Falcons excel at keeping their own

All four NFC South general managers like to talk about the importance of building through the draft and they mean it.

But the reality is that there is only one NFC South team that ranks among the league leaders when it comes to building through the draft.

The Atlanta Falcons currently have 40 of their own draft picks on the roster. That’s the second-highest total in the league. Green Bay is No. 1 with 45, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The first step with any draft pick obviously is developing. But the next step, assuming those players develop into anything, is retaining them. General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have made it part of their core philosophy to retain their own players. They’ve backed it up recently by re-signing the likes of Sam Baker, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud and they likely will get quarterback Matt Ryan signed to a contract extension at some point this offseason.

The rest of the NFC South teams don’t have nearly as many homegrown players. The Panthers are near the league average with 31 of their own draft picks. Previous general manager Marty Hurney was big (sometimes to his own detriment) on keeping his own draft picks. New general manager Dave Gettleman is in the process of shaping the roster his way and that drove Carolina’s number down a bit.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints rank near the bottom of the league in this department. The Bucs have 28 of their own draft picks on the roster. Only five teams have fewer.

That brings us to the Saints. They’re last with only 24 of their draft picks on the roster.