I apologize for being unable to find a picture of Thomas DeCoud that either showed what he actually looked like or wasn't under the iron fist of angry copyright. Regardless, we're taking the information train to DeCoud's pros, cons, and likely role with this team after the jump.
History: The UCal product won team leadership awards and was a captain as a senior, which speaks well to his leadership qualities and stuff. In high school, DeCoud kicked all kinds of rear end at basketball and football in high school, even at wide receiver. At one point or another, he played every position in the secondary at UCal. Missed a handful of games for various injuries while at Cali, as well.
Pros: Has the size, speed and physicality to play safety in the NFL. Can be the kind of playcalling strong safety that occasionally is useful for coaches who are too lazy to call plays from the sidelines. He has great instincts in pass coverage, and DeCoud is a bulldozer against the run game. His tackling form is so beautiful that National Geographic is devoting half an issue to it. DeCoud also anticipates routes well and can jump them on occasion.
Cons: Not great at changing direction in traffic, which means shifty receivers are likely to leave him chomping turf. Though he's pretty good in coverage, DeCoud isn't going to pile up a lot of interceptions. With his block hands, the best he's going to be able to do is bat the ball. Was known to react slowly on occasion, so he's pretty much never going to play corner at the NFL level.
Role: DeCoud could start in his freshman campaign and it wouldn't surprise me in the least. As a physical tackler and a quick learner, the coaching staff probably is eager to give him a real shot at strong safety. He and the more athletic Daren Stone are likely to duke it out for playing time at the spot, as I'm not sure Lawyer Milloy will even survive the offseason. DeCoud is most likely to receive a few starts at the position and truly shine on special teams.
Final Thoughts: DeCoud is a prototype strong safety in many ways and is likely to be a very productive member of the Falcons for years to come. Though Stone's a personal favorite that I want to see getting a chance to start somewhere, this coaching staff didn't pick up DeCoud so he could talk to Jimmy Williams on the bench. A great value pick for the team that really wanted him, and he should turn a few heads in his first season out.