Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snead named new Rams GM

Les Snead has been chosen as the Rams' new general manager. The Rams' search ended sooner than expected when the Vikings promoted the other finalist for the position, George Paton, to their assistant general manager position yesterday. So for the second straight general manager, the Rams are going to hope Thomas Dimitroff rubbed off on somebody.

After starting his NFL career as a scout for the Jagwires, Snead, 37, has been with the Falcons the past 13 years, the last three as director of player personnel. He was one of highly-regarded Falcons GM Dimitroff's top lieutenants. Snead oversaw college and pro scouting, researched free agent acquisition, evaluated the Falcons roster on a day-to-day basis and helped determine salaries for player acquisitions.

We're again assured by league insiders that this is another great hire for the Rams. Snead is well-regarded as an experienced talent evaluator, for his adaptability and that he works well with people (he has worked with four different head coaches and two interim coaches). Maybe that's because he has a psychology degree from Auburn (as well as a master's in education). He's reportedly highly-regarded around the league and is considered a rising star among NFL front office men.

These are the Falcons' three drafts with Snead as DPP.
2009: 1 - Peria Jerry; 2 - William Moore; 3 - Christopher Owens; 4 - Lawrence Sidbury; 5 - William Middleton; 5 - Garrett Reynolds; 6 - Spencer Adkins; 7 - Vance Walker.

This was not a very good draft for the Falcons. Jerry is their version of Jason Smith, right down to being replaced by a pick from the next year's draft, Corey Peters. They drafted him despite his age, injury history and Clay Matthews Jr. still being on the board. Moore started most of the last two years but may have lost his job to James Sanders at the end of this season. Owens has been a career backup. Sidbury's a rotational DE but outproduced free agent splash Ray Edwards in the sack column this year with 4. Reynolds (Hacksaw's nephew) started this season after the Rams signed Harvey Dahl, but bombed and is back on the bench. Adkins has been a career backup but looked good in his first start in Atlanta's final regular-season game this year. Walker is a rotational DT. Middleton is no longer with the team. D-plus at best. Snead definitely had his hands in the Falcons' drafts. He was the go-to guy for the Falcons website's draft day interviews.

2010: 1 - Sean Weatherspoon; 3 - Corey Peters; 3 - Mike Johnson; 4 - Joseph Hawley; 5 - Dominique Franks; 5 - Kerry Meier; 6 - Shann Schillinger.

Weatherspoon's making a mark as one of the game's best young linebackers. Corey Peters is a starting DT. Mike Johnson struggled in 2011 with concussion problems. Hawley is their center of the future and started at RG the back half of last season. Franks stepped in after Brent Grimes got injured and has a great shot at starting next season. Started ahead of Owens. Meier hasn't contributed much due to a blown knee and a groin injury. Schillinger's a backup free safety who missed most of 2010 due to a busted ankle. This still looks like a terrific draft by the Falcons; they're poised to have four starters in 2012 from it. Solid A at worst.

2011: 1 - Julio Jones; 3 - Akeem Dent; 5 - Jacquizz Rodgers; 6 - Matt Bosher; 7 - Andrew Jackson; 7 - Cliff Matthews.

Jones seems on track to be worth the farm the Falcons traded for him. 54 catches, 959 yards, 8 TDs as a rookie. (Snead was said to have contributed a lot of research that went into the decision to trade up to draft Jones.) Dent became the special teams ace, gained a reputation for solid tackling and could start in '12 if Curtis Lofton moves on in free agency. Rodgers had 400 combined yards as the change-of-pace back. Bosher was 30th in the league in punting average, but the Falcons were 17th in net, and he put 40% of his punts inside the 20. Jackson was on the practice squad or practice squad IR all season. Matthews was on the main roster but didn't have any statistics in 2011. This draft obviously hinges on Jones, but Atlanta got decent contributions from the two picks after him. And unlike the Rams, they didn't cut half the draft before the season was even over. C for now. Most probably grade it higher, but I automatically dock a grade letter because YOU NEVER DRAFT A KICKER.

Other significant Falcons acquisitions 2009 - 2011:
Tony Gonzalez, 2009, acquired for 2nd-round draft pick. Has averaged 78 receptions, 800 yards and 6 TDs a season as a Falcon. Team's second-leading receiver all three years. Not the dominant force he once was, but he's still a Pro Bowl TE and still has it.

Dunta Robinson, 2010, free agent. Only three INTs for Atlanta in two years, and Pro Football Focus graded him out this past season as one of the worst corners in the league.

Ray Edwards, 2011, free agent. Signed to a hefty contract despite offseason knee surgery that kept him out of offseason workouts and preseason games, Edwards was a bust for Atlanta last year, with just 3.5 sacks. He was considered a good run defender, though, and you'd assume he'll improve greatly in 2012 with good health.

Matt Bryant, December 2009, free agent. Three game-winning FGs in 2010 and hit 28 of 31 FG attempts. Even better in 2011, 27-for-29.

The good pickups were pretty good, but the bad pickups look pretty damn ugly so far. C-minus at best, and I'm being highly charitable.

Jim Thomas' STLToday article on Snead's hiring on Sunday attributes the signing of offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo to Snead, before he was Atlanta's DPP. Dahl and Clabo were both signed as undrafted rookie free agents.

It's hard, if not impossible, to know as a far-outsider how much Les Snead had to do with any of these picks or player acquisitions. The Falcons do seem to have a nasty habit of making big splashes on injured players, which Snead absolutely has to avoid here. The Rams have already had far too much of that. Snead seems to have helped the Falcons land very solid draft classes in 2010 and 2011. The Rams absolutely need that. I'll give the hiring of Les Snead a B based on that and based on the approval it's getting from insiders.

Of course, the hirings of Billy Devaney and Steve Spagnuolo probably got good grades and the NFL insiders' seal of approval, too.


I may have blown my load for the weekend on the GM hiring, but I'll still try to catch up with the coaching staff hires.


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