Falcons Select Six Players On The Final Day Of The 2014 NFL Draft
Flowery Branch, GA – The Atlanta Falcons today selected Florida State running back Devonta Freeman in the fourth round (103rd overall), Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo (137th overall), Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen (147th overall), Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill (168th overall), Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood (253rd overall), and South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr (255th overall) on the final day of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Atlanta traded the 182nd and 220th overall selections to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the 168th pick, which the club used to acquire Spruill.
Freeman, 5-8, 206 pounds, became the first Florida State running back since Warrick Dunn to rush for over 1,000 yards when he logged 1,016 yards on 173 carries in 2013. He is the sixth player in Seminole history to accomplish that feat. Freeman led the team in rushing during both his freshman and junior campaigns, becoming the 15th player since 1947 to pace the offense in multiple seasons. His 30 rushing touchdowns are tied for third in school history while his 2,255 career rushing yards are tied with Falcons RB Antone Smith for the eighth most in school history.
Freeman appeared in 39 games during three seasons at Florida State, starting 26 contests, including his final 19 appearances. He compiled 2,730 all-purpose yards, adding 475 yards on 47 receptions to his 404 carries and 2,255 career rushing yards, and averaged 70 yards per game. In 2013, Freeman earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors from the league’s coaches and media after leading the team in rushing for the second time in his career. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and ran for 14 touchdowns while his 1,016 yards were the seventh-highest single season total in school history.
The 12th member of the Falcons roster to play in a national title game, Freeman rushed 11 times for 73 yards, including a late second quarter touchdown in Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game. As a sophomore in 2012, he ranked second on the team with 660 yards on 111 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and scoring eight touchdowns. Freeman earned third-team Freshman All-America honors from the NFL Draft Report after leading the Seminoles with 579 yards on 120 carries, the fifth-highest yardage total by a true freshman in school history. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns while starting seven games.
Freeman attended Miami (Fla.) Central High School, where he was a consensus four-star recruit. He led Miami Central to a Class 6A state championship as a senior in 2010 after posting 2,208 yards and 26 touchdowns. Freeman majored in Sports Administration at Florida State.
Shembo, 6-0, 253 pounds, started 34-of-51 games at Notre Dame finishing with 145 tackles (71 solo), 24.5 tackles for loss, 35 quarterback pressures, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles. His 19.5 sacks rank seventh in Notre Dame annals. Shembo started all 13 games in 2013, posting 48 tackles (26 solo), with 5.5 sacks for a loss of 46 yards. He was credited with career-high 17 quarterback pressures which were the most by an Irish player since 2004.
As a junior in 2012, Shembo started all 13 games and posted 51 (22 solo), 7.5 sacks, 12 quarterback pressures, 10.5 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, and one pass break up helping the Irish to reach their first BCS National Championship Game. He started eight of 12 games during his sophomore season in 2011, logging 31 tackles (17 solo), two sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss. Shembo was one of six true freshmen to see action for Notre Dame in 2010. He logged 15 tackles, 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, and four quarterback pressures.
Shembo attended Ardrey Kell (Charlotte, N.C.) High School where he earned All-American honors and was rated as one of the best linebackers in the nation by Super Prep. His late father, Maurice Shembo, immigrated to the United States in 1986 from Democratic Republic of the Congo and his sister Christelle plays basketball at Wake Forest.
Allen, 5-9, 186 pounds, earned All-Big 10 honors all four years and finished his career as the Purdue record holder with four interception returns for touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 263 total tackles. He led the Boilermakers with six interceptions in 2013 while adding 53 tackles (42 solo), with four tackles for loss, and 12 passes defensed in 2013.
During his junior season in 2012, Allen started 11 games, earning All-Big 10 honors after posting 46 tackles, (43 solo), four tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, four passes broken up, and one forced fumble. He tallied 81 total tackles (62 solo), three tackles for loss, and a team-high three interceptions as a sophomore. Allen started 12 games as a true freshman, earning second team Freshman All-America honors from Scout.com and was named a second team All-Big 10 selection. Allen tied for third on the team with 83 total tackles (56 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and a team-high three interceptions during his first season at Purdue.
Allen attended Mainland (Daytona Beach, FL) High School where he was a first team Daytona Beach News Journal All‐Area selection as senior after posting 64 tackles and two interceptions. He also played soccer and participated in track and field.
Spruill, 6-0, 224 pounds, earned four letters at Syracuse and was one of 15 true freshmen to play in 2010 He served as a team captain and was a member of 2013 Spring Athletic Director’s Honor Roll as a senior. His 41.0 tackles for loss ranks second in program history. Spruill started all 13 games in 2013, earning All-ACC honorable mention honors after posting 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He ranked 10th in the Big East in tackles for loss, averaging nearly one per game (.75 avg/g) as a junior in 2012 and earned second team All-Big East as a sophomore in 2011. Spruill started all 13 games and earned second team Freshman All-America honors from Phil Steele in 2010. The Hillside, NJ native was on his way to receive his degree in Child and Family Services from Syracuse when the Falcons called to inform him that they had selected him in the fifth round.
Smallwood, 6-4, 236 pounds, started all 36 games of his career at middle linebacker, and was the Huskies leading tackler in his final two seasons. He totaled 94 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks while adding three pass breakups, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble return. Smallwood served as a team captain as a senior in 2013 earning first team All-American Athletic Conference honors after posting 118 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and a team-high four sacks. He was also named an ECAC FBS All-Star and a Butkus Award Semifinalist. Smallwood was a first team All-Big East selection in 2012 and led the Huskies with 120 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, and two forced fumbles.
As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Smallwood started 12 games at middle linebacker and was the second-leading tackler on the team with 94 stops. He also added 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Smallwood attended Doherty Memorial (Worcester, MA) High School where he was named to the Division 1C Central Massachusetts All-Stars after tallying 71 tackles and five sacks while adding 769 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. He was a two-time pick Worcester Telegram & Gazette Super Team selection, a three-time Division I all-star, and a two-time Division I Defensive MVP.
Starr, 6-4, 250 pounds, was named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 after registering 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and nine sacks while adding four passes defensed, one interception, and four forced fumbles. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and finished his career at South Dakota as the school’s all-time leader with 27 sacks. Starr was named to multiple All-America teams including Beyond Sports Network (first team), The Sports Network (second team), and Associated Press (second team) in addition to being named and Elite Defensive Player by the College Football Performance Awards.
The Little Rock, Iowa native led all active FCS players in career forced fumbles (13), second in tackles for loss (39.0), and third in sacks (27.0). Starr earned second team All-MVFC honors and was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award giving to the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS as a junior in 2012. He had a breakout sophomore season for the Coyotes leading the team and conference while ranking in the top 10 nationally with 14 sacks. Starr also added 51 tackles (42 solo), 19 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Starr was named to the All-Northwest Iowa squad and was a two-time All-District first team selection at Central Lyon/George-Little Rock High School. He finished his prep career with 128 total tackles, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries while adding 23 receptions for 312 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
(Courtesy of Matt Haley, Atlanta Falcons Football Communications Coordinator)