While the rest of the National Football League was gobbling up players from the SEC, the draft-savvy Falcons repeatedly bypassed the nation’s premier college football conference.
The SEC, which has dominated the college football landscape for much of the last decade, had 63 players selected over seven rounds, including 12 each in the first- and third-rounds. A total of 10 SEC players were selected in the fifth round, eight each in the second-, fourth- and sixth-rounds and five in the seventh-round.
Alabama (9), LSU (9), Florida (8), Georgia (8) South Carolina (7), Texas A&M (5), Arkansas (4), Tennessee (4), Mississippi State (3), Missouri (2), Vanderbilt (2), Auburn (1) and Kentucky (1) all had players selected.
The Falcons entered the draft with 11 picks, but traded away their third-, sixth- and seventh-round picks. They ended up with eight players, but none from the SEC.
The Falcons selected two players from the Pac 12 and ACC. They also selected players from Big 12, Conference USA, Southland and from Independent Notre Dame.
The Falcons didn’t bypass the SEC by design this year. It was just the way their value board flowed.
“Probably the one position that we were focused on thinking that we might be able to walk away with was the (weakside) linebacker spot or a linebacker spot,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “As we started looking at other positions and the values and what we thought was the talent there, we thought it would override what we were looking at in the linebacker area.”
In the first round, Dimitroff made a trade with the St. Louis Rams to move up eight spots. The Falcons had to get in front Minnesota and New England in order to select Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Three picks later, Minnesota selected Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and disgusted New England traded out of the first round.
If the Falcons would have stayed put at 30, they likely would have selected an SEC player in Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay. The Brunswick native went 36th to Detroit.
In the second round, Dimitroff said the Falcons knew they were “hanging tight at 60.” They had to watch as defensive ends Tank Carradine (40, San Francisco), Margus Hunt (53, Cincinnati) and linebacker Arthur Brown (56, Baltimore) were selected.
The Falcons made Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford the first player from a FCS school selected when they took him with the 60th pick overall. Green Bay snapped up Alabama back Eddie Lacy on the next pick and LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu went to Arizona at 69.
In the third round, the Rams selected West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey with the pick (92nd overall) they received from the Falcons.
In the fourth round, the Falcons selected Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman (127th overall) and Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo (133 overall). The compensatory pick they received for losing linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency was used on Toilolo.
When selecting Goodman, the Falcons were passing on South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who went four picks later to San Francisco. NFL.com analyst Charlie Casserly, a former longtime general manager, considered Lattimore the steal of the draft.
In the fifth round, the Falcons sent their seventh round pick to the Bears to move up 10 spots to pick Texas Christian defensive end Stansly Maponga, a speed-rusher with a broken foot. Mississippi State defensive end Josh Boyd was drafted 167th overall by Green Bay.
The Rams traded the Falcons’ sixth-round pick to the Texans, who selected Bowling Green offensive tackle Chris Jones.
In the seventh round, the Bears used the Falcons’ pick to draft Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson 236th overall.
The grades on the Falcons’ SEC-less 2013 NFL draft have started to roll in.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper gave the Falcons a B for an overall grade and a B-plus in drafting for the needs and a B for drafting for value. He lauded the Falcons’ back-to-back pick of cornerbacks at the top of the draft.