By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Dimitroff considers draft a success
Placeholder Image

FLOWERY BRANCH - Two days after making a bold trade to pick receiver Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons played it safe in the final four rounds of the NFL draft on Saturday.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff traded up 13 spots in the fifth round to select Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers before choosing Miami punter Matt Bosher in the sixth round and using seventh-round picks on Fresno State guard Andrew Jackson and South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews.

"We accomplished what we wanted in this draft, which was to add explosive playmaking ability, urgency and leadership ability," Dimitroff said. "Though we stressed offense this year, we feel that we accomplished somewhat on the defense and going forward we'll continue to build this team any way that we can (in free agency)."

The Falcons also selected Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent in the third round Friday, but Dimitroff created some buzz the night before by sending a pair of first-round picks and three other spots to Cleveland for the right to take Jones No. 6 overall.

Jones can't wait to return for his first game at the Georgia Dome since helping Alabama beat Florida for the 2009 Southeastern Conference title. The Crimson Tide went 3-1 at the dome during his freshman and sophomore seasons.

"I love the atmosphere there," Jones said. "The fans are great. Just the atmosphere and playing under those lights - I love it."

Though Jones has prototypical size at receiver, Rodgers is a 5-foot-6 running back, but at 196 pounds, he has a compact frame and an ability to change speeds quickly.

Rodgers averaged 1,282 yards rushing and ran for 46 touchdowns in three seasons at Oregon State. Atlanta traded its fifth-round pick, 158th overall, and one of its three seventh-rounders to St. Louis to pick Rodgers.

Playing behind two-time Pro Bowl selection Michael Turner, Rodgers will compete with second-string running back Jason Snelling for snaps. He had just one fumble - on a lateral pass - in 939 career touches at Oregon State.

"In college, we always focused on ball security and blocking," Rodgers said. "That's the main thing. He said, 'If you've made it to this point we already know you're a good runner, so protect the ball and protect the quarterback.' "

Rodgers was a primary receiving target at Oregon State, too, catching 151 passes for 1,052 yards. He loves to make a quick move and watch defenders whiff.

"Being shorter than most than most guys," Rodgers said, "catching the ball out of the backfield and getting a linebacker one-on-one in open space, it helps a lot (to be short)."

Dimitroff believes it won't take long for Rodgers to become a fan favorite.

"We have our bangers in Michael Turner and Jason Snelling," Dimitroff said. "We need a guy that can change the pace - stop, start, redirect and then all the while step up and jam you in the face because he has that size and can keep defenders guessing."

Bosher is the sixth punter drafted by the Falcons and the first since Harold Alexander was selected in the third round of 1993. In four seasons at Miami, Bosher had a 37.5 net average on 234 punts. He connected on 45 of 53 field-goal attempts, but Atlanta hopes to re-sign Matt Bryant to handle field goals and extra points.

Michael Koenen, Atlanta's punter since the start of 2005, is not under contract for next season, and the Falcons needed someone who can punt and kickoff.

"The versatility aspect is very important in this league," Dimitroff said. "He was our No. 1-rated punter-kicker. It was the right spot for him even though at one point we projected we might have to (trade) up for this guy."

Jackson gives the Falcons some roster security if Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock, the team's tandem of starting guards since Mike Smith's first season as coach in 2008, become free agents when the NFL lockout is lifted.

The 6-foot-5, 297-pound Jackson missed nine games last year with an ankle injury, but as a junior he helped Fresno State running back Ryan Matthews lead the nation in rushing.

Jackson, who was redshirted as a freshman, will be a 26-year-old NFL rookie.

Matthews will compete with Jamaal Anderson and Lawrence Sidbury for snaps behind starting ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann.

The Gamecocks moved Matthews from outside linebacker to end before the start of his sophomore season in 2008. After a seven-sack season as a junior, Matthews overcame shoulder surgery to finish his senior year with 5½ sacks.

 

Regional events