The Atlanta Falcons came into the draft with a desperate need to help out their dismal pass rush that tallied a league low 19 sacks. They also are still looking for that presence at tight end that hasn’t been replaced since Tony Gonzalez retired. The Falcons also needed to upgrade an offensive line that seemed to implode on itself starting in week 6. They were also looking for a strong safety presence in the secondary.
The Falcons had 6 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. In the 1st round the Falcons had the 17th pick overall. In the 2nd round they had 21st pick of the round and the 52nd pick overall received from the Houston Texans. In the 3rd round they had the 18th pick of the round and the 81st overall. In the 4th round they had the 17th pick of the round and the 115th pick overall. The Falcons had no picks in the 5th round. In the 6th round the Falcons received the 20th pick of the round and the 195th overall from Houston via the New York Jets. In the 7th round the Falcons had the 17th pick of the round and the 238th pick overall.
1. #17- With their first overall pick in the draft the Falcons picked up the safety they were looking for, junior Florida SS Keanu Neal. This kid according to his scouting report is comparable to Kam Chancellor, a kid coached by Dan Quinn during his days as the Seahawks defensive coordinator. In 34 games for the Gators Neal had 146 tackles, 79 solo tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 5 passes defensed and 4 interceptions. He had a solo tackle percentage of 54.1 and averaged 4.3 tackles per game. Lions 4th round pick Miles Killebrew averaged 59% and 7.7 tackles in those categories. I don’t like that a 4th round pick like Killebrew has better averages than a player rated as 1st round talent. With that said I can’t really find fault with this pick if the scouting report comparison is to be believed. Grade: B
2. #21(#52)- With this pick the Atlanta Falcons took senior LSU OLB Deion Jones. In 51 games for the Tigers Jones recorded 165 tackles, 80 of them solo, 21 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 4 passes defensed and 11 quarterback hurries. Jones has a college career production number of 0.50 which suggests that this kid might not have been worth a second round pick. On the other hand his 2015 stats show him in one year as a starter he had 100 tackles, 57 of them solo, 13.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 passes defensed and 6 quarterback hurries, leaving him with a production number of 1.54. This kid looks like a gamble, but if his 2015 numbers are his true measure, then he is worth the risk. Grade: B+
#18(#81)- With this pick the Falcons took junior Stanford TE Austin Hooper. While at Stanford, Hooper played in 27 games yielding 74 receptions, 937 yards, 8 touchdowns, an average of 12.7 yards a catch, 2.8 receptions a game and 34.7 yards a game. The Falcons haven’t found the man to replace Tony Gonzalez yet. At 12.7 yards a catch the kid looks like he can be that threat over the middle Matt Ryan has been missing and a factor in the red zone. Grade: B-
#17(#115)-With this pick the Falcons took senior Minnesota OLB De’Vondre Campbell. In 39 games for Minnesota, Campbell recorded 208 tackles, 129 solo tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 interception, 5 passes defensed and 1 quarterback hurry and a production number of 0.57. Campbell’s value doesn’t appear to be in getting to the quarterback. His value appears rather as a coverage linebacker. With a 62% solo tackle average, he appears able to make tackles in space. If he can cover tight ends and running backs over the middle and in the flat, the way his numbers suggest he can, the Falcons found some nice value with this pick. Grade: B+
#20(#195)- With this pick the Falcons took senior San Jose St.OG Wes Schweitzer. The Falcons offensive line has not been a strong point for them over the last couple of seasons this kid could certainly represent a younger upgrade over an aging veteran with a similar skill set. Grade: B
#17(#238)- With their final pick i the draft the Falcons took senior UCLA WR Devin Fuller. In 36 games for the Bruins, Fuller recorded 126 receptions, for 1,177 yards and 8 touchdowns. He averaged 9.3 yards a reception, 3.5 receptions a game and 32.7 yards a game. His numbers seem quite pedestrian, but then with a whole bunch of college free agents competing for what is most likely 1 spot in the wide receiver room, his draft status may actually give him the leg up he needs to make this roster. With that said I think they could have used this pick to grab a defensive lineman, they generally have the best shot at becoming impact players in so far as the seventh round is concerned. Grade:B-
The Falcons attempted to address their needs in the draft. Aside for the defensive line with only six picks in this draft I think the Falcons did an admirable job. They picked up a LB who can be an edge rusher opposite Vic Beasley, they picked up what appears to be a pretty decent cover linebacker, they picked up a safety who should be a strong presence from Week 1. They picked up a kid who could push Levine Toilolo at TE, and they picked up an interior lineman to help out the offensive line. You really couldn’t ask the Falcons do a better job then they did with this draft. Grade: B+