Predicting the Impact of Every Atlanta Falcons' 2014 Draft Pick

Atlanta Falcons: Predicting the Impact of Every 2014 Draft Pick

Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons enter the 2014 NFL season with high hopes of returning to dominance within the NFC South division. Atlanta struggled last season due to spotty defensive play and a weak offense thanks to a beat-up offensive line. Atlanta will lean on their rookie class this season to play an impactful role in their first official NFL season. Who will play an important role in Atlanta's success this season? Let's take a look.

First-Round Pick: OT Jake Matthews

Jake Matthews
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First-Round Pick: OT Jake Matthews

Jake Matthews
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Matthews comes in as battle tested as they come and will likely be an important offensive player from day one. Atlanta's offensive line struggled last season, which caused numerous problems in both the running and passing games. This season Matthews will likely look to solidify the right side of Atlanta's offensive line, but he could see some playing time at left tackle as well.

Projected Impact: 10/10

Second-Round Pick: DL Ra'Shede Hageman

Ra'Shede Hageman
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Second-Round Pick: DL Ra'Shede Hageman

Ra'Shede Hageman
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Hageman is a classic "boom or bust" prospect in that his potential is sky-high, but he is not as polished as you would like entering the pros. His long body reminds you a bit of a Michael Johnson-type yet his limited athleticism is concerning. Hageman will likely see playing time as a situational pass rusher at defensive tackle.

Projected Impact: 6/10

Third-Round Pick: FS Dezmen Southward

Dezmen Southward
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Third-Round Pick: FS Dezmen Southward

Dezmen Southward
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Southward is an intriguing prospect in that he reminds you a bit of former Atlanta FS Thomas DeCoud yet seems like a better fit as a strong safety at the next level. Southward could potentially work his way into the starting lineup playing opposite starting SS William Moore, but he will have to put together a strong camp. Watch for his name on special teams in year one.

Projected Impact: 6/10

Fourth-Round Pick: RB Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman
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Fourth-Round Pick: RB Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman
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Freeman is quite an intriguing prospect for Atlanta and may have found a nice home in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Freeman is a do-it-all running back and could serve as a valuable option in Atlanta's cloudy backfield situation. He has a tough road ahead of him to start for this team but could work in as the team's third-down back.

Projected Impact: 7.5/10

Fourth-Round Pick: OLB Prince Shembo

Prince Shembo
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Fourth-Round Pick: OLB Prince Shembo

Prince Shembo
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Shembo is an athletic outside linebacker who reminds you a bit of former Atlanta pass rusher John Abraham. Shembo has that athletic prowess to get after the quarterback, but he will need a few years of coaching and fine tuning to make an impact for Atlanta defensively. He could, however, be a special teams ace for the team this season.

Projected Impact: 5/10

Fifth-Round Pick: CB Ricardo Allen

Ricardo Allen
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Fifth-Round Pick: CB Ricardo Allen

Ricardo Allen
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Allen is a fine corner prospect from Purdue, but he will not make much of an impact this season for Atlanta outside of a special teams role. Allen is buried on the depth chart behind numerous young corners with better potential, but he could develop into a decent No. 3 or No. 4 corner down the road.

Projected Impact: 3/10

Fifth-Round Pick: OLB Marquis Spruill

Marquis Spruill
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Fifth-Round Pick: OLB Marquis Spruill

Marquis Spruill
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Spruill is a tackling machinewho has the skill set to be a devastating inside linebacker at the next level. His athleticism and motor keep him on the field, while his hard hits make opposing teams cringe. Spruill may make an impact this season after starting LB Sean Weatherspoon went down with a season-ending injury. Watch out for Spruill on coverage units this season.

Projected Impact: 4/10

Seventh-Round Pick: MLB Yawin Smallwood

Yawin Smallwood
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Seventh-Round Pick: MLB Yawin Smallwood

Yawin Smallwood
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Smallwood is another rookie linebacker who could benefit from the loss of star LB Sean Weatherspoon. Smallwood is a polished inside backer who fell in the draft due to limited athleticism and limited upside. He is a classic run stopping inside backer but struggles in sideline-to-sideline movement, especially in coverage.

Projected Impact: 4/10

Seventh-Round Pick: OLB Tyler Starr

Tyler Starr
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Seventh-Round Pick: OLB Tyler Starr

Tyler Starr
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Atlanta media members have been ranting and raving about Tyler Starr as a potential late-round steal this season already. Starr definitely fits the mold of the type of player Atlanta likes in their linebackers and is quite similar to 2013 stars in linebackers Paul Worrilow and Jopolo Bartu. His impact will likely be felt in pass rushing situations early on, but that role could increase to something more permanent.

Projected Impact: 5/10