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Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A strong draft at a needed time for the new-look Falcons


All smiles: Dimitroff, Beasley, Quinn. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

This seemed the Atlanta Falcons' strongest draft since 2008. (Yes, it helps when your first pick is in the top 10.) I've heard the selection of Vic Beasley in Round 1 described as "a Quinn pick," as opposed to "a Dimitroff pick" -- or "a Pioli pick" or "a Blank pick" -- but I don't see where it matters. The Falcons addressed their position of greatest need with the eighth overall pick, and everything flowed from there.

Yes, the three failed drug tests of cornerback Jalen Collins (Round 2) give a bit of pause -- Georgia fans can gripe again about the difference between the Bulldogs' standards and, say, LSU's -- but if not for those, Collins mightn't have been available with the 42nd pick. Getting Tevin Coleman in Round 3 addressed the need for a running back; Justin Hardy (Round 4) fills the hole left by slot receiver Harry Douglas' departure. Landing defensive lineman Grady Jarrett in Round 5 was a steal: ESPN's Scouts Inc. rated him the 51st-best player in this draft ; the Falcons grabbed him with the 137th pick.

Whoever made these picks -- and I suspect the answer was "all of the above," perhaps excluding Arthur Blank -- went about his/their business with a purpose and a clarity not always seen in Flowery Branch. There were no wild reaches unless you consider Beasley, ranked No. 25 overall by ESPN but clearly more productive than that, at least as a pass rusher.

If there was a real "Quinn pick," it was Collins, who's 6-foot-1 1/2, 203 pounds. (Richard Sherman of Seattle, Dan Quinn's previous employer, is 6-3, 195.) There's lots of speed -- Quinn likes speed, but really, who doesn't? -- and it's noteworthy that three of the first five picks were spent on defenders. (Perhaps not that noteworthy, though: Seven of the Falcons' nine picks last year were devoted to defense, not that it showed.)

This marked the fourth time in eight Dimitroff drafts that the first choice in Round 1 wasn't an offensive player -- previous examples included Peria Jerry and Sean Weatherspoon, who couldn't stay healthy, and Desmond Trufant, who's really good -- but it's the first time under Dimitroff the Falcons have spent a pick higher than No. 19 on a defender. (Maybe that's how you wind up with the NFL's worst defense.)

When you go 4-12 followed by 6-10, you have issues -- too many to rectify (using a Dimitroff word) in one draft. But this draft was a confident first step on the road to rectifyin'.


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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.