The selection of Duke Riley came as at least a mild surprise to the bulk of Falcons fans. He had been linked to the team due to a private workout by ESPN’s Vaughn McClure shortly before the draft, but somehow I had forgotten about him in all the draft day excitement, and especially with the trade down. It’s pretty clear the Falcons have had their eye on the LSU product, though, and now he’ll join a pretty intriguing set of linebackers in Atlanta.
To help us get to know Riley a little better, I turned to And The Valley Shook editor Billy Gomila. He gives the sense that Riley is eerily like Deion Jones, which is something every Falcons fan wants to hear, even if we’re not at all sure how the team’s getting both on the field at the same time.
Here’s what Gomila had to say, and we thank him for passing this along.
What's kind of funny about the Falcons drafting Duke Riley, is how similar his profile is to Debo Jones. Both were special teams aces that only earned a full-time starting job as a senior, both broke through with big years and then aced the draft process to climb into early rounds. Riley is a really smart player and a leader, who fit in really well when the Tigers moved to a 3-4 defense. He also really bulked up, moving from the 218-pound range to 230 to hold up inside. I'm a little curious as to how he'll fit in Atlanta, because he is so much like Debo, and you can only play one of them at the will linebacker spot, but you won't regret having him on your team. He'll also have the best hair in the locker room.
Riley’s likely to find significant run immediately. De’Vondre Campbell will likely play more on the strong side and could even transition to defensive end eventually (though that’s pure conjecture), while Kemal Ishmael and LaRoy Reynolds will provide the team with solid depth. I don’t know how good Riley’s going to be just yet, but I like what I’m hearing so far.