Hello there, wonderful Falcoholic reader.
I hope you’re sitting down. I’ve got something to tell you.
The Atlanta Falcons are going to do things in the upcoming draft that you aren’t expecting, won’t like and won’t likely understand until later on down the road when you realize that they’ve been pretty good at this with Dan Quinn in tow.
For the purposes of this column, remember Luke Skywalker’s now-famous line in Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “This is not going to go the way you think.”
The Falcons’ draft is not going to go the way you think, because it never really does, does it?
We need to all get on the same page here with expectations, because, quite frankly, Atlanta never really tends to meet those confangled expectations we place on things we care about.
2016 is the banner year for that, because trust me, if it weren’t for Alex Mack, that team didn’t do one diddily thing any of us wanted them to do.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had when the Falcons took S Keanu Neal. I was...indifferent. It wasn’t exciting; it wasn’t attractive; it wasn’t...expected. I sat on my friend’s couch and just kind of shrugged. I mean, I’d heard he was a good player, and I was happy to have him into the fold. But...I just couldn’t help but be...a bit disappointed.
Part of the reason for that disappointment came with the vision I had in my head of how that Falcons draft was going to go. Shaq Lawson. It had to be Shaq Lawson. Lawson was my draft dream, my knight in shining armor, my goo-goo eyes of a first round pick. I had to see that happen. I’ll never forget the little butterfly that fluttered around in my stomach as he fell down the draft board to Atlanta’s spot. And, then, the Falcons were on the clock...
So, I waited, and waited, celebrating the idea of Lawson potentially in a Falcons uniform. And, hey, would you look at that! Myles Jack, the prolific UCLA linebacker, was falling, too! Atlanta needed a linebacker! That would have been perfect! Darron Lee’s there! He’s good, too! Maybe even Kevin Dodd! I could live with that!
All these players. And then...Keanu Neal.
Now, look, hindsight is 20/20, and today, Neal is the guy you’re jumping up and down to see come to Atlanta, and then you put up the streamers and blow up the balloons. In April 2016? He just wasn’t the guy any of Falcondom wanted. It didn’t mean it was a bad pick (lawlz, it was a great pick in a historic Falcons class), but again, nobody knew that *then.*
If you did, congratulations and salutations. You were the better man than I at that point. But, I guess I fell down the rabbit hole of fan expectations. I’d only been writing about the team for a couple of months at that point over at Rise Up Reader, so I was just beginning to learn how to look at something I love with a critical eye. Two years later, I like to think I’m a lot better at that (yeah, yeah), but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that, sometimes, the pros know better.
Now, in 2012, I do feel like some of our draft experts like Charles McDonald, Kevin Knight and Eric Robinson could’ve put their heads together and plotted out a much-better draft than what the Atlanta front office put together. That was a catastrophe.
But, more often than not, the guys in the front office get paid the big bucks for a reason. They just know more than any of us do. Say what you will about Thomas Dimitroff, but he did build the roster that got the team out of 2007. That took some serious brainpower.
So, when something doesn’t exactly go the way you hope here in about two weeks, please just give the team the benefit of the doubt. There will be great panic and hysteria if the team does not take a defensive tackle first, and the more I think about it, the more I begin to think how realistic a scenario that is.
The last time the Falcons spent a first rounder on the guy they wanted, and not the position they needed to fill, it was, yup, 2016. They got the guy they wanted (Neal) and filled the position they needed to fill (LB) with ... Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, their second and fourth rounders. Now, that’s rare to find that much talent, and you’re not going to have that every year. But, remember, nobody was all that excited for that when it happened. It took the 2016 season to get us all on board.
Remember that when the Falcons potentially spend their first pick on a linebacker, cornerback or wide receiver. If they’re going to invest a pick into a guy they love, that probably means that guy is going to turn into a really great player, and that they’ve got eyes for someone later in the draft. If they do take a defensive tackle, and it’s like 2015 when fan expectations met front office interest for the Vic Beasley pick, then great.
But, please, please, please, please, please check your ego and your expectations at the door and let the Falcons do their job. They’ve done it well as of late. That’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Your expectations are probably going to be defied, and that’s probably for the best.
This is not going to go the way you think.
The real question is...are you ready for that this time around?