Meet the guy who didn’t hate the Falcons’ draft

Atlanta Falcons first round draft pick Keanu Neal, left, poses for a photo with his jersey and head coach Dan Quinn following a news conference at the football team's practice facility Friday, April 29, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Dan got his man. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Hello there. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the guy who didn’t hate the Atlanta Falcons’ draft. Esteemed colleague Darryl Orlando Ledbetter marked it as a C-minus. Pro Football Focus gave it a D-plus. SI.com awarded a D. Mel Kiper of ESPN handed down a B-minus. That’s seriously tepid stuff.

Far be it from me to disagree with folks who cover the NFL/draft on a daily if not hourly basis, but I return to my original thought. Dan Quinn’s defense is a stylized thing. (Not in the Wide Tackle Six sense, but it’s not the Tampa Two, either.) He needs specific commodities in certain places. Keanu Neal could be the strong safety the Falcons lacked. Deion Jones should be an immediate upgrade over the Falcons’ incumbent linebackers.

If nothing else, the Falcons’ defense got faster and stronger. I have a difficult time seeing that as a bad thing. As for not picking a pass rusher: The Falcons picked one of those last season. The fervent hope is that Vic Beasley Jr. – who was hurt for much of the season, though the Falcons didn’t exactly tell us that – will be a double-digit sack man in Year 2. (If you’d doubled his yield of Year 1, he still wouldn’t have broken two figures.)

They needed a tight end. They got Austin Hooper in Round 3. As for wide receiver and offensive line, two positions the Falcons didn’t get around to addressing until late in this draft: We note that their two big free-agent purchases were for a wideout and a center. You can’t get everything in three days.

With only five picks going into the draft – a sixth was added in a trade down – this was never apt to be a comprehensive haul. This was targeted as a surgical strike on positions of major need. We cannot know if these efforts were successful. Not all draft picks pan out. (Two words: Aundray Bruce.) But I give the Falcons credit for knowing their deficiencies and trying to remedy them.

For what they wanted and needed, I thought they did fine. And it’s been a while since I’ve said that about anything involving the Falcons.

Reader Comments 0

37 comments
CoachLott
CoachLott

Dan Quinn is a very good judge of personnel. He believes in coaching up his players. From the undrafted to the first round pick.....guys buy into his system....He has a good reputation for coaching players up..While in Seattle, they produced more productive players that were undrafted than any other team...Plus..this should be Matt Ryan's best offensive line since he has been a Falcon....I'm giving Quinn a thumbs up so far...Even upgraded the backup QB position....Go Falcons..

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

This draft will be wait and see. Dimitroff has lost the benefit of the doubt at this point and Quinns judgment is suspect with hitching his wagon to Dimitroff and Shannahan. Neal likely would have been there in the second round without the reach and we could have gotten D line in first round. If Neal was gone Bell was still hanging around at our second pick. Obviously the so called experts were unimpressed and anybody that watched would have raised eyebrows at the picks. The only remaining hope is that they are bringing in talent suited specifically to the system they want to implement as clearly there was generally higher rated talent available at the juncture of most of the picks. Just a guess that this was Dimitroffs last draft with the Falcons

GaLatino
GaLatino

I suspect Neal will keep his reputation as a thumper right up until the moment he gets run over by Cam Newton on a designed run.  OVERRATED.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I'm not a draft expert, just a fan of pro football,....but, the way I see it, take the best players available at any position unless you already have an All Pro player at a given position. If there is not a quality player available to draft at your weak position then strengthen the players around that position by taking the best players available. Fill a need???? Yeah!, I've heard that spoken many times. It's like getting rid of an ugly girlfriend with one that is not quite as ugly. Filling a need with less than a quality draft pick doesn't strengthen that position it only changes it to a different weak player. Defenses are designed to protect a team weakness. That is not done by one player. Your best players have to help protect that weakness. If you have 10 positions on defense with All Pros at each position and one position that has a player that couldn't make a good college team, I don't think you would lose more games than you win. If that doesn't make sense, refer to my opening statement regarding my qualifications.

Chad Alexander
Chad Alexander

Could've had Nkemdiche,he was the best player available at the time

GaLatino
GaLatino

@Chad Alexander or Darren Lee, or Myles Jack, or Reggie Ragland, or Emmanuel Ogba, or Shaq Lawson, or......

Lester Norton
Lester Norton

Still thinking about last year when we took a weak but quick DE Beasley (4 sacks) instead of Gurley (Rookie of the Year) game-changer and face of Rams franchise for the next 10 years.  I know we needed DE help (and lucky that our running back ended up being real good last year to help ease the pain) but man that hurt. If TD didn't ruin talent depth on this team with bad drafts and release of good players with nothing gained in return in the past, then we could draft the best available players instead of reaching for need position players and losing value.  At this point, we had to reach and lost value but it is what it is. At least I think we improved on those positions of need (except DE).  Maybe think out of the box and get a hulk body pure strong man weight lifter to try out as UDFA at DE that can just bull rush power to push OL back.  We need one strong man DE on the right side and one quick man DE on the left side. 

UGA76
UGA76

Before the draft, Atlanta had several huge holes to fill.  By far the most desperate one was to fix the worst pass rush in the league.  We didn’t even try.  Pathetic.  That alone should be grounds for firing Dimitroff and his Kool-Aid drinking buddy Quinn.

Pro Football Focus charged Neal with 17 missed tackles last year; Neal will go for the highlight reel/$50,000 fine tackle and miss too often.  His coverage skills are rudimentary.  Sometimes he gambles; sometimes he just looks like he is late to read the pass pattern.

