Atlanta’s full draft class is in, and all the major NFL outlets have had a chance to digest what the Falcons did with their selections. By and large, those outlets like what the Falcons have done, though it ranges from “okay, not bad” to “pretty darn terrific.” I’m paraphrasing.
Here’s a sampling of the grades around the Internet, including our poll of Falcons fans on Twitter. I think the rough range for this draft is a solid B, and while I think there’s enough upside here to vault it near the top of Thomas Dimitroff’s draft classes, a B seems more than fair for now. Atlanta got value, filled needs, and will hope they landed players who are excellent instead of merely good.
Alright, let's see it, and I'll add your grades to a post in the morning: How would you grade this draft class?— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) April 29, 2017
The Falcons jumped up in the first round to take pass rusher Takkarist McKinley, filling one of the team’s bigger needs at pass rusher. He gives them another edge player to get after the quarterback, and he should line up at end and linebacker. He keeps some attention away from Vic Beasley.
The Falcons followed that up by dropping out of the second round and getting two extra picks in the fifth round. In the third, they selected linebacker Duke Riley. He’s a three-down linebacker who can move around with ease.
Atlanta finally got an interior blocker in the fourth round with Sean Harlow of Oregon State. I thought they should have targeted a guard earlier in the draft. Getting San Diego State cornerback Damontae Kazee in the fifth round was my favorite pick by Atlanta. He’s not going to be a No. 1 cornerback, but he doesn’t need to be in Atlanta. He’s got excellent instincts and should be really good working the slot.
Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley will make it difficult for Tom Brady (or anyone else) to pick apart the Falcons' defense in the second half as he did in the Super Bowl. They chose to given up a third round pick, but it's hard to blame them with the Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers ahead of them -- they were all looking for edge guys. Duke Riley joins former teammate Deion Jones in the linebacking corps, a good pick-up to keep the speed coming. It was a good Day 3 for the Falcons. Sean Harlow is an agile and strong guard who will start right away (which they need). Damontae Kazee is a great value in the fifth round as a tough slot corner. Getting a pass-catcher like tight end Eric Saubert could pay off in a year or two.
The Falcons traded up in Round 1 to nab edge defender Takk McKinley, shipping picks 31, 95 and 249 to Seattle for the 26th spot. They then traded down later to recoup some capital, sending No. 63 to Buffalo for Nos. 75, 149 and 156. McKinley, obviously, is the headliner—he’s working back from shoulder surgery, but his upside opposite Vic Beasley in that front seven intrigued the Falcons enough to make that move for him. Atlanta then added three quality prospects with the picks from Buffalo: LB Duke Riley, CB Damontae Kazee and RB Brian Hill. Both Riley and Kazee are athletic playmakers; none of those guys has a clear path to playing time in 2017. Round 4 guard Sean Harlow should compete to take over the starting job left vacant by Chris Chester’s retirement.
The reigning NFC champions didn't have many flaws but might have found two Week 1 starters. First-round DE Takkarist McKinley will be a needed complement to NFL sack champion Vic Beasley and a pass rush that didn't get the job done at the end of Super Bowl LI. In Round 4, Sean Harlow could emerge as a starting guard in the wake of Chris Chester's retirement. GM Thomas Dimitroff also replenished depth, namely third-round LB Duke Riley.
Expect more to roll in as more outlets release their grades, and be sure to look for our Falcoholic grades roundtable on Monday. In the meantime, share your thoughts on how this draft should be graded now, in the heat of the moment, and how it will someday be graded.