Dimitroff survived and survives is beyond me. 2 WRs and a QB do  not a time make.

atlfanman
atlfanman

After watching the New England Patriots, can't help but wonder where Shaq Mason of Georgia Tech and David Andrews of UGA were on the Falcon's Draft board. Mason may have been out of play as a fourth founder but Andrews went undrafted and had a good game filling in at center.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@atlfanman Amen

What a shame that these two kids right here in the state of Georgia were never given a shot by the Falcons

And BTW, whatever happened to that idiot "Tide Roll"?

He said David Andrews and Greg Pyke would never play for Georgia or in the NFL.

Pyke will be a high draft choice in 2 years and Andrews started for the defending champs

OOPS!!!!!!!!!

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I guess now we figured out why Arthur Blank is so crazy about Thomas. "Arthur, let me help you with that zipper"

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Thomas Dimitroff could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch! Ok, he could suck the caramel off a Sugar Daddy! Ok, Dimitroff could suck a tennis ball through a screen door....

Need I say more?

buellerbuellerbueller
buellerbuellerbueller

A more complete article should entail not only draft picks, but trades, free agency signings, etc..   Would be still be 1-fer?

gt51
gt51

when are the falcons going to wise up and get rid of td?  the only excuse td hasn't given for the release of all of his draft picks isthat "the wheel stopped on that guy when I spun it and that's who i chose'.  Wouldn't that be a better excuse than some of the ones he's been giving?   i used to look up to general managers.  i used to respect and be envious of general managers.  it seems like a great job to have.  i've come to realize that general managers do not know any more about sports than us regular guys.  they can't draft players any better than we can.  in fact, i believe general managers are so busy riding bikes, working out, going to meetings and parties, rubbing elbows with the cities elite that they don't actually watch football.  except on sunday of course in the owners box.  all i do on saturday is watch college football.  aren't i more qualified to pick players than td?  i know there are scouts but tds record of picking players is horrible

candlin14
candlin14

The only problem I have with the article is the fact that its three to four years to OLD... When you draft a franchise QB, you usually want to draft a weapon or two for him to throw to and a stout line to keep him up. We did one of the two and the later is hurting us really bad!!!

green_jacket
green_jacket

I'm not sure what to think about this cobbled together line, but I believe Quinn is much more aggressive about fixing the problem.  If Smith is still here, i doubt you'd see this number of last minute changes and we'd be sticking with the status quo

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

We have had five winning seasons in a row.... the last two not so well....Something worked right...... wasn't the kool aid.... this year we right the ship.....Dr. Quinn knows what he is doing

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

@TrueFan1  YEAH BUT YOU HAD A RUNNING GAME.


Every since Turner have left the Falcons have not been consistent at all in the running game.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Big Wally
Big Wally

Per Webster's Dictionary,  Dimwitroff, dim-wit-roff.  To be highly incompetent at one's job, but sill somehow able to keep the same job without any reasonable explanation.

Look when Baker was healthy he was good. Not great, Not really good just good.


But he was always hurt so there u go.


Lets hope Long is healthy and they sign him because they need him really bad as insurance.


Polumbus needs to retire. 

EmoryEagles
EmoryEagles

It is also worth mentioning the Falcons felt they had to trade back up into the first round to get Baker.  I believe there was a run on tackles and if they had waited all tackles may have been gone.  I'm not saying Baker was great but you certainly have to remember the context of why he was a first round selection. 

JSSN
JSSN

@EmoryEagles

They could have gotten Duane Brown, Houston has been sending Dimitroff thank you notes ever since that moment! There were better choices in that draft in that position!

The Real Atlantan
The Real Atlantan

The only way anyone could think Baker got a raw deal is that they never watched a game. Short arms, No foot speed against speedy defenders. 

HonchoPoncho
HonchoPoncho

Julio can't catch a passes that were never thrown. QB flat on his back is no way to complete passes. Can't see Ryan making it through this season without a DL by his name.

Falcons4Eva
Falcons4Eva

Mark, You asked the wrong question, when you said: "If nothing else, we might have gotten an answer to the question often asked: Why didn’t Dimitroff draft more linemen?"  The question should have been:  Why didn't Arthur Blank show Thomas Dim-Witroff where the door is. And I think I have the answer:  Dimwit Dimitroff has pictures of Arthur. Must be.  He should have fired Dim-Wit Thomas along with Mike Smith.

