If you listened to Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff at all in recent months, they told you precisely what strategy they would employ in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"Initial speed," Quinn says. "You have to be able to beat someone off the ball who is going to be stronger than you. Then you have to be able to use the length—length is important—and have the relentlessness to finish.
"Then with the mental makeup, with both cornerbacks and rushers, you have to be a relentless fighter. There’s a 330-pound bear in front of you, and you just have to figure out a way to beat him. You have to be fast enough to run with the running backs and tight ends and strong enough to fight a bear. You have to be a unique dude."
Length isn't necessarily a key attribute for Vic Beasley or Grady Jarrett, but the rest fits. These are attackers, guys with tremendous motors and players who can win with speed and technique right off the bat. If you look at the entire draft class, you can see a key pattern repeating, and that is that emphasis on athleticism and upside.
The Falcons were seeking plus athletes and guys who either were scheme-specific or could thrive in any scheme, and that's precisely what they got. From Beasley to press cornerback Jalen Collins to seventh round lineman Jake Rodgers, they prioritized that athleticism in nearly every pick. When they didn't get a guy considered a plus athlete—and I'm looking at Justin Hardy on this one—they snagged a player who offers plus physicality and aggression for his position.
In every instance, the Falcons prioritized players who have the ability to play at a high level either today or down the line. Rodgers and fellow seventh rounder Akeem King may not come close to reaching their potential, but it's legitimately possible that both could wind up as starters down the line. This was a draft aimed at making this Falcons team legitimately better and more athletic, instead of finding players who are just solid or offer special teams value.
We're not remotely close to finding out how successful this class will be in the NFL, but the Falcons told us they were going to get athletes who could thrive in Dan Quinn's scheme. On paper and on college film, at least, they've delivered on that promise in spades.