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What positions have been draft strengths and weaknesses for the Falcons?

The Falcons have fared well in the draft under Dan Quinn, with a couple of exceptions.

New York Giants v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The other day we discussed the positions the Falcons have been most and least likely to draft with Dan Quinn on board. Today, I want to talk about the three or so positions they’ve done a great job of drafting and the couple of position groups where they’ve either been inattentive or lousy.


Running back

This has been a slam dunk, though Quinn isn’t exactly the guy going to the mat for running backs. Tevin Coleman was one of the league’s more effective complements and a fine feature back in his own right when injuries hit Devonta Freeman, while Ito Smith looked very good in his rookie year and should be at worst a capable backup going forward. It’s not clear that he’ll have a role on this team, but Brian Hill’s hard-charging style could mean a bright future for him, as well.

Wide receiver

Similar story here. Calvin Ridley just put a rookie season behind him that was insanely impressive statistically and quite good even if you take a closer look at his occasional lapses, Justin Hardy has been a stellar blocker and fine fourth option for years now, and Russell Gage has promise.

Defensive tackle

Grady Jarrett is a star, which pretty much makes the case here. Deadrin Senat has a ton of promise, too, even if his rookie year wasn’t jaw-dropping and Quinn mysteriously benched him for a bit.


No position has fared better under Quinn that linbacker. Duke Riley looks like a miss two years into his career, but Deion Jones is a superstar, De’Vondre Campbell has been above average more or less his entire career, and Foye Oluokun put together an absurdly impressive season for a sixth round selection from an Ivy League school.


Similar story here, where the Falcons nabbed Keanu Neal in the first round and added Damontae Kazee, who put together an impressive year at free safety for Atlanta in 2018 even if he’s heading to corner this year. If you count Akeem King here, he’s become a fine safety for Seattle.

The thing you’ll note here is that Quinn’s Falcons have generally not done well in the trenches or prioritized them, which is the cause of many of their 2018 woes that weren’t related to injury. Takk and Beasley could have fine seasons and elevate defensive end and a new right tackle would help there, but the Falcons have generally not drafted along the offensive line and have gotten mixed results out of end. Quinn’s picks at linbacker and safety have been stellar, however, and the team continues to have little trouble stocking their offensive skill positions with talent.


Offensive line

This is as much due to effort as anything, but it needs to be called out.

The Falcons have drafted just one tackle, seventh rounder Jake Rodgers back in 2015, and he didn’t even make the roster. They’ve drafted zero centers and just two guards, with Sean Harlow currently chilling on the practice squad and Wes Schweitzer turning out to be a far, far better player than anyone could have anticipated back when they picked him in the sixth round back in 2016. But that’s three selections in four years, and only Schweitzer has turned out to be anything. The team has also tried, over and over again, to get Schweitzer back on the bench, only to be undone by injury or lackluster competition.

That’s a problem because the Falcons pretty much have to start drafting well along the line. Alex Mack is aging (though still good!), both guard options are 1-3 year stopgaps, and Ty Sambrailo is probably a one year starter at right tackle at best. Given their track record along the offensive line before Quinn arrived—only Jake Matthews turned out to be very good, and only Sam Baker, Garrett Reynolds, and Joe Hawley joined him in being quality multi-year starters—it’s a cause for concern.

Defensive end

This weakness looms large over the team right now. Vic Beasley had one season of amazing production and a couple of solid seasons overall, but Pro Football Focus had him grading out as the league’s worst defensive end a year ago, an evaluation that was largely matched by what he put on tape. Takkarist McKinley has been better but has not fully blossomed yet, mixing some exciting, dominant stretches with quiet games.

That’s a problem because these guys are both first rounders, the team’s depth at the position comprises two free agents on one year deals, and Beasley is headed to free agency in 2020. They need to add more young talent to the position because of the strong possibility that they’ll lose Beasley if he bounces back, but a third year leap from Takk would help take this one off the list a year from now.