In the last few days, multiple reporters and analysts have connected the team to Quinn's safety at Florida.
Yesterday the plugged-in draft analyst Tony Pauline said the Falcons may be targeting Florida safety Keanu Neal after a small trade down. ESPN's Atlanta Falcons beat writer floated the same idea later that day. Todd McShay just put out his final mock draft ($), and it has the Falcons staying at 17. And selecting Neal.
You'd have to think Atlanta also would consider Ohio State's Darron Lee here if the board fell this way, but Neal would give coach Dan Quinn the most physical player in this class and a safety who comes into the league ready to contribute right away. Neal has the skill set to play the Kam Chancellor role in Quinn's defense.
While another Atlanta beat writer has staunchly rejected the possibility of the Falcons trading down or drafting Neal in the first round, the number of different reporters expecting the move deserves mention.
Neal is a big hitter that Quinn recruited to the University of Florida, and fits the big hole at strong safety after the team cut William Moore. He has great size and impressive athleticism. That is right: he is both fast and physical.
As we saw during Chancellor's holdout, the strong safety in Seattle's defense is integral. The Seahawks struggled without Chancellor, and it makes sense why Seattle decided to pay him $7 million per year. If Neal can produce a similar impact on the field, the Falcons should easily take this SEC play maker.
He may be the safest pick for the Falcons in the first round, and provide the biggest and quickest impact. The hope is the team can move back 5 to 10 draft spots, pick up a few later picks, and still select Neal.