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NFL Atlanta Falcons

Grading the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 Draft Picks

Atlanta Falcons' 2014 NFL Draft Grades

Jake Matthews NFL Draft
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The Falcons had a lot of needs to fill in the 2014 Draft. With nine picks in all, they had no shortage of opportunities to fill all of those needs. Two of the first four players selected by the Falcons play on offense, but the team drafted only defensive players with their final five picks. It will be years until we know exactly how well GM Thomas Dimitroff did with this class, but here are the post draft grades for each draft pick.

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: 1st Round, 5th Overall

Jake Matthews Falcons
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Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: 1st Round, 5th Overall

Jake Matthews Falcons
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The Falcons' biggest need going into the draft was finding an offensive tackle to protect Matt Ryan, and they found it right away with Matthews. They were lucky that Matthews was still on the board at six, as Matthews was the most polished offensive lineman available. A two-time All-SEC lineman, Matthews will start immediately at right tackle and help give Matt Ryan some time to get the ball downfield.

Grade: A

Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: 2nd Round, 37th Overall

Ra'Shede Hageman Falcons
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Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: 2nd Round, 37th Overall

Ra'Shede Hageman Falcons
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The Falcons' selection of Hageman was a little surprising. It's not that he isn't talented, as he looked dominant at times and was selected as a third team All-American. But Hageman played defensive tackle in college and the Falcons already have Paul Soliai, Jonathan Babineaux, and Perry Jerry to play the middle of the 3-4. The team will probably move Hageman to defensive end, but they really needed a pass-rushing linebacker here.

Grade: C

Dez Southward, S, Wisconsin: 3rd Round, 68th Overall

Dez Southward Falcons
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Dez Southward, S, Wisconsin: 3rd Round, 68th Overall

Dez Southward Falcons
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Southward made 30 starts for the Badgers, including playing with a broken wrist for most of the 2013 season. He should start right away at free safety with Thomas Decoud now playing for the Carolina Panthers. Southward is athletically superior to Decoud, but still needs to prove he can handle anchoring the back end of a very young secondary.

Grade: B-

Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State: 4th Round, 103rd Overall

Devonta Freeman Falcons
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Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State: 4th Round, 103rd Overall

Devonta Freeman Falcons
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Freeman was the featured running back for the National Champion Seminoles, rushing for over 1,000 yards last year. Atlanta needed an every down back to take over for Steven Jackson, but Freeman is a quick, shifty back like Jacquizz Rodgers. Freeman can be a versatile option out of the backfield, but the Falcons still need a back who can run between the tackles when Jackson moves on.

Grade: C+

Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame: 4th Round, 139th Overall

Prince Shembo Falcons
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Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame: 4th Round, 139th Overall

Prince Shembo Falcons
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One of the biggest pieces the Falcons needed to add this offseason was a pass-rushing linebacker, so it's a little strange that the Falcons waited until the fourth round to get one in Shembo. The outside linebacker finished his career with 19.5 sacks, and the Falcons hope he will be able to get in the backfield frequently at the next level.

Grade: B

Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue: 5th Round, 147th Overall

Ricardo Allen Falcons
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Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue: 5th Round, 147th Overall

Ricardo Allen Falcons
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Allen started all four years at Purdue, finishing with the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns. He is undersized, but has great ball skills and will likely compete for the nickel corner spot on defense. Comparisons to former Falcon cornerback Brent Grimes indicate that he could end up being a steal down the road.

Grade: B+

Marquis Spruill, OLB, Syracuse: 5th Round, 168th Overall

Marquis Spruill Falcons
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Marquis Spruill, OLB, Syracuse: 5th Round, 168th Overall

Marquis Spruill Falcons
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A four-year starter at Syracuse, Spruill picked up 12.5 sacks in his college career. He will need to gain some weight if he's ever going to be a regular contributor on defense for the Falcons, but he has the athleticism to make an immediate impact on special teams.

Grade: C+

Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut: 7th Round, 253rd Overall

Yawin Smallwood Falcons
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Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut: 7th Round, 253rd Overall

Yawin Smallwood Falcons
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Smallwood declared for the draft after his junior season at Connecticut. He started every game for the past three years and was twice named first team all-conference. He doesn't have great speed and would be a liability against the pass, but he could come in on run situations or play on special teams.

Grade: B-

Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota: 7th Round, 255th Overall

Tyler Starr Falcons
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota: 7th Round, 255th Overall

Tyler Starr Falcons
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The second to last pick of the entire draft, Starr was the fourth linebacker selected by the Falcons. Of the four, Starr may have the best combination of size and speed, but he will have to prove he can compete on the professional level over the summer.

Grade: B