Maybe history will be kind to this six-member 2020 draft class the Falcons put together, but after the dust has settled, it hard to escape the conclusion that they reached on four of the six picks.
We are going to call them “The Unreachables.”
So, hitting on two of six moves (.333 average) is an flat-out F grade in most classes, but in the inexact science of drafting, that’s a strong C-minus.
In baseball, hitting .333 will get you a trip to Cooperstown.
If the affable Marlon Davidson turns into a menace and Pro Bowler at defensive tackle and Matt Hennessy firms up the interior of the line and eventually takes over for Alex Mack, then no one will remember the reaches, which included taking flyer on a punter.
Davidson and Hennessy are the 25th and 26th players to be selected by the Falcons after appearing in the Senior Bowl, dating to 2008. The Falcons have taken at least one player that appeared in the Senior Bowl each year during that span except for 2011.
Davidson and Hennessy will serve football apprenticeships under Grady Jarrett and Mack.
“I couldn’t think of two better guys to come into the league and have a relationship with than Alex Mack and Grady Jarrett,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “So, for those two, I’m looking forward to seeing their development.”
The Falcons don’t feel like they made reaches because they see the players as fitting their needs, while there may have been better players on the board when they selected. The buzzword is “profile fits.”
“You’re always looking to have versatile players, so I think it speaks to the scouting staff and Thomas and the coaches to dig in and find some guys that are profile fits, and we have a really clear vision of how we can utilize those two guys,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
The Falcons traded away some of their draft capital. Here’s what that capital netted for other teams:
• The Ravens took Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins with the second-round pick they received from the Falcons in the trade for tight end Hayden Hurst. So, they could have Dobbins backing up Todd Gurley instead of Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison and Brian Hill.
The Falcons received the pick from the Patriots in the Mohamed Sanu trade.
• The Jaguars took Auburn safety Daniel Thomas with the Falcons’ fifth-round pick they received from the Ravens. If the Falcons had drafted Thomas, they wouldn’t have had to reach in the fourth for Hawkins, a projected priority free agent.
• The 49ers took Georgia tight end Charlie Woerner with the Falcons’ sixth-round pick they received from the Eagles (from the Duke Riley/Johnathan Cyprien trade).
So, that’s where the draft capital went that led to the Falcons making reaches in the first, fourth and seventh rounds.
Here’s a look at each player:
» First round (16th overall) -- A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Analysis: A big cornerback who will be expected to start and replace Desmond Trufant. He’s aggressive in coverage and grabs too much. New defensive backs coach Joe Whitt will have to break him of that bad habit.
Dimitroff’s take: “No, that performance (in the College Football Playoff Championship game) wouldn't have dissuaded us at all. He was in-phase quite a bit. (LSU quarterback Joe) Burrow obviously had a hell of a game, dropped the ball in a lot. There were a lot of opportunities there that they really capitalized on. We looked at the full picture, as you can imagine. He had a great -- very substantial game in the (championship game) the year before, Alabama game. He had a number of other games where he really stood out in our minds. So, one game (did) not dissuade us.”
Quinn’s take: “He’s played a lot of press coverage, so that’s good, where he has some experience of playing that. It’s not necessarily teaching a new technique, so we certainly have expectations for him and coming in and playing well based on what we’ve seen and how he played. That’s why he was such a good fit for how we want to play. Long and tall and fast, and he can play down by the line of scrimmage. He’s got plenty of experience doing that. We’ll take him and keep going and coaching him as we go through it.”
» Second round (47th overall) -- Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn
Analysis: He’s a big power player with quickness. He may have been the steal of the second round.
Dimitroff’s take: “He’s been a defensive end. He’s been stand up and down. We’re going to try to feature him over guards at the defensive tackle spots. … With a guy with that versatile, we're going to try to partner him up inside (with Grady Jarrett) as often as we can.”
Quinn’s take: “Much of what Marlon has and a lot of what Allen (Bailey) had, that quickness for a big guy.”
» Third round (78th overall) -- Matt Hennessy, C, Temple
Analysis: He comes highly recommended by Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins, who had him at start of his career at Temple. He’s going to get a shot to start at left guard and could help stabilize the interior of Matt Ryan’s passing pocket while serving as the heir-apparent to center Alex Mack.
Dimitroff’s take: “He's got really quick feet. He can get out on the edge. He pulls at center. There's a lot of stuff that he does that you want to see in a wide zone offensive scheme.”
Quinn’s take: “We'll start him at left guard and put him in that space first. Obviously, we know he has center flexibility, but we'll put him in the guard space first. ... You see the urgency, where he can get out of his stance and get on to the next (level). I saw him pull at center. … (At the) Senior Bowl he (showed) the ability to play multiple positions.”
» Fourth round (119th overall) –- Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State
Analysis: He was a surprise pick for the fourth round, having been projected as a seventh-round pick. He’s a big-hitter, who racked up 325 tackles over his career. He had 15 tackles in big game against USC.
Dimitroff’s take: “Walker can run. He’s a tough guy. He’s got versatility and not only did some rushing for (the Bulldogs), but also played inside linebacker. For us to add him there, that adds to our depth in that defensive area at the linebacker spot and on special teams.”
Quinn’s take: “He’s got the length (at 6-foot-3) to play outside at the (strongside) linebacker, and we’ll feature him also at some of the (weakside) linebacker and (have him) play over tight ends … based on his length.”
» Fourth round (134th overall) –- Jaylinn Hawkins, S, California
Analysis: He, too, was surprised to be drafted in the fourth round. He was projected to be a priority free agent. He has a nice one-handed catch highlight against Stanford out there on the internet.
Dimitroff’s take: “Another guy for us, high-energy guy, fits into Dan’s setting here in the mode, high-passion football guy, flies around. Very aggressive, very confident with his abilities. Can play the pass well, runs well, good athletic ability, and again, versatility there. So to add there depth not only at our secondary but on the special teams.”
Quinn’s take: “Hawkins certainly is going to have an impact on the team just by his physicality. I think that goes to all four downs that he’s going to play. The physicality, the playmaking ability, the turnovers that he’s created, that’s been a big factor.”
» Seventh round (228th overall) – Sterling Hofrichter, P, Syracuse
Analysis: Hofrichter, was raised in Valrico, Fla., and is a Braves fan. He wore No. 10 in college because he’s a big Chipper Jones fan.
He was named third-team All-American by the Associated Press.
He gets great hang time. Only 14.5 percent (10) of Hofrichter’s punts in 2019 were returned, for a total of 17 yards, the fewest opponent punt return yards allowed in school history.
Dimitroff’s take: “We were focused on a punter, and we thought that it was the best move for us to take Sterling Hofrichter from Syracuse. Really good athlete. He’s got a big leg, and you watch how he pops up and his leg and his ability to hang it in the air, again. He is deserving of being picked in the seventh round, for sure. We think he’s going to do a really good job for us into the future, given the fact that we are in need of definite punter competition.”
Quinn’s take: “We knew we wanted to have some competition there with Ryan (Allen). … Flipping the field, field position can really (be important). He really has a quick get-off. He's got great hang time. Think about those two things. Here’s a guy who can get the ball out of his hand from snap to kick quickly, and then to be able to put the ball up and hang it, those are factors with field position.”
AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES
Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads class | Top 10
Running backs: Cam Akers’ life lesson | Top 10
Tight ends: Harrison Bryant top prospect | Top 10
Guards/Centers: Solomon Kindley a late-rounder | Top 10
Offensive tackles: Austin Jackson’s life lesson | Top 10
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand out | Top 10
Defensive ends: A ‘generational’ talent | Top 10
Linebackers: Simmons a position-less LB | Top 10
Safeties: Loaded with Georgia talent | Top 10
Special teams: Georgia’s kick-centered | Return with flash | Top 10
Cornerbacks: Jeff Okudah a lockdown CB | Top 10
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