Since Dan Quinn arrived in Atlanta, there have certainly been some talented players that have been drafted. Of course there are the immediate reactions and grades of the draft picks, but it’s always best to revisit those classes a few seasons in to see who the major contributors and role players are, and who isn’t on the team anymore.
So far, it looks like the 2018 draft class is a successful one, as almost all of the picks have made a solid contribution to the team as a whole. Let’s take a look at how the 2018 draft class has fared so far going into its 3rd season.
Round 1 (pick 26) - WR Calvin Ridley
When Calvin Ridley slipped as far as he did in the 1st, it was simply a no brainer to select him at this pick to play next to Julio Jones. Ridley certainly hasn’t disappointed.
An emerging star in this league, Ridley already has 17 TDs in his first two seasons and is poised for a breakout year. The biggest weakness I saw with Ridley coming out were his hands, and he’s worked tirelessly to improve that every offseason. His work has surely paid off and he’s still looking like a steal at 26 heading into his third season.
Round 2 (pick 58) - CB Isaiah Oliver
This draft was a draft of value, especially in the first few rounds. Oliver was also considered a value pick later in the 2nd round as many analysts saw him as a late 1st/early 2nd rounder, including myself.
Oliver has certainly taken his lumps during his first few years at corner. He’s been counted out by some, but he clearly showed improvement at the end of the 2019 season. He’s currently in a battle for the starting outside CB job opposite this year’s 1st round draft pick, AJ Terrell. So far, he’s shown well in camp, but ultimately, everything will boil down to how he performs on the field this season. Can he build on the momentum he built in the 2nd half of the 2019 season? If so, this might still look like the pick it was heralded to be.
Round 3 (pick 90) - DT Deadrin Senat
Senat was a bit of a surprise to me when he was drafted. When the team needed pass rush help, Coach Quinn and company drafted a 1 tech, run stuffing DT in Deadrin Senat. Then to make things even more confusing, Coach Quinn brings in Tyeler Davison in free agency to play the position that Senat was drafted to play.
As a result, he was inactive the majority of the 2019 season. Senat is clearly a strong, gap penetrating DT who, when he’s been giving the snaps, has shown to be fairly effective. It’s hard to determine if Senat actually fell out of favor with the coaching staff or what caused the decision for his inactivity, so his future with the Falcons is uncertain. We do know he’s been effective in practice this summer, but is there room for him in the rotation?
Round 4 (pick 126) - RB Ito Smith
Until this year, the Falcons seemed to have a yearly ritual when it came to drafting a running back. Ito Smith has certainly had some productive moments and is an ideal change of pace back with the current group of RBs. I worry a little about his durability due to his size, but he definitely has the talent to be a solid contributor on the offense in the running and passing game, and he has been when called upon. Smith will absolutely see snaps this season as well as he’s productive when given the opportunity, and his pass catching ability means he should be an option on third downs.
Round 6 (pick 194) - WR Russell Gage
This was, by far, my favorite pick of the 2018 draft. Gage is a football player, period. I loved his mindset, work ethic and competitive nature, and that still holds true today. The one thing I didn’t expect is that he’d be a true contributor on offense.
I saw him as a good special teams player that could make some minor contributions on offense, but Gage has put in some serious work on his route running and hands, and it’s evident as the team felt they could move on from Hardy. Considering where he was picked, this was a clear win for the Falcons as Gage is in a battle with newly acquired free agent Laquon Treadwell for the 3rd WR spot, and it’s a battle he’s expected to win.
We might some day talk about Gage as one of the great draft steals of this era of Falcons football.
Round 6 (pick 200) - LB Foye Oluokun
Two factors that come to mind when I think of Foye Oluokon? Speed and athleticism. His first training camp, the coaches raved over his ability to retain information very quickly and not repeat the same mistake twice.
Now Oluokon is the presumptive starter at LB next to Deion Jones. A former Safety out of Yale, I only expected that he see significant time on Special Teams. He has, just like Gage, exceeded expectations. He accumulated a career high 56 tackles last season at LB. Now that Oluokon has a clear path to being a starting LB, I’m anxious to see how he emerges with increased snaps.
The Falcons picked up two 6th-round starters, a useful backup running backup, and borderline elite receiver in this class, and that’s without Oliver and Senat necessarily working out. Overall, it’s one of the better draft classes in recent memory.