Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who was re-united with his former boss Scott Pioli for the 2015 NFL draft, made a trade and took some gambles as the team stayed true to its “needs-based” drafting strategy over the weekend.
After getting an edge-rusher and passing on Georgia running back Todd Gurley, they gambled on second-round pick Jalen Collins, who flunked three drug tests at LSU and is a boom-or-bust pick to closely monitor.
But after that shaky start, the Falcons went on a roll, landing three potential immediate contributors in dazzling running back Tevin Coleman, hard-nosed wide receiver Justin Hardy and disruptive defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
Then they tossed a couple of seventh-round projects in the shopping chart in Eastern Washington tackle Jake Rodgers and San Jose State cornerback Akeem King.
Here’s a round-by-round look at who the Falcons selected, who they passed on and if they did the right thing:
Falcons select at No. 8: DE/OLB Vic Beasley
Falcons could have had: RB Todd Gurley (Rams, 10), LB Bud Dupree (Steelers, 22) or DE Shane Ray (Denver, 23).
Comment: This move could come back to haunt the Falcons if Gurley turns into a great running back and Beasley is just a one-trick pony pass rusher. Both edge-rusher Bud Dupree and Shane Ray were available. Beasley was rated higher than Dupree, but Ray, the SEC’s defensive player of the year, was rated higher that Beasley at the outset of the pre-draft process before he was arrested on a drug possession charge three days before the draft. The Falcons clearly drafted for need here over the best player available. Gil Brandt, a former personnel man with the Cowboys, had Gurley rated as the sixth-best player in the draft. If Beasley turns into the “double-digit” sack producer like he promised and can hit those numbers for eight years or so, folks will forget that the Falcons passed on Gurley. Old-timers were talking about how the Falcons passed up on former Georgia player Hines Ward because the old regime didn’t think he was tough enough back in 1998. They were so wrong.
Falcons select at No. 42: DB Jalen Collins
Falcons could have had: DB Eric Rowe (Eagles, 47) DB Ronald Darby (Bills, 50) or TE Maxx Williams (Ravens, 55).
Comment: The Falcons rolled the dice on Collins, a player with only 10 starts and a checkered past. He failed three drug tests at LSU. Like most players who get busted, Collins maintained, “That’s in the past.” If it’s not and he ends up getting suspended down the road for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the Falcons will have miscalculated on a high pick. He has the size – 6-feet, 1 1/2 inches, 203 pounds — that head coach Dan Quinn covets. He was analyst Mike Mayock’s second-rated cornerback. Others had him as a sixth-rated cornerback. He’s the biggest boom-or-bust pick of the Falcons’ selections.
Falcons select at No. 73: RB Tevin Coleman
Falcons could have had: WR Chris Conley (Chiefs, 76), RB Duke Johnson (Cleveland, 77) or RB David Johnson (Cardinals, 86).
Comment: The Falcons must get the electrifying Coleman ready to play. He’s a perfect fit for their one-cut, outside-zone blocking scheme. He averaged 142.6 rushing yards over the final 21 games of his career and holds Indiana’s single-season rushing mark (2,036 yards). The Falcons’ Matt Ryan has been most effective when he’s had the threat of a running game.
Falcons select at No. 107: WR Justin Hardy
Falcons could have had: OT T.J. Clemmings (Minnesota, 110), TE Blake Bell (49ers, 117) or WR Vince Mayle (Browns, 123).
Comment: Hardy is a fun player to watch and will get a shot to takeover the third wide receiver position. His main competition will come from Leonard Hankerson, who was signed in free agency. While this was a strong pick, the Falcons could have addressed their needs along the offensive line with Pittsburgh’s Clemmings or they could have drafted a tight end.
Falcons select at No. 137: DT Grady Jarrett
Falcons could have had: DE Davis Tull (Saints, 148) or DE Tyeler Davison (Saints, 154)
Comment: The Falcons traded up to land Jarrett. They flip-flopped positions with the Vikings and sent their sixth-round pick to Minnesota to move up nine spots. The Vikings drafted Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs with the Falcons 148th pick and used a sixth-round pick (185th overall) to select Oklahoma tackle Tyrus Thompson. Jarrett will be asked to be a one-gap penetrating tackle in the Falcons 4-3 under scheme. He plays low to the ground and with good leverage. He could turn into a disruptive force. He was projected as a second-rounder by nfldraftscout.com and most feel that the Falcons got a steal. He dropped in the draft because he doesn’t fit in a lot of NFL schemes. He’s the biological son of Falcons great Jessie Tuggle.
Falcons select at No. 225: OG Jake Rodgers
Falcons could have had: OT Bobby Hart (Giants, 226) or OT Corey Robinson (Lions, 240).
Comment: The Falcons seem to think the offensive line will be much improved after all of the injuries of last season have healed. The unit has been ravaged with injuries the past two seasons, but this pick didn’t help fill the glaring hole at left guard. The Falcons cut Justin Blalock this offseason and have not replaced him. However, Mike Person, a former practice squad member with the Rams who’s never played in an NFL game, was signed this offseason and was running with the first-team in minicamp.
Falcons select at No. 249: DB Akeem King
Falcons could have had: DB Taurean Nixon (Broncos, 251) or DB Josh Furman (Broncos, 252)
Comment: He’s another big corner at 6-0 and 208 pounds. When Quinn was with the Seahawks, they found big corners anywhere they could. Richard Sherman was drafted in the fifth round, Byron Maxwell in the sixth round and Brandon Browner was playing in Canada. They are hoping to hit a jackpot with this pick.
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