Everyone said the Falcons needed a corner and by the time the 22nd pick in the first round rolled around Thursday night, the Falcons had their man and it was indeed a cornerback, selecting Washington's Desmond Trufant after a trade up from their original spot at No. 30.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in his post-draft press conference late Thursday night that the trade with the St. Louis Rams and his former coworker Les Snead had been brewing for a few days.
"We really thought at the core that we were going to come away with a trade partner in Les Snead and the St. Louis Rams," Dimitroff said.
The Falcons swapped first-round picks with the Rams and included their third-round pick (92) and a sixth-round selection to close the deal. St. Louis included a 2015 seventh-round pick. Dimitroff said the price was worth it to bring in Trufant, a player they like both on and off the field. Trufant also has strong blood lines; two of his brothers currently play in the league, including former Seattle corner Marcus Trufant.
"He's a very, very athletic individual," Dimitroff said. "He's very fast, some have him in the high 4.3s, low 4.4s. He's a legitimate 4.40 guy. He can jump well. He's been very productive with 33 pass break ups, a school record. We look for people that can get their hands on balls not only for passes broken up but also interceptions, which he did a nice job with as well. He's the type of guy that is very driven."
Dimitroff has a proven history of drafting seniors and former team captains and he did the same again with his first pick of Trufant this year. In addition to his school-record pass break ups, Trufant had six interceptions during his career at Washington and while that number isn't eye-popping, it also points to Trufant's ability to shut down a side of the field for his defense, something Dimitroff hopes he can resume in the NFL.
"There's no question about it, he has number one ability," Dimitroff said. "We all know that can take time in this league and he's got the athletic ability, speed, ball skills and drive to improve every time he gets on the field and that's something we need here."
After starting the final nine games of his freshman year for the Huskies, the six-foot, 184-pound corner started 45 straight games before missing a game this season. He was an honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection as a freshman in 2009 and picked up All-Pac 12 first-team honors as a senior when he added eight break ups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick to go with his single interception.
Speaking on a conference call shortly after his name was called in New York, Trufant said coming to Atlanta was a dream come true and joining a great organization and a great team is exciting. He's especially excited to get back to playing football again. One other thing that excites him is the opportunity to team up with a childhood idol already on the Falcons roster.
"They've got a lot of great players," Trufant said. "They were 10 yards away from going to the Super Bowl. They're a great team. I just want to come in and be ready to work. Asante Samuel is one of the best in the game. I've been watching him since I was young. I'm going to learn as much as possible from him."
Falcons head coach Mike Smith repeatedly praised Trufant for his work ethic during the post-draft press conference and added that the Falcons met with Trufant at the NFL Combine and then had him in for a visit as well. During the visit here in Atlanta, Smith said Trufant "impressed everyone in the building." Dimitroff added that in addition to all the qualities Trufant possesses to make him a great Falcon, he was "raised to play football," citing Trufant's experience around the league because of his older brothers.
Finally, if you're wondering what kind of player you're getting in Atlanta, allow Trufant to introduce himself. He calls himself a rangy player that can switch to and from the slot or the outside and he's not too good to play special teams either. As he said Thursday evening, he did a little bit of everything at Washington.
"I'm a hard worker, first of all," Trufant said. "I'm a leader on and off the field. I practice hard. I'm accountable. On the field: footwork, quickness. (I'm) just a well-rounded corner. I'm going to keep working on my game when I get there."