Monday May 30th, 2016 3:16AM

Falcons RB, CB, 3 LBs on final day of draft

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Atlanta Falcons hope Florida State's Devonta Freeman can help revive the NFL's worst rushing attack.

And they believe that four linebackers bring depth to a position that's been hurt by injuries to Sean Weatherspoon the last two years.

Atlanta drafted Freeman with the third pick of the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday, picking up some insurance behind starter Steven Jackson and primary backup Jacquizz Rodgers.

The Falcons took Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen early in the fifth, but the rest of their picks were spent on linebackers.

Notre Dame's Prince Shembo was selected late in the fourth, Syracuse's Marquis Spruill late in the fifth and Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood and South Dakota's Tyler Starr both late in the seventh.

Atlanta traded a sixth-round pick and one of three seventh-round picks to Minnesota to move up and choose Spruill.

The Falcons had the lowest-ranked running game last year as a porous offensive line failed to open space for Jackson and Rodgers.

Freeman averaged nearly 5.9 yards on 173 carries to become Florida State's first 1,000-yard rusher since former Falcons star Warrick Dunn did it for his third straight year in 1996.

He was a big reason why the Seminoles went unbeaten and took a three-point victory over Auburn in the national championship game.

Freeman said he doesn't shy from being compared to Dunn, now a minority owner with the Falcons.

"I want to be great like he was," Freeman said. "I want to give to the community. I want to speak to the community. I'm just happy to be a part of the Atlanta Falcons, but I just want to follow his footsteps. Me and him have so many similarities. I'm just lost for words."

Backing up their promise to bulk up both sides of the line of scrimmage during the offseason, the Falcons drafted Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews No. 6 overall and Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman early in the second.

In free agency, Atlanta has added defensive tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson and offensive guard Jon Asamoah.

The Falcons have put a big emphasis on getting more physical after finishing 4-12 and suffering their first losing record in six seasons under general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith.

Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times and pressured 203 times, most in the NFL, and the defense fared no better, ranking last in third-down efficiency, second-worst against the run and third-fewest in sacks.

Adding four linebackers will provide plenty of competition for Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, who earned starting jobs last season as undrafted rookie free agents.

Weatherspoon, a first-round pick four years ago, has missed 12 games over the last two years. He returns as the team's lone every-down linebacker in coordinator Mike Nolan's 4-3 scheme.

Before Saturday, Omar Gaither was the only other linebacker on the roster.

Shembo, 22, said he spoke at length with the Falcons and other NFL teams about an alleged sexual misconduct incident in 2010 that involved him and Lizzy Seeberg, a St. Mary's College student who later committed suicide.

Shembo, who did not face charges, spoke publicly about the tragedy for the first time two months ago at the NFL combine.

On Saturday, Shembo tried to keep the focus on his future with the Falcons.

"Pretty much it was an unfortunate event," Shembo said. "My name was pretty much cleared. It's behind me now. I just want to focus on playing football for the Falcons."

Shembo, speaking on a conference call with reporters, added that he feels remorse.

"Oh, of course," he said. "I have a lot of remorse for the girl. Any time someone experiences death or dies, it's always very sad, but I told you what I had to say before."

Spruill, a team captain with the Orange, started all 13 games and had 14.5 tackles for minus yardage.

Shembo had 26 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks for the Irish and started all 13 games.

Allen holds the Purdue record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 1 year ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 1 year ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 1 year ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 1 year ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Professional Sports
Truex’s luck turns with dominating win In Coca-Cola 600
CONCORD, NC - The heartbreak kid survived 600 miles without another broken heart. Instead, Martin Truex, Jr. broke records in Sunday night’s victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a race in which the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota set new standards for domination.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
12:41AM ( 2 hours ago )
Dietrich hits HR, drives in 4 as Marlins beat Braves
Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before being hit on the back of his head by a foul ball hit into his dugout, and the Miami Marlins beat Atlanta 7-3 on Sunday to avoid being swept by the last-place Braves for the second time this season.
By The Associated Press
12:22AM ( 2 hours ago )
Bulldogs eliminated, McCoy still alive at NCAAs
The No. 6-ranked Georgia men’s golf team was eliminated from the NCAA Championships on Sunday, but senior and former Habersham Central standout Lee McCoy remained in the hunt for national medalist honors.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:28PM ( 5 hours ago )
Alexander Rossi pulls off stunning upset in 100th Indy 500
Alexander Rossi outlasted his faster rivals _ and his fuel tank _ for a stunning victory Sunday in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500
5:50PM ( 9 hours ago )
Severino helps Syracuse sweep G-Braves
Pedro Severino went 1-for-3 with two RBI, boosting the Syracuse Chiefs to a 3-1 victory over the Gwinnett Braves Sunday afternoon at Coolray Field.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:25AM ( 17 hours ago )