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Smith focuses on D on last day of 1st draft as Falcons coach

ATLANTA (AP) – Arthur Smith’s first draft as Atlanta’s coach helped prove he’s taking an even-keeled approach to building the Falcons’ roster. Sure, the first pick for Smith, the former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, was a tight end. But after Kyle Pitts was the No. 4 overall selection, Smith and first-year general manager Terry Fontenot also paid attention to the Falcons’ defense.


It’s fun to be a part of it,” Smith said. “… It’s fun to have to worry about the whole team.”

The proof came on Saturday when four of the Falcons’ final six picks were defensive players – cornerbacks Darren Hall of San Diego State and Avery Williams of Boise State and defensive linemen Ta’Quon Graham of Texas and Ade Ogundeji of Notre Dame.

Overall, five of the nine picks in the draft came on defense.

“The cool thing about Arthur is that’s his mindset,” Fontenot said of Smith’s balanced emphasis.

The Falcons also drafted Stanford center Drew Dalman in the fourth round and Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby in the sixth round. Williams counts as a defensive player, but he is an accomplished return specialist. Smith said Williams also could be looked on offense.

The Falcons targeted an obvious need on Friday by making UCF’s hard-hitting safety Richie Grant their second-round pick. Faced with salary cap restrictions, Atlanta lost veteran safeties Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, and Damontae Kazee in free agency. Versatile offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield of Michigan, who could compete at left guard, was added in the third round.

Falcons coach


Pitts knows his place as a rookie looking to fit in. Pitts, only 20, impressed the Falcons with his maturity and unusual athleticism, allowing him to play like a wide receiver at tight end.

The maturity immediately showed when Pitts, who wore No. 84 at Florida, saw that veteran Cordarrelle Patterson had that number with the Falcons.

As a high-profile player, Pitts probably could have pushed the issue with Patterson. Instead, Pitts avoided a potentially awkward negotiation, a decision likely to earn respect in the locker room.

“He’s a vet, so I didn’t want to pay for that,” Pitts said Saturday with a laugh while making his first visit to the Falcons’ practice facility. Pitts instead settled on No. 8, taking advantage of the NFL’s new rule allowing single digits to be worn by players at more positions.


Dalman’s father, Chris, started 64 games in seven seasons as a center and guard for the San Francisco 49ers from 1993-2000. Chris Dalman was the Falcons’ assistant offensive line coach from 2005-06, providing young Drew, then in elementary school, an opportunity to look at his future NFL home.

“I remember running around those fields, probably causing a little mischief,” Drew Dalman said. “I have great memories of being around the facility and the team.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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