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Atlanta Falcons 2017 NFL Draft Recap

Hello dirty bird flock,

The Atlanta Falcons were practically Super Bowl champions when they led the New England Patriots 28-3, but we all know how that turned out. Game is not over until the clock reads all zeros. Coming into the off-season I’m sure the Falcons just want to lick their wounds and gear up for a shot to redeem themselves, but that has been hard to do with the constant trolling of 3-28 references and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan departing for the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons got through the off-season and have begun training camp this week, so now they can clear their minds and get back to football. Coming into the draft the Atlanta Falcons didn’t have a dire need or weakness they had to fulfill, so they were able to add good depth and quality players with their six selections. Can these new birds help raise the team back up into the sky or will they be a part of a crash landing following last year’s heart-breaking defeat. Let’s take off and scavenge for the answers.

-1st Round, Pick #26: Takkarist McKinley – Defensive End (UCLA)

  • Takkarist McKinley is a sakk-artist. McKinley will pair up with Vic Beasley along the defensive line in what could be a terrorizing pass rush. McKinley is essentially replacing Dwight Freeney. Freeney did a spectacular jobs his time with the Falcons when pressurizing the quarterback, but he is 37 years old and the Falcons wanted to continue adding young talent to their already impressive youthful defensive squad. McKinley has a great motor and an even bigger heart; just watch his never-ending heart-felt speech after he was selected. McKinley shows promise and will be an instant impact opposite Vic Beasley. Each year in college he improved his game and got better. So we’ll see if he can continue the progression at the next level of competition.

 

 

-3rd Round, Pick #75: Duke Riley – Linebacker (LSU)

  • One area that needed an improvement was at linebacker. Both Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell were rookies last year, but played higher than the prototypical rookie ceiling. The hope is that Duke Riley can add to the duo and give them a formidable weak side linebacker to help in run support or coverage. Duke Riley is truly an ascending player. An AFC East scout ranked Riley as an undraftable player to begin the draft process, but as Riley did more workouts, Senior Day, scouting combine among other off-season “try-outs”, he really raised his draft stock and put himself into the third round. Duke Riley won’t overwhelm people with his body stature, but he is a hard worker that can accomplish anything if he puts his mind to it and he’ll be a tremendous player in the linebacking trio. Don’t sleep on this prospect on Sundays.

-4th Round, Pick #136: Sean Harlow – Offensive Guard (Oregon State)

  • The Atlanta Falcons offensive line allowed their franchise quarterback Matt Ryan to be hit 105 times last season, enough to rank fifth in the league. The guard spot was their worst position along the offensive line and needed to be upgraded. Sean Harlow will get every chance at being the starter at one of the guard spots this training camp and pre-season. Harlow has experience at every position along the offensive line so that versatility will be beneficial to him and the Falcons in case of injury, but his lack of athletic ability limits him to playing the interior line. We’ll see if Harlow will be an improvement or a work in progress player; however you look at it at least the Falcons attempted to build up their wall around Matt Ryan.

-5th Round, Pick #149: Damontae Kazee – Cornerback (San Diego State)

  • I followed this prospect very closely in the pre-draft process. Damontae Kazee is a stud and will see plenty of playing time this season. He certainly isn’t the tallest or fastest player, but his ball skills are top-notch. The past two years he has tied for second in interceptions at the collegiate level along with 15 pass breakups. Kazee won’t be playing on the outside by any means, but he’ll get used a lot in the nickel slot. Looking what division he plays in, the NFC South, he’ll see plenty of playing time early in his career. Great pick in round five and will make an immediate impact for the Falcons.

-5th Round, Pick #156: Brian Hill – Running Back (Wyoming)

  • The Falcons were thinking long-term on this selection. Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are starting caliber running backs and will look to get paid after their contract expires or will want an extension soon. Typically in these situations an organization tends to keep one of the players, so it’s like the Falcons are preparing for the departure of one of these talented runners and hope to replace one with Brian Hill in the future. Hill is more of a downhill runner and will get you a couple yards on short yardage situations if need be. Devonta Freeman is the current number one guy and is looking to get an extension this season, so Tevin Coleman could be the odd man out of the loop. Brian Hill will have some shoes to fill, but if he can move the chains he’ll be an effective selection, just now this year.

-5th Round, Pick #174: Eric Saubert – Tight End (Drake)

  • Looking at the Atlanta Falcons roster the only tight end that really sticks out is Austin Hooper. Hooper started to impress during the second half of last season and will continue to trend upward as his career progresses. The Falcons wanted to add some competition and depth to their tight end position. Eric Saubert will attempt to make the roster, but he’ll have to step up his game. Saubert is praised for his athleticism, speed and size, but he is criticized for not being able to catch the ball consistently and his inability to block a defender. He’ll have a long off-season to improve in training camp and pre-season, but if he can’t do the simple tasks a tight end needs to do, Saubert will have a hard time making this roster. We’ll have to see how this one turns out.

The Atlanta Falcons will look to take their new players on another wild ride into the post-season in hopes of redeeming their embarrassing Super Bowl loss. Some of these draft selections will see the field early and make an immediate impact; others will need time to develop or might even make the team. The Falcons are primed for another winning season if they can stay mentally tough, so we shall see what the upcoming season will bring to us. Until next time, have a great day.

-Austin Thomas

 


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