As we noted over the weekend, Damontae Kazee is one of the most buzzed-about rookies from this Falcons draft class. There’s little question he’ll have an immediate role for the Falcons—the kid can ball—but there are plenty of questions about how large that role will be.
That’s complicated by the crowded nature of cornerback, where Kazee figures to get some time. Safety is a lot more sparse, however, with only Sharrod Neasman as a semi-experienced option behind Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. He may very well make a larger impact there.
Here’s a look at Kazee’s 2017 outlook, and what his long-term outlook figures to be.
Games Played: 14
Kazee’s going to be on the field as a part-time cornerback, part-time safety, and potentially a special teamer to start the year, and that should continue through most of the season. He should be in most games as a result.
Stat Line: 20 tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 pass deflections
Nothing to write home about, but I think we’ll get an early glimpse of Kazee’s ball skills when he’s on the field with these two picks and many pass deflections.
Role: Reserve and special teamer
I don’t think Kazee beats out Ricardo Allen at safety, and I don’t think he makes Brian Poole irrelevant, either. It’s easy to forget this, but Poole wasn’t just good for a UDFA a year ago, he was legitimately good. I’d expect Kazee, then, to find playing time as a third safety and corner when the Falcons want his particular skill set on the field, or when injuries hit. You’ll see him out there, then, but it won’t necessarily be consistent playing time.
Long-term outlook: Very good
The Falcons have big, long-term pacts for Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, and they’ll eventually lock up at least Keanu Neal, too. That means finding affordable
I think Kazee could be a starter at free safety in a year or two, which is less a knock on Ricardo Allen than an acknowledgement that he wasn’t this regime’s guy coming in, and that he may want a large contract in his own right once he’s not an RFA in 2019. Kazee would certainly make an intriguing safety, given his physicality and aggressive play.
Even if Kazee tops out as a reserve, he should be one of the team’s more valuable ones with his ball skills and feel for the game. He may wind up being much more than that.