Mora-less-Petrino
Mora-less-Petrino

Harry Callahan had one bullet left when the punk felt lucky and Dimitroff has one lineman left. Harry had to fire his last bullet. If Tommy's last lineman gets fired, the Falcons' Chief is not going to be any happier than Inspector Callahan's about the body count.

extremus
extremus

You'll see the importance of having a competent offensive line in a hurry if Matt Ryan ends up on the DL for lack of protection.  And if that happens it'll have a cascading effect not unlike the Braves have experienced in 2015...and heads will assuredly roll.

HonestInformed
HonestInformed

I expect the OL will struggle the first 4 games and then the true starters (Mathews, Levitre, Gradowski, UGGH Chester, Schrader) will begin to gel...........games 5-16 will be even more fun to watch than the first four.  I am hoping Jake Long will sign (prove to be effective & healthy) and become the starting LT with Matthews starting at RT by the 2nd or 3rd game.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Dont worry, Hairboy has the inside scoop on more fat guys who want some of the Fools money. Cant miss guys...as in cant miss a meal

Intelibird
Intelibird

This horse has been beaten to death.  Its time for the Falcon linemen to sink or swim.  My fingers are crossed.  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a football team.  This may take awhile and Dan Quinn seems like a good man for the job.  He will make us a tough and competitive team in a year or 2.

The Real Atlantan
The Real Atlantan

@Intelibird

I believe the OL has sank the past two years.Do you also want Ryan to as well?

Rome was not built in a day but TD has been here since 2008. Any other non-applying platitudes?

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

Why draft linemen when you can draft fancy receivers?!?!   BTW, I'm sure Mr. Dimitroff appreciates you not including his track record on defensive linemen in this column, too.   Oof.  

twentysixpointtwo
twentysixpointtwo

Good read MB. I stated this under another blog ...but..... I think a drafting error was made by Quinn in the past NFL draft. Falcons 2nd round draft choice was a long, athletic CB named Jaylen Collins. Right now Collins looks underwhelming and is buried on the depth chart. Wish Quinn had been able to recognize this totally inept offensive line and selected a lineman with that high second rounder.

gfw
gfw

Mark, thanks for this concise summary.  All these facts have been discussed on the AJC blog many times, but having it presented in stark terms in your article ought to be very useful to Arthur Blank (he surely reads your pieces---I doubt he reads the blog).  In every organization, poor personnel evaluation at the top can start a cascade affecting personnel decisions made below.  Blank misjudged horribly in hiring Dimitroff, and Dimitroff followed in kind in doing his own his hiring.  There can be a long wake from such miscalculations.  Since Quinn seems like a real person instead of someone who can only do PR (like Blank & Dimitroff), the fascinating question is whether/how much he can right the ship.  Unless his OL coach, Chris Morgan, is a magician, it isn't likely to happen this year, even WITH the NFL's easiest schedule.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

@gfw  I think you just hit the nail on the head. Blank is responsible for TD just like Obama is responsible for Syria. Neither will do anything about their mistakes because it would be admitting a mistake and these 2 ego clowns just can't do that.

The Real Atlantan
The Real Atlantan

@gfw

Quinn cannot right the ship without quality players, not castoffs and UDFAs.

TD does not know how to supply those.

AtlantaSportsVictory
AtlantaSportsVictory

We are burning up years of Matt Ryan and Julio's prime, all because of Dummytroff failures at drafting for the oline. Why again wasn't he fired with Mike Smith? 

SavorTheFlavor
SavorTheFlavor

I hate to say it, but even though the draft pick & free agent acquisitions are on Dimitroff, Arthur Blank has made numerous blunders along the way. McKay, Dimitroff, Mora & Petrino, not just Mike Smith, are all his doing. He even tried to get Petrino to stay even though he was clearly having a negative impact on the team & the organization. Not to mention having staff assigned to clean/cover up Mike Vick's off field drama.

I hope that the prospective CEO isn't being hired just because Blank doesn't want to dismiss Dimitroff himself, but he (or she) will have better personnel instincts.

-OBrien-
-OBrien-

Mark,

Given TD's free agency blunders as well (Ray Edwards, Stephen Jackson come to mind), can you remind us why Mr Blank kept him around when Mike Smith was fired? 

Harlemdawg
Harlemdawg

Hey. Ray turned out alright! He models underwear does he not? Nothing like a underwear model in nfl defensive end's clothing. Sure that's hard to spot indeed........