Before taking the biggest leap in Thursday night’s first round, the Atlanta Falcons spent as much time researching Alabama receiver Julio Jones as they did on franchise quarterback Matt Ryan when he came into the league in 2008.
In this radio interview with 680 The Fan in Atlanta, general manager Thomas Dimitroff talked about what went into the Falcons leaping all the way from No. 27 overall to get Jones with the sixth pick.
“We spent a lot of time on this,’’ Dimitroff said. “This wasn’t a sort of off-the-cuff, in-the-moment, heat-of-the-battle, let’s just trade up because we like this guy. We’ve contemplated this for over a month and we’ve done probably as much research on Julio as we had done narrowing down on Matt Ryan. This was a major move. We all know that.’’
Yes, we do. In giving up much of this year’s draft and next year’s, the Falcons might have made the most aggressive move in the history of their franchise.
“We all know it’s a bold move, an aggressive move,’’ Dimitroff said. “It’s something we felt, at this time, in our development as a football team, it was the best move for us and the right move.”
Dimitroff has got a point. The Falcons went 13-3 last season, but got beat in their first playoff game. They haven’t won a playoff game since Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and Ryan came together. They obviously believe they’re close to taking the next big step.
“We felt, from the very beginning of this offseason, we wanted to, again, become more explosive on both sides of the ball,’’ Dimitroff said. “And we just felt the talent and the explosiveness and the play-making ability of Julio Jones over some of the other players that we were considering … that this was the impactful type of player we were looking for.’’
There’s no doubt Jones has the potential to make a huge impact on the Atlanta offense. But it’s probably wrong to say he’s the single player the Falcons need to really challenge for a Super Bowl title. Then again, that statement might be only slightly off.
I think the Falcons need to add two key players. They got one in Jones. Now comes the next part. They still need to add a pass-rusher on defense and they know it. Will that come in a draft in which the Falcons gave up their second-round pick?
Probably not. They may take a defensive end somewhere in the later rounds and hope that guy can develop into a pass-rushing force down the line. I think it’s much more likely that whenever free agency opens, the Falcons go out and sign a defensive end who already has showed he can be a force in the NFL.
I also have little doubt owner Arthur Blank will hesitate to write the check to get whoever Dimitroff and Smith view as the best fit for their team. The drafting of Jones was a very aggressive move and it shows the Falcons are aiming high. Whatever they do at defensive end, it may come in the form of a move that is equally aggressive.