If you were to ask the superpower of our front office, the answer would be our ability to pick out players that the league hasn’t necessarily connected to the Falcons leading up to the draft.
In no way is this a bad trait, being that in 2016, the Keanu Neal shocker has turned out to be a steal, to say the least. Takk McKinley has showed sparks of great potential and Vic Beasley produced fifteen and a half sacks in his second year in the league. Better yet, not only can Quinn and Dimitroff scope out elite first round talents, but they are maestros in the field of finding hidden late round talents. If you don’t believe me, take Grady Jarrett as an example.
Jarrett was drafted in the fifth round, pick 137. Jarrett’s 2017 season, two years past his rookie year, was statistically superior to Ndamukong Suh’s second NFL year. Grady had almost fifteen more solo tackles, three more tackles for loss, and two more assisted tackles than Ndamukong Suh. That being said, Grady is only 25 years old and has yet to enter his prime. The production for him has not even come close to its peak point. Keep in mind, he is one of many mid-to-late round gems to come to Atlanta, from De’Vondre Campbell to Tevin Coleman.
2018 Draft Class
In terms of this year’s draft class, I would give the Falcons a B+. Dating back to about late March, I had an inkling that Isaiah Oliver was going to be the best cornerback in this class coming into the draft. On my official mock draft, I had the Falcons selecting him at pick number 26. His size and athletic ability will translate into the NFL and his closing ability is spectacular. This is a prototypical, quintessential Falcons cornerback who I believe will progress quicker than Desmond Trufant did.
In his first year, he will take on a lot of competition from opposing receivers, with guys like Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, AJ Green, and Alshon Jeffery potentially lining up against him. I am so confident in Oliver, that I am willing to bet that he will be better than Marcus Peters his first or second year. Really!
Now, I believe Calvin Ridley and Deadrin Senat won’t immediately produce, but in years to come, their potential will be revealed.
Deadrin doesn’t necessarily have the archetypal size for a defensive tackle, but that truly means very little. Aaron Donald is six feet, one inch, and 280 pounds, and still manages to remain the best defensive tackle in football. In a couple years, fans of the NFL will realize that the most important trait in a defensive tackle is athleticism. You can ask Dan Quinn and I’m sure he’d agree. Because of his athletic profile and Quinn’s success acquiring defensive linemen, I believe Senat will eventually produce at a very high level because of his athleticism and high ceiling.
Calvin Ridley has a great chance to become elite in this league. Nowadays, speed kills. Tyreek Hill is a perfect example. Nobody can stop him, and that’s a fact. There is no question in my mind that Calvin Ridley is almost as explosive as John Ross, however he will be behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu for some time on the depth chart. When I hear #12, Mohamed Sanu, I immediately think about his route running ability and great hands. When I think about #11, Julio Jones, explosiveness, athleticism, quickness, and acceleration are all terms that come to mind. Combine all those traits and you have Ridley’s production at Alabama, which is why I’m so excited about him.
In later rounds, a lot of special teams and depth were attacked. There is a possibility that Russell Gage will be a great special teamer, and that Ito Smith will take pressure off of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. It is also a contract year for Tevin Coleman, and Ito Smith may be in the mix for a possible replacement option, if that’s how we choose to view it. I doubt Foye Oluokun will be anything special, but he will be a solid depth option for his four year contract, at least.
In closing, I do think our second round pick Isaiah Oliver will see the most success in his first couple years. I see insane potential in him and I think his ceiling is very high. As far as our other picks, I do think they will find success, but most of it will likely come in their second or third years.
Falcons fans, which rookies are you looking forward to watching this season, and who do you think will fare best in their first year?