The Falcons’ seven-member draft class, taken in its entirety is a bit underwhelming.
For that, the team is receiving a C-minus, for a collection of players that may or may not fill their needs.
It’s always tough grading a draft class before the players have ever played an NFL down, but there are indicators.
Neither general manger Thomas Dimitroff nor coach Dan Quinn were ready to call either of the first-round picks, “opening day starters” or “plug-and-play.”
So, down road, the strength on this class could rise and fall if guard Chris Lindstrom and right tackle Kaleb McGary turn in to the 8 to 10 year starters in the league and cobble together 4 to 6 Pro Bowl trips. Then we can put in a grade change form and elevate the grade to an A.
If they’re just so-so starters, then the C-minus will be justified. Both have flaws that offensive line coach Chris Morgan and assistant offensive line coach Bob Kronenberg must fix to get them NFL ready.
If they can get both of them ready in five exhibitions, they’ll get a ton of assistant coach of the year votes.
The Falcons traded their second- and third-round picks to get McGary. They wanted to be aggressive and had excellent information that there would be run on linemen before they were set to pick at 45.
“We felt like we needed to be aggressive,” Dimitroff said. “We did not want to end up at 45 and be out of the market where there was a run on offensive linemen in the beginning of the second round.”
Linemen Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, Cody Ford, Dalton Risner and Elgton Jenkins all went before the Falcons would have picked. The Patriots, who got the 45th pick from the Rams, took Vanderbilt cornerback Joejuan Williams.
LSU cornerback Greedy Williams went next and the next lineman went two picks later to the Saints, center Erik McCoy.
The Falcons’ fourth-round picks were excellent. Ohio State cornerback Kendall Sheffield has elite speed and could develop into a starter. There’s nothing to not like about defensive end John Cominsky. His combine of size and speed is rare. He could thrive playing next to Grady Jarrett inside on passing situations.
But how fast can he make the jump from Division II Charleston?
If the linemen make it and the fourth-rounders are dynamite, this could turn into a special draft.
Running back Qadree Ollison could be hybrid fullback-short yardage running back. That would fill need.
Jordan Miller is athletic and could turn into a long cornerback.
Speedy Marcus Green would be a return man.
So, while the grade is low now, in three years, it could turn out to be higher.
Here’s a look at each player.
First round (14th overall) Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College
Analysis: He has a chance to be an opening day starter. He moves really well, but there are concerns about his ability to anchor and that he catches defenders. He posted 29 on the Wonderlic. Some describe Lindstrom as a project.
Dimitroff’s take: “Well, he is a very aggressive, very urgent football player. He comes off the ball very well for us. He can slide well. He's a good athlete as well as being tough and gritty. He fits the scheme that we're focused on. He's a smart football player, as well, and he's a three and a half, almost four-year starter. He's got a lot of experience. He's got a pedigree. I mean, he's just one of those guys that bring to the table — again, both on and off the field can be obviously very good.”
First round (31st overall) Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington
Analysis: Was the third rated tackle in the draft behind Washington State’s Andre Dillard and Florida’s Jawaan Taylor. He was a two-time all-Pac 12 selection. He’s had three procedures to help stabilize his heart arrhythmia. Falcons contended that he only had two, but it’s still an issue. McGary is smart and athletic. Wonderlic of 25. He’s stiff and will have trouble against elite pass rushers. He’s strong and locks up once he gets his hands on them.
Dimitroff’s take: “Yes, we were,” when asked if the team was comfortable with McGary’s heart procedures. “We have really good connections out at (University of Washington). Those guys are dialed in.”
Fourth round (111th overall) Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State
Analysis: He signed with Alabama coming out of high school and went to Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, before landing at Ohio State. He has rare speed. He once ran a 4.26 in the 40-yard dash. This was the team’s best value pick as he was projected to be selected in the third round of the draft.
Dimitroff’s take: “Yeah, this guy can fly. ... He's a guy that we looked to continue to grow with, and he has the ability to play on the outside. And we've also talked about him as a return specialist, as well. But that's not his background.”
Fourth round (135th overall) John Cominsky, DE, Charleston
Analysis: He was projected where he was taken, in the fourth round. He’s smart, too, as he scored 31 on the Wonderlic. He should be able to terrorize guards inside with his size an athleticism. He just needs some NFL development and needs to get stronger.
Dimitroff’s take: “He's 285 right now, and the ability to get bigger and to be 295 plus is something that we believe can happen. But here's a guy that can move around really well. He is a hard-charging, intelligent guy who's really, really gritty and really driven, and we look at the versatility.”
Fifth round (152nd overall) Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh
Analysis: He was drafted to pick up hose third-and-1s that have been troublesome in recent years and in Super Bowl LI. Strictly between the tackles runner with very little wiggle. He caught 50 passes over four seasons. He was projected to go in the sixth or seventh round or be an undrafted rookie. He was over-drafted. Wonderlic score of 21.
Dimitroff’s take: “He’s a big back and we’ve been looking for a big back to add to that group. Think again to versatility, he’s a big guy, a strong guy. He has really nice feet and game speed ability about him for a bigger back like that. He has pass protection about him as well and can catch the ball.”
Fifth round (172nd overall) Jordan Miller, CB, Washington
Analysis: When healthy, he made spectacular plays. Does a poor job in run support as he lunges at ballcarriers and doesn’t break down before tackling which led to missed tackles. He played 302 passing snaps last season. He was targeted on 32 plays and gave up 20 catches for a 62.5 catch percentage. He played has 569 snaps overall and had a 70.7 grade by profootballfocus.com. Project for secondary coaches to develop.
Dimitroff’s take: “Six (on the) bench press was not a concern. His injury was an ankle situation that was taken care of after last year, and he had a little bit of a brush this year, but it wasn't anything that's concerning going forward.”
Sixth round (203rd overall) Marcus Green, RB Louisiana-Monroe
Analysis: One of those little, tough dudes you don’t want to dismiss. Was an all-purpose player for the Warhawks, but will play running back for the Falcons. He has some ability as a returner. In high school he earned five letters in basketball as he started for the varsity as an eighth grader. Active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is a drummer at church.
Dimitroff’s take: “Speedy guy, quick-twitch guy, as well. ... He's a rocked-up guy, too. He's not slight. He's a guy that can, again, a combination of height, weight - sorry, not height. Speed and bulk.”