Grading the Falcons Draft

Atlanta's selection of Grady Jarrett helps their draft grade.

The Falcons had a ton of needs entering this year’s NFL Draft, and just a peak at the list shows they addressed many of the glaring holes on the team. But just how well did the Falcons do?

When Vic Beasley was available at number eight in the first round, it was a no brainer. The Falcons did not need to gamble on Kentucky’s Bud Dupree, even if he may be more of a perfect fit for the scheme that Dan Quinn will implement on defense. Beasley is known as a pass rusher. In fact, some believe that’s all Beasley is, and for the Falcons that is not necessarily going to be a bad thing.

It’s just been so long since there was a player on defense that could create havoc for the opposing quarterback. John Abraham did it, but some would even consider him to be very good and not great at what he did. The Falcons needed someone who might be great. Beasley might be great.

Where Will Beasley play? Well, the Falcons hinted that it will be at the Leo position, which is the weakside outside linebacker spot. That position was originally intended for Justin Durant, who was signed as a free agent from the Cowboys.

Now, will the Falcons move Durant to the strongside linebacker position and in turn move new free agent signee Brooks Reed to the inside spot? That’s where Reed mainly played in Houston. That would mean Paul Worrilow would be a backup, as would Prince Shembo, Joplo Bartu and O’Brien Schofield. That’s a lot of depth at the linebacker positions.

The second round pick is a bit more debatable. Atlanta selected Jalen Collins, a tall cornerback from LSU that made only 10 starts in his college career. The biggest question is off the field, as Collins admitted to failing three drug tests in college. He will be subject to the NFL’s drug program moving forward.

The failed tests, along with an issue Collins had with a cracked bone in his foot contributed to Collins falling into the second round. Many believed early on Collins could be a late first round draft choice.

Quinn loves tall cornerbacks, so he got one in Collins, who is listed at 6-1 and 203 pounds. Collins will probably battle Robert Alford for the starting cornerback job, opposite Desmond Trufant.

This could allow Alford to play the nickel. It definitely gives Quinn more flexibility in his secondary. The selection of a cornerback this early in the draft likely means that last year’s third round choice, Dez Southward, will remain at safety.

The question about this pick in the second round is the number of offensive linemen that were available. Was offensive line a bigger need than another cornerback? Well, considering the Falcons did not pick an offensive lineman until the seventh round, I guess we know their answer.

But after Collins was taken at 42, there were a number of offensive linemen selected through the rest of the second round: Mitch Morse (G-49-to Kansas City), Jake Fisher (T-53-to Cincinnati), Rob Havenstein (T-57-to St. Louis), Ty Sambrailo (T-59-to Denver) and Ali Marpet (C-61-to Tampa Bay).

Let’s hope the Falcons are correct about projecting the return of several offensive linemen who were hurt last season. If not, they might regret not taking an offensive lineman in the second round.

There was no doubt the Falcons needed to address the situation at running back. With only Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith on the roster, Atlanta needed someone that could come in and be a significant contributor.

Tevin Coleman was selected in the third round with pick 73. Some wondered if Coleman could be a late first rounder, and most did believe he would go in the second round. Why did he slide? Well, most teams just believe they can get running backs later, as did the Falcons.

Coleman should be the starter at the position. He ran for over 2000 yards last season. Freeman did nothing to claim the position after the release of Steven Jackson, so this will simply be a competition in August.

The fourth round pick is a wide receiver, Justin Hardy from East Carolina. He set a FBS record for catches, so he has good hands. Hardy will likely become the possession receiver, replacing Harry Douglas who left via free agency.

Well, if the Falcons wanted value in the fifth round, they got it in Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. He’s ‘only’ 6-1 and 304 pounds, but analysts believe he is perfect as a one-gap lineman who can do damage in the offensive backfield. Some believe Jarrett would go in the second round, so for the Falcons to get him in the is a great pick, even with giving up their sixth rounder to get Jarrett.

The two seventh round picks will be camp projects. Jake Rodgers is a big (6-6, 320) kid from Eastern Washington that will get a chance to be a reserve. Due to the number of injured players coming back, his best chance may be as a member of the practice squad.

And Akeem King (from San Jose State) might have a bit better chance of making the roster, although while he was listed as a safety the Falcons may make him a cornerback.

GRADE – B+

SUMMARY

It’s hard to knock the Falcons on Beasley, who is desperately needed. The production of running back Todd Gurley, taken two picks later by the Rams, will likely be compared to by fans. But there was such a huge need at getting a pass rusher there won’t be many who will complain about the pick.

The knock on the draft is not getting an offensive lineman earlier in the draft. The Falcons just believe their line of scrimmage is fine, but it’s debatable.

The value of getting good value picks like Collins (who could have been a first rounder) and Jarrett (who could have been a second rounder) helps tremendously. Both could get significant playing time early on.

This draft filled a lot of needs. It wasn’t perfect, but it has a chance to have many players drafted make a significant contribution this season.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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