The Atlanta Falcons have double dipped at linebacker in the 2016 NFL Draft, landing Minnesota 'backer De'Vondre Campbell in the fourth round.
Falcons draft linebacker De’Vondre Campbell from Minnesota. Big, athletic prospect— Andrew Hirsh (@andrewhirsh) April 30, 2016
Campbell is an extremely intriguing prospect, but one with significant question marks, which has become the hallmark of Falcons' late rounders in recent years. He has the physicality head coach Dan Quinn covets, terrific athleticism, and "quick twitch" ability. He can likely play inside or outside for Atlanta, and he's going to step in as a full-time player immediately for a weak Falcons' linebacker corps. You'll see his fifth or sixth round grade and freak out, but I very nearly projected him to the Falcons in my mock in the third round because his physical skill set seemed like such a good fit for Quinn's defense, so this pick doesn't stun me. It's just obviously way earlier than I would've expected him to go.
The weaknesses, though, are enough to make anyone wary. His technique and instincts simply aren't where they need to be for him to be an impact linebacker at the NFL level, with too many poor decisions in nearly every facet of his game. He's a very obviously bright kid, so you just hope he'll respond well to teaching, but I have real concerns about how quickly that will happen.
The rationale behind this selection is easy to see: Quinn and company clearly believe the very real physical tools and ability will translate well to the NFL, and with additional coaching from a good staff, Campbell can iron out his weaknesses and become a quality NFL starter. This pick is still a risky one and is going to be widely panned as a massive reach, but Atlanta obviously doesn't care about any of that. (Haters, as the Falcons front office can attest, are going to hate.)
This is another example of something we alluded to earlier today, which is that Dan Quinn is going to build the defense he wants with the players he wants, without a lot of regard for consensus best players available. Campbell was quite obviously the best player left on the board for these Falcons, and for the sake of Quinn's future in Atlanta and this team's short-and-long-term success, they better be right.
Here's SB Nation draft guru and Mocking The Draft's Dan Kadar take on the selection:
Campbell is an interesting player. He's got everything you want in an athletic pass rushing linebacker. From a tools standpoint, Campbell has all the ones you want: He's long with speed and good movement skills. What you want to see with Campbell is a player who hastens up his play recognition. He'll sometimes be slow to react and will take less-than-ideal pursuit angles. He missed a season because of a concussion, so you wonder what happens if he gets another one.
Your thoughts about Campbell?
Round 1, Pick #17: S Keanu Neal
Round 2, Pick #52 LB Deion Jones
Round 3, Pick #81 TE Austin Hooper
Round 4, Pick #115
Round 6, Pick #195
Round 7, Pick #238
Top Remaining Needs
#1: Pass rusher
#5: Wide Receiver
Draft Schedule & Channels
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, & Seventh Rounds
When: Saturday, April 30, 12 p.m. Eastern
TV Channels: ESPN & NFL Network