At his press conference on Thursday, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff explained he sees the draft, preparation for the draft and the general acquisition of talent for his football team as more of a chess match than a puzzle to solve. He rarely will explain what he's looking for in an individual draft or his entire philosophy for the draft, but a close look at some of the characteristics of the players he drafts perhaps reveals some of Dimitroff's approach to the game of chess that is the NFL Draft.
In an effort to create a harmonious locker room, one conducive to winning as the Falcons have for the last five seasons, Dimitroff focuses on players that don't just excel on the field, but also those that can be locker room leaders or at a minimum those that have demonstrated an ability in the past to play a role within a team and play it with confidence and poise.
All GMs have a dot system they use as they evaluate players with different color dots meaning different things like injury concerns or character concerns. Dimitroff said certain positions, the talent level of a player comparatively and where in the draft the player is being considered all play factors in drafting players with concerning dots on their scouting report, but the ultimate goal for Dimitroff and his staff is to carefully consider how each player will fit into the existing locker room.
"We're very particular about our locker room as you know," Dimitroff said on Thursday. "We're particular about how things come together."
One way to aid in the particulars of roster building is to bring in players with as much experience as possible in big games and big college conferences. Dimitroff has drafted 11 players from the SEC, the premier college football conference, more than any other conference, including four current starters and a few who could content for starting roles in 2013. The Big 12, Pac-12 and the ACC are all next with five players each, including starting QB and team captain Matt Ryan, who as a team captain while at Boston College, demonstrates specific character traits Dimitroff looks for in key positions.
"Let's face it, the people that are your true leaders of your football team, if you're looking at quarterbacks and X, Y, Z positions, it's very important to make sure that player has what you need, the requisite traits off the field," Dimitroff said.
Ryan is one 17 players drafted by Dimitroff that was a team captain in college, joining starters like Akeem Dent, Thomas DeCoud and Sean Weatherspoon. Furthermore, Dimitroff has demonstrated a penchant for taking seniors in his drafts. Of the 38 players Dimitroff has picked in the draft since 2008, 33 of them were seniors.
Dimitroff also added that he's pleased with the locker room he's built and thinks it's one of the most important aspects of his Falcons. He said once at this point, he can't reverse ground and add four or five players to the roster with questionable backgrounds.
Being a college senior and a team captain are just a few pieces of the game that is figuring out what Dimitroff will do in his Super Bowl this year, the NFL Draft. It remains to be seen how that information impacts what he does in 2013, but it's a great place to start when considering players the Falcons GM may be looking to add this year.