Mark Bradley blog 

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Football Outsiders thinks Falcons will rebound!

  • 6:30 am Monday, July 21st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
A healthy Julio Jones could make a difference, don't you think? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Recent appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons haven’t been kind. Pro Football Focus rated theirs the 30th-best roster in the 32-team NFL. In its yearbook, Sporting News ranked them third in the four-team NFC South and 24th in the whole wide NFL. But today we offer glad tidings from an improbable source.

A year ago, Football Outsiders sounded the earliest alarm that the 2013 season wouldn’t be kind to the Falcons, rating their “mean projection” at an NFC South-worst 7.6 wins, which sounded mighty low for a team that had just gone 13-3. (As it turned out, even Football [More]

Sporting News: Falcons third in division, 24th in NFL

  • 9:39 am Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"One word of advice, men. Don't buy that Sporting News yearbook." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As faithful readers — and perhaps some unfaithful ones — know, I’m a major fan of preseason predictions, and not just mine. (Especially not mine.) There was a year when Sporting News, which historically has produced first-rate annuals for all the big sports, didn’t publish a single one, and I was beyond consolation.

I’m happy to report that Sporting News is again back in the yearbook business, and it was with great delight that I bought its Pro Football edition over the weekend. (I also bought Phil Steele’s idiosyncratic college football annual, of which I’m also enamored and which [More]

ESPN survey: Matt Ryan is a second-tier quarterback

  • 9:08 am Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
He wears No. 2, and he's ranked in Tier 2. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

In the effort to rank the NFL’s quarterbacks, Mike Sando of ESPN Insider has conducted a survey of 26 front-office types. For the Atlanta Falcons, the good news is that Matt Ryan ranks No. 8 overall. (Though he’s tied with three others for the eighth spot.) The sobering news is that some of those FO types are quoted, albeit anonymously, as feeling chilly toward Matty Ice.

Sando’s ranking groups five quarterbacks into the top tier: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck. The second tier begins with Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Thence cometh the Iceman. [More]

A bad early loss: Weatherspoon out for the season

  • 9:26 pm Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
They aren't celebrating in Flowery Branch tonight. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

You might recall that Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus just rated the Atlanta Falcons’ roster the third-worst in the NFL. You might also remember that Monson labeled only three Falcons defenders as “above average.” Now comes word that one of those three — linebacker Sean Weatherspoon — ruptured his Achilles tendon and has been lost for the 2014 season.

Falcons coach Mike Smith announced Tuesday night that Weatherspoon was running “with our medical staff” during one of those essential OTA’s — an organized team activity, which is a fancy term for a post-Memorial-Day-but-pre-Fourth-of-July practice — when the injury [More]

Do the Falcons have the NFL’s third-worst roster?

  • 8:05 am Friday, June 6th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"We're No. 30! We're No. 30!" (Kent D. Johnson/AJC)

Pro Football Focus is a numbers-driven Web site that serves a different function than Football Outsiders, a numbers-driven Web site often referenced here. Football Outsiders mostly takes a macro view of advanced analytics; Pro Football Focus goes micro. PFF’s analysts attempt to do as coaches do, reviewing tape — or video, this being the 21st Century — and assigning grades to players.

As we know, football is less a game of individual statistics than baseball, which is almost entirely a game of individual stats. But PFF makes the brave attempt to rate every player at every position, offensive linemen [More]

Football Outsiders: Falcons worst in NFC South

  • 8:07 am Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Protective headgear is needed when reading a Football Outsiders projection. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As noted, my favorite predictions — to read, if not to make — are those steeped in advanced analytics. Regarding football, the place to go for advanced analytics is Football Outsiders, which I’ve referenced many times. And it was, you might recall, Football Outsiders that sounded the loudest alarm ahead of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2013 crash.

(In its 2013 Almanac, Football Outsiders set the Falcons’ “mean projection” at 7.6 wins, the lowest of any team in the NFC South. The Falcons hadn’t won fewer than nine games in any of the previous five seasons and had just gone 13-3. [More]

Thomas Dimitroff grades the Falcons’ draft: ‘An A’

  • 8:51 pm Saturday, May 10th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Jake Matthews and some other guy. (Jason Getz/AP)

FLOWERY BRANCH

Thomas Dimitroff concedes that he’ll take a peek at what Mel Kiper and other draftniks think of his work. He’ll also admit that sometimes he doesn’t like what he reads. (One C-minus from Famous Mel really irked the Atlanta Falcons’ general manager.) So as to cut out the middleman, I asked TD the GM what grade he’d assign the Falcons in 2014.

“An A,” he said, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Then: “Well, if this is such a ridiculous exercise (draft grades) we all talk about, I’m going to give you a very candid maybe arrogant response.”

The belief here — and let’s [More]

Draft Day arrives: What should the Falcons do?

  • 7:45 am Thursday, May 8th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Time for a Big (Khalil) Mack Attack? (Mike Groll/AP)

Moving the NFL draft to May means that the hype, which was already oppressive, is now unbearable. Which is why the draft’s deferred arrival brings as much relief as anticipation.

By now, everything has already been said, and not just once but a dozen times. This post is meant to serve as a final fling before Chris Berman (ugh!) starts blathering. In your educated view, what should the Atlanta Falcons do?

The polls are open. Please avail yourselves.

From myajc.com: It’s not the Falcons’ biggest draft ever, but it’s big.

Also from myajc.com: 10 reasons the Falcons need Jadeveon Clowney.

Further reading: [More]

Johnny Manziel: Great college player, bad NFL risk

  • 10:19 am Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
This became the greatest moment of Manziel's greatest night. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Stepping back from the Atlanta Falcons and/or Jadeveon Clowney for a moment, we turn our attention toward Johnny Manziel, whom Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing believes ESPN is determined to make into the new Tim Tebow as a driver of 24-news cycles. And there are, I’ll concede, similarities. Both played in the SEC. Both won Heisman trophies early in their college careers. (Tebow as a sophomore, Manziel as a redshirt freshman.) Neither plays — or played — the way a classic pro quarterback plays.

I saw both as collegians at their absolute collegiate best. (Tebow against Alabama in the 2008 [More]

ESPN’s Jaworski really likes Zach Mettenberger

  • 10:08 am Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Mettenberger and Murray, back in the day. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Zach Mettenberger had a strange collegiate career. He signed with Georgia in 2009, which only made sense: He was from nearby Oconee County and his mother worked in UGA’s football office. In the spring of 2010, there were those who believed Mettenberger outplayed fellow redshirt freshman Aaron Murray on G-Day and could have become the front-runner to fill Georgia’s quarterback vacancy. This soon became a moot point.

Mettenberger was dismissed from the team after being arrested in South Georgia while on spring break. (He would plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.) He spent the 2010 season at [More]