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Atlanta Falcons Past Drafts, 2009: The Falcons Can't Draft Linemen, Can They?

While Thomas Dimitroff has built up a pretty stellar reputation for himself here in Atlanta, the 2009 draft remains probably the biggest stain on an otherwise clean career as Falcons GM.

It also continued the recent trend of Falcons completely whiffing on lineman in the early rounds, something that continues to be a big problem for the team even going into next season. For whatever reason, injuries or just talent, this draft really came away as an overall disappointment.

How much of a disappointment? Well, there's no Jamarcus Russell 2.0, but there is...

Round 1: DT Peria Jerry
Grade: D

To be fair, Jerry was on the fast track after being drafted with the No. 24 overall pick in the draft. He won the starting job alongside Jonathan Babineaux out of training camp and played fairly well in his only two starts of the season. He was starting to look like the pass-rushing tackle the Falcons really needed. Things looked promising.

And then he tore that knee. His rookie year was over before it even really began, and it would take him almost two full years until the Falcons staff declared him "fully healthy." Even then, Jerry's impact on defense was minimal at best, and Corey Peters easily held on to the starting job.

While an injury like that is almost impossible to predict, this pick gets such a low grade because of who was left on the board at the time: Clay Matthews, Vontae Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Louis Delmas and Kenny Britt to name a few. Instead, the Falcons got another unproductive lineman who didn't live up to his first-round projection.

Round 2: SS William Moore
Grade: B+

Though he took a minor step back last season and didn't start during his rookie campaign, Moore's 2010 makes up for all of that. Five interceptions, eight passes defended and five "stuffs." He's great at playing the run, a ball-hawk and has the potential to be even better under Mike Nolan.

While last season was a bit of a disappointment and he lost some time to James Sanders (partially because of injury), he's been an impressive starter at times. Since he didn't play as a rookie, we really won't have a final verdict on Moore until this season plays out. But so far, so good.

Round 3: CB Chris Owens
Grade: C

And here we've got another cornerback taken in the third that didn't live up to expectations. Owens, like Chevis Jackson and Chris Houston before him, got opportunities to start and really didn't do much with them.

The Falcons would sign Dunta Robinson to a monster contract the following offseason, and fifth-round pick Dominique Franks is looking like a better option at nickel anyways. That pretty much sums it up for Owens.

Round 4: DE Lawrence Sidbury
Grade: B

Here's someone who really surprised the coaches last year. After contributing very little in his first two seasons as a backup defensive end, Sidbury posted a career-high 4.0 sacks in limited action as a member of Smitty's rotating defensive front.

If the Falcons choose not to select a pass-rusher early on in the draft, I think we'll see a lot more of El Sid this season. With John Abraham becoming more and more of a third-down specialist type of end, we might see Sidbury play more on first and second downs in his place.

Whatever the case, this was a quality pickup in the fourth.

Round 5: CB William Middleton
Grade: B-

First, let me clarify: I give the actual pick a B-. I give the decision to cut Middleton during training camp an F. Why he never made the team is something I've yet to understand, because he's gone on to be a solid No. 3 corner for the Jaguars ever since.

Basically, he's been just as good (or slightly better than) Owens. If you draft someone, I feel like at the very least you should give them more than two weeks in the preseason to prove themselves.

Round 5: OT Garrett Reynolds
Grade: C

Reynolds was awful as starting right guard last season, so bad that Joe Hawley (a center by nature) eventually took over at mid-season.

But at the same time, Reynolds wasn't playing his natural position either, and he was taken in the fifth-round because the team intended for him to serve as a quality backup. Why he ever cracked the starting lineup baffles me, but expectations for a fifth-rounder are, well, not lofty. Meh.

Round 6: LB Spencer Adkins
Grade: C+

He hasn't gotten any starting time, but as a backup and special teams contributor he's been solid. There's really not much else I can say about Adkins. So here's a picture of Mel Kiper's hair, instead.

Round 7: DT Vance Walker
Grade: B

Like Adkins, Walker has played exclusively as a backup, but in what snaps he's been given he's been quality both against the run and pressuring the QB. You love seeing contribution out of a seventh-round pick, because at that point in the draft it's mostly a crapshoot anyways.

Overall: C
Though Moore ended up being a great pick and the team found two key contributors in Sidbury and Walker, it doesn't really make up for a draft that's comprised of one first-round bust and a bunch of average players otherwise. It's the Jerry pick is really what killed this draft class, and if not for finding Corey Peters the following year I'm not sure where we'd be.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.