In a draft full of buzzed-about players, Damontae Kazee is and will remain one of the most hyped. He’s a ball hawking, instinctive defender who figures to be a solid piece for Atlanta for years to come, and there’s certainly a possibility that he could find his way to a year one role in a way that fellow fifth rounders Brian Hill and Eric Saubert probably cannot.
The Falcons just listed him as one of their three players who improved their offseason stock, which will only add fuel to the fire considering the other two players were rising star Grady Jarrett and offseason hype star Justin Hardy.
For all that, there are very legitimate reasons to wonder where Kazee’s going to play in 2017, even as the hype train continues to pick up steam. Back in early May, I predicted he’d be a core reserve and special teamer, and I’ve seen no particular reason to adjust that expectation, no matter how much I like him.
The chief issue for Kazee, who legitimately has the talent to carve out a role in this defense, is that his competition is pretty fierce. Brian Poole seems to be the early and overwhelming favorite to start at nickel cornerback, Jalen Collins will have a fairly significant role at cornerback, and we’re still not sure how often the team’s third safety (potentially Kazee, also) will get on the field. Kazee could certainly impress and win a larger role—the talent is there—but he’ll likely struggle to find an early opportunity if nobody gets hurt.
Kazee’s upside in year one would be a lot higher if Poole wasn’t already on the roster. Because Poole is there and likely to have a major role once again, Kazee’s likely going to need to bide his time, impress in limited opportunities, and hope 2018 brings him a bigger opportunity. I still think there’s a strong chance he’ll wind up starting at safety sooner than later.