The Atlanta Falcons traded back and selected LSU linebacker Duke Riley in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft tonight. He helps solidify a linebacker corps headlined by undrafted free agents Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow just three years ago.
Riley and Deion Jones were college teammates and they boast a similar skill set. Riley, like Jones, is fast. Super fast. He ran a 4.58 40 yard dash at the combine, 2nd best among LBs. (2016 draft picks Jones and De’Vondre Campbell ran 4.59 and 4.58 40 yards dashes, respectively.) He ran a 6.89 3 cone drill, fifth among LBs. He ran a 4.21 20 yard shuttle, 4th among LBs. Those metrics should tell you much of what you need to know about Riley and how he could fit in with this burgeoning Falcons defense.
Riley is a guy the Falcons have been watching and seriously considering throughout the draft process. In addition to a senior day interview, the Falcons hosted Riley and put him through an individual workout. Riley may have just one season of starting experience under his belt, but don’t sleep on him. He played behind Jones and Kwon Alexander at LSU. While waiting for his turn, Riley was a core special teamer.
So how exactly will the Falcons utilize Riley’s skill set? My best guess: he has an immediate impact on special teams and works his way into a starting role. The Falcons will likely ask him to add some weight to his frame and let him ease into a full-time role. Don’t be surprised if he and Jones line up next to one another.