Say what you will about Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, but the pair have had decent success landing quality defensive linemen on the final day of the draft. Kroy Biermann, Vance Walker and even Cliff Matthews have all made their own marks on the field to varying degrees.
Tyler Starr is not a lineman, but the South Dakota product shouldn't function too differently as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in Mike Nolan's defense. Here's the low-down on the ninth and final Falcons draft selection of 2014:
Listed at 6'4 and 250 pounds, Starr has the size you'd look for in a 3-4 edge rusher with a nice wingspan (32.5 inches) to go along with it. He ran a 4.85 40-yard dash at his Pro Day to go along with 24 bench reps, a 9'8 broad jump and a blistering 6.64 in the 3-cone drill at the combine (the best among all linebackers this year). Athletically, Starr has almost all of the tools necessary to be successful in the NFL.
The main asset he'll bring to the Falcons is his pass-rushing ability. He was a productive player at South Dakota, starting for three seasons and leaving with the school's career record for sacks (27) and forced fumbles (13), along with 41 career TFLs. His senior campaign was even good enough to garner Missouri Valley Conference DPoY honors.
Starr has great speed coming around the edge, as well as a tenacity that should serve him well in the pros. In one memorable instance against Kansas, I saw him simply burst off the strong side of the play, fight through a painfully obvious hold, sack the quarterback and force the fumble.
Starr has great balance and the flexibility and body bend needed to generate pressure off the edge. He's great in pursuit and excels more in the open field than I would have thought. In addition, I saw a player that was surprisingly smooth and aware in coverage, and a defender with solid instincts that has a knack for working through traffic and finding the ball.
Despite everything he has going for him, Starr should absolutely still be considered a developmental player. He's a bit lanky on tape, and while his speed is a weapon, his functional strength could stand to improve. He's not exactly what you'd consider a stout run defender, either. All of that essentially limits Starr to the role of third-down / obvious-passing-situation player for the foreseeable future.
His technique is pretty much what you'd expect of a 7th-round project player: unrefined. His leverage isn't great, he'll get locked up with his blocker on running plays and he needs to use his hands better. And, of course, he really doesn't have much diversity when it comes to rushing the passer. He can bull rush with limited effectiveness, speed rush to the outside or speed rush across the face of the tackle, but that's about it.
The More You Know
I'd imagine the team looked at Starr and saw a raw, talented guy with the potential to be much more in the right situation and with the right coaching. The level of competition he'll face in Falcons training camp versus what he saw at the FCS level, especially from a strength standpoint, will be something he'll have to overcome early.
But with his effort, quickness and tackling ability, I'd imagine the coaches give him a chance to shine on special teams first and foremost. And at worst, that's what Starr is: a valuable kickoff cover man and depth at outside linebacker. At best, maybe Starr develops into a quality rotational pass-rushing specialist that the team comes to rely on when defending the pass.
Either way, Starr has all the appearances of a sound, smart seventh-round pick.
Update: Follow this link, baby.
What do you think? Will Starr become a... star? (you knew it was coming). Sound off in the comments.