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More smoke: ESPN's Vaughn McClure suggesting trade down, draft Keanu Neal

A draft expert and a Falcons beat writer are both suggesting the Falcons may make the same move.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, we discussed NFL draft guru Tony Pauline's report that one of Atlanta's plans could include trading down from 17 and selecting Florida safety Keanu Neal. Dan Quinn, of course, recruited Neal to Florida, and now needs an intimidating hitter at the strong safety spot.

Now ESPN's Atlanta Falcons beat reporter is suggesting the same thing, the day before the draft. Per superstar Vaughn McClure:

The Falcons have the 17th overall selection in Thursday's NFL draft. The general belief is that its too high to draft Neal, but it might be worth strong consideration if a player the Falcons targeted such as Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd is no longer on the board.

There has been a lot of smoke around Floyd, but recently he has been mocked to as high as the top 10. Could losing out on Floyd cause the Falcons to look toward the top safeties in the draft? The team desperately needs more bodies to fit the new schemes, and five draft picks presents a huge problem.

Charlie McDonald broke down Neal's game film a few weeks back, starting off his write-up with this beautiful quote.

If you were to draw up the prototypical strong safety for Dan Quinn's scheme, Florida's Keanu Neal would be your finished product. Physical, smart, and instinctive, Keanu Neal would be a plug and play safety from day one.

That sounds better than drafting a questionable fit or a limited player. However, Atlanta's other major beat writer has doubled down and twice said the Falcons will not trade back.

There is a lot of smoke out there, so it is impossible to know who will be right before tomorrow night.

Update: Ledbetter is quadrupling down on the Falcons staying at 17.

Stay tuned for any more news on Atlanta's draft plan.