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A brief history of the safeties drafted under the current regime

Fact: Keanu Neal has a pet turtle named “Rabbit”

Philadelphia Eagles v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s been a healthy amount of chatter about the Falcons’ perceived need to drastically improve their secondary this offseason. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate. While the Falcons pass rush did manage to grade out fairly well last season, that’s largely attributable to Grady Jarrett. How well would the pass rush have fared if Jarrett hadn’t singlehandedly ruin the careers of several offensive linemen over the past 12 months? But notwithstanding their inability to keep any solid edge rushers around, the Falcons will probably continue their pursuit of a perfect secondary in April’s draft. And if we’re being honest, it’s worth acknowledging that they may look to add another safety. So given that, it’s an apt time to back at the current regime’s track record with drafted safeties.

Let’s take a quick look at their draft history from 2008-2019.

Draft picks

2008: Thomas Decoud, 3rd round

2009: William Moore, 2nd round

2010: Shann Schillinger, 7th round

2012: Charles Mitchell, 6th round

2013: Kemal Ishmael, 7th round

2013: Zeke Motta, 7th round

2014: Dezmen Southward, 3rd round

2014: Ricardo Allen, 5th round*

2016: Keanu Neal, 1st round

2017: Damontae Kazee, 5th round*

The Falcons have drafted 10 players that would go on to play safety for the team since the current regime was installed in 2008. Only 8 of those players were drafted as safeties, but head coach Dan Quinn opted to move both Allen and Kazee to safety, moves that paid immediate dividends.

Taking a broad strokes look at the players they’ve drafted, there’s some real talent in the bunch: Decoud, Moore, Allen, and Neal have more or less anchored the back end of the secondary for a decade. That said, aside from Ishmael, the guys they’ve drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds haven’t really panned out. (To be fair to Thomas Dimitroff and his extensive, multicolored collection of bike shorts, I’m nitpicking. Players drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds aren’t exactly expected to thrive as professionals.)

It’s worth noting that the Falcons haven’t drafted a “safety” since Kazee almost 3 years ago. And they haven’t drafted a true safety since Neal in 2016. Given Neal’s injury history and the fact that Ricardo Allen has only 2 years remaining on his contract (at the end of which he will be 30 years old), safety will become a position of need at some point in the not so distant future. I’m not saying it’s an immediate priority but it will certainly become one sooner rather than later.

Your thoughts, Falcoholics?