As the dust clears around free agency, we have a much better idea of how the Falcons roster will look heading into the draft. I’ve already talked about some of the biggest needs for Atlanta after free agency, but today we’ll take a closer look at the LB corps. With De’Vondre Campbell taking a lucrative contract elsewhere, the Falcons are in a very different place with their LBs heading into 2020.
There’s a solid chance that the team still elects to add to the position in the draft. I’ve frequently had them taking players like Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks and Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither in the third and fourth rounds. No matter what they do, the Falcons will be asking third-year LB and former sixth-round pick Foyesade Oluokun to step into a starting role.
Oluokun was thrust into the fire almost immediately during his rookie season in 2018, filling in admirably for an injured Deion Jones and starting 7 games. He returned to a rotational role in 2019, playing fewer snaps but actually playing better overall. His 2019 PFF grade was a solid 62.7, which is roughly equivalent to an average starter. Oluokun’s biggest strength has been his tackling: he only had an 11.7% missed tackle rate in 2018, and cut that number in half in 2019 (6.1%). For reference, his 6.1% missed tackle rate was third on the team (among players with 25 or more combined tackles).
Where Oluokun has struggled thus far is in coverage. He has allowed completion percentages of 86.0% and 91.7% in 2018 and 2019, respectively. However, Oluokun didn’t allow any TD receptions on 24 targets last season—which could be a sign of growth after allowing 2 in 2018. As an ex-DB with great athleticism, the Falcons are probably hoping for more from Oluokun in coverage going forward.
Would I be comfortable with the Falcons going into the 2020 season with Foyesade Oluokun as a starter? Yes. Paired with Deion Jones, the two form a solid duo and there’s reason to believe that Oluokun can continue to develop. He’s already a very strong tackler, and has plenty of experience in the system. If he can become more reliable in coverage, the Falcons could even have an above-average LB duo on their hands.
However, Atlanta would still be wise to invest a late-Day 2 or early-Day 3 pick in the LB position. As intrigued as I am by XFL addition Edmond Robinson—who could take over the SAM role in 2020—the Falcons desperately need quality, young depth at the position. LaRoy Reynolds can fill in temporarily, but he’s not someone you want starting multiple games. The addition of a talented rookie could take this unit from average/above-average to good in a very short period of time.
What are your thoughts on Foyesade Oluokun starting in 2020? Are you comfortable with him taking on a larger role, or would you prefer to see the team go after a rookie early in the draft?