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Was there a change in the Falcons’ scouting approach for the 2020 draft?

Examining the approach to the 2020 draft.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When Dan Quinn became the head coach of the Falcons in 2015, he preached about one specific attribute: speed. He especially loves this attribute in his defensive players. During his tenure, Quinn has favored the explosive and fast athlete, with the premise that he had the right people on staff to coach them into football players. Of course there are exceptions to this, but the issue so far with this premise is that it mostly has created inconsistencies amongst the team during his tenure.

Some examples of players who were drafted due to their athletic prowess are Vic Beasley, Jalen Collins, Deion Jones, DeVondre Campbell and Takk McKinley. This is just to name a few, but there aren’t too many who have worked out for this team. So did something change in regards to the scouting approach for the 2020 draft? It appears so.

After taking an extensive look at the 2020 draft class, there are a few attributes this class has that the previous classes didn’t, with the exception of some of course. Let’s review the 2020 draft class.

Rd 1 - AJ Terrell - CB

Rd 2 - Marlon Davidson - DE/DT

Rd 3 - Matt Hennessy - G/C

Rd 4 - Mykal Walker - LB

Rd 4 - Jaylinn Hawkins - SS

Rd 7 - Sterling Hofrichter - P/K

Now there are some picks on this list that surprised some, especially me, because their athletic profiles didn’t fit what Quinn normally covets in his players. However, after watching film, this group shares some very similar and new characteristics that previous classes didn’t. A few main attributes are better football IQ, field awareness and instincts. Mykal Walker is a specific one who caught my eye. He’s not a bad athlete by any stretch, but he’s a better football player than he is an athlete, and he’s a superb tackler. In comparing him to 2016 fourth-round pick DeVondre Campbell, Campbell was the more fluid and better athlete coming out of college. However, Walker is the better and more instinctual football player coming out.

The same can be said about first-round pick A.J. Terrell. Many people like to look at that National Championship game to condemn him, but that was an outlier against Joe Burrow, who went on to be the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Watching Terrell’s film, it was rare to catch him out of position when the ball was thrown his way. He has a very good understanding of the game and his challenges can be overcome easily with coaching and experience.

Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff seemed to have leaned toward better football players this draft. This is not to say they still don’t have their favorite attributes in players (broad jump, three-cone), but it just appears they looked for the more “heady” players. Now it could be because both are on hot seats this season, but they know this team needs to be better overall and better and faster athletes don’t always equate to better players. Will this lead to a more consistent team? It certainly should, but as always, we’re at the “wait and see” part of the year.