Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 4/24/12
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- The Atlanta Falcons made quite a splash in last year's NFL draft. This year, they'll likely spend a lot of time sitting around. The Falcons are one of three teams that does not have a pick in Thursday night's first round. Considering what they gave up to get receiver Julio Jones, there's little chance of the team moving up to make another high-profile selection. "Needless to say, I don't think we're going to be messing up any draft parties," general manager Thomas Dimitroff quipped. Instead, the Falcons were focused on filling their needs beginning in the second round, where the Falcons had the No. 55 overall choice. "I'm confident there will be a lot of good players at 55," Dimitroff said. A year ago, with the Falcons coming off a 13-win season and NFC South title, Dimitroff felt his team might be one impact player away from contending for the franchise's first Super Bowl championship. So he gambled big on draft day, dealing away his first- and fourth-round picks in 2012 for the chance to take Jones. The big receiver had a solid rookie season, but the Falcons slipped to 10-6, settled for a wild card, and were wiped out in the opening round of the playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants. Now, the Falcons don't appear so close to that elusive title, and they're not positioned to take a major step forward in the draft. They have only six picks in the seven-round, three-day process, picking up an extra compensatory choice in the final round. In a way, the low-key draft is in keeping with the theme of Atlanta's offseason. The team has spent most of its time re-signing its own free agents, which has sparked plenty of grumbling from impatient fans who thought the Falcons might be poised for a major shake-up, given owner Arthur Blank's harsh public critique of the 2011 campaign. Dimitroff, who has earned plenty of praise for his four years as general manager, began to hear some complaints about his roster management. "I totally understand the thought process and the banter and the discussion," Dimitroff said. "But I feel like we've been very active. ... We talked at the very beginning of when we came aboard in 2008 about the importance of retention. We've been at over 80 percent (re-signing his own players). That's very important to us. We felt like it was important to keep our core together. It's not just about splash moves to acquire certain players." The Falcons do have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, hiring Dirk Koetter to run the offense and former NFL head coach Mike Nolan to handle the defense. With some of the changes they have in mind, Atlanta will be looking to fill more subtle needs, such as better protection from the offensive line and more depth in the secondary. Koetter is determined for the Falcons to have a more vertical passing game, but that will require the line to give quarterback Matt Ryan extra time in the pocket. While the Falcons appeared at first glance to do a good job in 2011, ranking sixth in the league in fewest sacks allowed (26), a closer look reveals they also allowed the seventh-most hits (84) on their franchise guy in the pocket. Plus, the Falcons had several high-profile flops trying to pick up mere inches on fourth down, including a stop by the Giants in the playoffs. "We've got to get those aggressive yards," Dimitroff said. "We've done it in the past, but for some reason we hit a little bit of a standstill last year. It was challenging and agitating at times. I also think we need to continue to fortify our stoutness to provide a pocket for Matt Ryan. It's important for Matt to step up in that pocket confidently and be able to deliver the ball assuredly to some very, very good receivers." Going with an offensive lineman early in the draft would be a change of philosophy for Atlanta. Sam Baker (2008) is the only first-round pick at those positions since 1993, and Atlanta hasn't picked a lineman in the second round since the late Travis Claridge a dozen years ago. Defensively, Nolan is eager to play a lot of nickel and dime in the secondary, especially playing a schedule that already ensures twice-a-year meetings against New Orleans' Drew Brees, Carolina's Cam Newton and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman and this season includes games against Eli Manning of the Giants, Detroit's Matthew Stafford, Dallas' Tony Romo, San Diego's Philip Rivers and Denver's new quarterback, Peyton Manning. Knowing it would be hard to draft someone who could make an immediate impact in the secondary, the Falcons were looking into a possible trade for Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samuel. The Eagles were eager to dump Samuel's hefty salary and would probably settle for a lower-round draft pick, but it wasn't known if the Falcons could make it work under their cap number, especially after Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes agreed Tuesday to a 10 million contract tender. No matter what happens this week, Dimitroff insisted the Falcons will come out of it with a better roster. "We have a very sound foundation," he said. "We are very positive about what we have at this stage and being able to build on it in this draft."
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

God Shammgod hired by Mavericks as player development assistant

Soccer player terminates contract after being attacked by stray dogs

Todd Bowles confirms Ryan Fitzpatrick is Jets starting QB: ‘It’s his job’

Carmelo Anthony shocked Dwyane Wade left Miami for Chicago

Report: David Lee signs with the Spurs


Craig Sager to miss Olympics while undergoing bone marrow transplant

Jarryd Hayne wouldn’t have retired if NFL had minor league system

Draymond Green: ‘Me and LeBron are friends’

Pierre-Paul won't need to wear club on hand this season

Report: Four cities remain in contention to host 2017 NBA ASG

Doc Rivers: Clippers have plan to let Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Hue Jackson: Browns will give Josh Gordon a fresh start

Diamondbacks nearing Daniel Hudson trade

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

What would George Costanza have traded to get Bonds and Griffey?

Gabby Douglas can make USA Gymnastics history at Olympics

Week 3 will determine the Big Ten's reputation this season

Cam Talbot thinks the Oilers are close to making the playoffs

The new era of WWE SmackDown has liftoff

Vlade Divac: Cousins ‘most dominant player in the world’

Wild offer to make Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy' new goal song

Canucks don't dismiss acquiring player with past issues

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker