NFL draft analyst: Dallas Turner could be ‘double-digit sack guy’ for Falcons

Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner (15) tracks the play during the first half of a game against Tennessee, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner (15) tracks the play during the first half of a game against Tennessee, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Mel Kiper Jr. has provided expert analysis in advance of the NFL draft for 40 years, and there’s one thing he’s quite sure of as he continues breaking down prospects for the 2024 draft next month:

Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner would be a perfect fit for the Falcons with the No. 8 pick in the first round April 25.

“Everything about him screams a 10-plus-sack-a-year guy,” said Kiper, who has been the expert analyst for ESPN’s draft coverage since 1984.

Kiper has the Falcons selecting the 6-foot-4, 256-pound Turner in his latest mock draft. The Falcons missed out on free agent defensive end Danielle Hunter, who took his 87.5 career sacks to Houston to play with the Texans, and must replace the production from Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, who accounted for 13 of their 42 sacks last season.

Both have not re-signed and remain free agents, with Campbell considering retirement.

“Turner is a kid I wanted to see, I said this back in August, I wanted to see him kick it up a notch,” Kiper told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “And he did. He was OK in 2022. His production was down a little bit. It was all Will Anderson Jr. With Will leaving, he needed to be the guy. He had shown that he could be that when he was a freshman in 2021.”

Turner had 8.5 sacks in 2021 and came back with 10 in 2023. He was listed at 240 pounds and played at 245. He’s added some weight to play in the NFL.

Turner did most of his work for the scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. He did only the bench press during the Pro Day workouts, lifting 225 pounds 20 times.

All 32 NFL teams were present at AIabama’s Pro Day, including coaches Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Mike McCarthy (Cowboys), Antonio Pierce (Raiders) and Brian Callahan (Titans) and general manager Brad Holmes (Lions), Brian Gutekunst (Packers) and Ran Carthon (Titans).

“The process has been good,” Turner said to the Alabama media. “It’s something you’ve got to enjoy because you only go through it once. You really get to expand, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, see a lot of new faces, and go to a lot of new places.”

Turner had 22.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss over his career with the Crimson Tide.

“He was relentless,” Kiper said. “He developed the secondary move. He got bend. He showed more bend. He was productive week in and week out. He was disruptive. He played the run. He sealed the edge. He did a lot of good things for (now-retired Alabama coach) Nick (Saban) in that defense, and then he tested great.”

Turner ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and had a 40.5-inch vertical at the combine.

“His numbers were unbelievable as explosive numbers,” Kiper said. “The speed. Everything about him screams a 10-plus-sack-a-year guy.”

Whoa. Wait a minute.

The Falcons haven’t had a double-digit sack guy since Vic Beasley had 15.5 in 2016.

“That’s what you want,” Kiper said. “You are drafting him to be a double-digit sack guy. That’s what he’s going to have to be. He has to be a 10-plus-sack-a-year guy for where he’s going. Anything less than that, it’s going to be a disappointment.”

Kiper pointed to Jacksonville’s Travon Walker (1st overall in 2022 after his career for the Georgia Bulldogs) and Detroit’s Aidan Hutchinson (2nd overall in 2022). Walker had three sacks his rookie season and 10 last season. Hutchinson had 9.5 as a rookie and 11.5 last season.

“So, you see those top guys in the 15- to 17-sack range,” Kiper said. “(Nick) Bosa (of the 49ers) has been up there pretty high. But you would hope that Turner would be right around the 10-sack mark.”

Turner is considered a better option than Florida State’s Jared Verse and UCLA’s Laiatu Latu as pass rushers.

“Verse is a powerhouse,” Kiper said. “Verse is super strong. He’s kind of that Brandon Graham-type guy. He’s really gets after it. He tested well. He’s just a little tight in the hips. … He could (be selected) from 9-to-17, in that area.”

Latu, who had 13 sacks last season and won the Ted Hendricks award (top defensive end), started his career at Washington and transferred.

“Latu has the neck injury,” Kiper said. “So, the medical on him is very important. But he’s a natural pass rusher. He’s really slippery off the edge.”

Latu, who’s 6-5 and 259 pounds, also medically retired for a year. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds.

“He’s going to go in the first round, but I just don’t know about the top 15,” Kiper said. “Maybe more 15 to 25.”

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