The idea of trying to play a 212 pound ILB in the NFL is hysterical.  I expect to see Jones bounce off of several TEs and RBs this year while they continue running down the field.  One thing is for sure, Jones will get plenty of chances for tackles.  Opposing teams will be very tempted to try to increase on Atlanta giving up a league high 213 combined completions to running backs and tight ends last year.

The Dimitroff/Quinn being fired pool is officially open.  

Mark719
Mark719

When you put it that way...

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

You people never heard of the Bradley curse. This draft class is now doomed to be busts. Couldn't you have hated this draft so we would have got better.

Chris Agel
Chris Agel

I hope he makes it through full seasons healthy.

Cliff Webb
Cliff Webb

I like the pick. We need a thumper . Too many fair weather fans

GT71
GT71

For once, agree with MB.

Jumperdude
Jumperdude

jumperdude


Hope really does spring eternal; those of us who have anguished over hopes since this team was formed are numbed to "hoping".


The Vic Beasley project may/may not climb to the heights of a double digit sack year, but while he's attempting to perform at that level, who exactly will occupy the other end slot (there are two ends;do we only get to pick one)? Perhaps one of the dozen or more linebackers now employed; perhaps the one LB who, described as "undersized," comes in at, a hefty 190+lbs?


In the year to come, a safe bet is 31 other NFL OC's will lose not one minute's sleep over playing the Falcons. They are not a team to be feared.

TOJacket
TOJacket

If Vic gets 9 is the season a bust?........good lord!

TOJacket
TOJacket

Your right .......other than the Super Bowl Champs, no one beat Carolina but the Falcons?......good grief

TOJacket
TOJacket

Now don't you feel silly?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If three of these guys stay healthy and become reliable productive starters for several seasons this was a good solid draft. They weren't going to fix the team in this one offseason, they just need to stop the bleeding of talent and take a step forward. Focusing on SS, LB, and TE seems fine to me, those were all clear areas of deficiency.

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

This draft is the critical junction for Dan Quinn of him being on the hot seat for the 2017 season and eventually fired.  They'll be lucky to go 8 and 8 in 2016.  Hopefully I'm wrong.

Nathan Parks
Nathan Parks

I hope Keanu Neal is as good a hitter & tackler as they say, because without a pass rush to speak of, there are going to be A LOT of opposing receivers catching the ball downfield.

DAWGnGA
DAWGnGA

It was what they didnt get and when they drafted who they did get.  They could have gotten Neal in the late second or possibly 3rd round.   Are these guys an upgrade on last year? maybe!  They could have gotten a better lb in the first round and drafted Neal much later.    They reached in every round for what they drafted

Coolio2014
Coolio2014

Well, at least you were positive.  Ledbetter could have done muchbetter.  I like the draft as well but only time will tell. 

csamuels45
csamuels45

This was the best draft Atl had in YEARS. All of the defensive players are pass rushers and coverage guys. Atl could never cover slot receivers or Tight Ends since the lose in Super Bowl against Denver. They got players that will help the defense get off the field. They got game changers in important games. They got nasty in your face players. The undrafted free agents are great. This team finally got help on both sides of the ball. Mike Smith ran the falcons team into the ground because he had no vision of what was needed too become successful in NFL. Darrin Lee, Myles, or the other players did not fit DQ plan okay so when Atlanta is 14-2 or 13-3 do not say you are falcon fan call yourself Saint Fans

UGA76
UGA76

@csamuels45 What will you call yourself when they go 6-10 or 5-11?  Maybe you can cheer for Quinn's next team and buy vitamins from Dimitroff after they are fired.  

foothills5
foothills5

Here's the rub, Mark. The #1 would have probably been available at two, and you could have had a bigger , more experienced and almost as fast linebacker with the 1st pick (Lee) No problem with the selection of the tight end, but a "project" with the 4th round pick? Hope he turns out with a more teachable spirit than our last high pick from the Gophers. And as far as our off season acquisition at WR...we overpaid big time.

D-day
D-day

every draft is a crap shoot.  It does seem that the first pick was a reach, but you can't be 100 percent sure that nobody would have taken him before you picked again at 50. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@D-day That was a guy that DQ wasn't going to take a chance on.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@TOJacket @D-day They could have traded down in the first round and still picked Neal and probably have gotten an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Hogan
Hogan

The consensus is they significantly reached for both 1st and 2nd round choices. If these were their two guys, fine- but they could have traded back to get them and added picks in the process. That kind of thinking is a big part of what separates the elite teams from the mediocre ones. 

D-day
D-day

@Hogan word is they tried to trade down but nobody wanted to trade with them.

UGA76
UGA76

@D-day @Hogan Baloney.  Teams knew exactly what the Falcons wanted to do so they wouldn't give up the value listed on the draft value chart but taking a 3rd for moving down in the 1st round when the chart they should get an extra 2nd round and still getting the same pick would have been an improvement over getting nothing. 

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

I don't have a problem with the players, the first 3 may be good. But the priority of positions seems out of sync. The lack of an edge rushers at 1 and no guard in the first 4 seems tenuous at best.

I would have thought:

1 Edge rusher

2 LB

3 Safety/Guard

4 Safety/Guard (which ever you didn't pick at 3)

We could have made do another year at TE especially with the TE class so weak this year, and putting the pass rush on Beasley's shoulders alone will not yield results. You need at least 2 legit pass rush threats. RIght now we don't have one. If I am an Oline coach, I am not staying up nights worrying about the Falcons pass rush.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@WhopperDawg That Hooper guy played big in the games that were big!........like a thicker Fenneran!

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

This was a great haul!!! Solid A.