A LOOK BACK AT THE FALCONS 2015 DRAFT
THE FIRST OF THE DAN QUINN ERA
It’s the time of year every armchair General Manager looks forward to….the off season. NFL Draft Combine, free agency, the draft, secondary free agency, the time where every fan with a pencil, paper and internet access becomes experts in talent evaluation and knows exactly how to build a Super Bowl Champion.
As much as I love this time of year, I also enjoy reflecting on past drafts…successes and failures. I’ve been doing this piece for the Cage for about 4 years now. I usually wait until after the season’s draft to post this, but this year I decided to not mess up our fawning over all of our shiny new toys and print this before any of the wheeling and dealing starts.
For those not familiar with my method, a quick refresher.
-I like giving out number grades instead of the standard letter grades
-Most NFL folks will tell you it takes 2-3 years to truly grade a draft. Years ago when I started this, I chose the 3 year mark (players have been in the league for 3 seasons). So that’s why this year’s look is at the 2015 draft.
-I usually give a final grade at the end of it all, just averaging the grades of all the draftees. This year, I’ve decided to “weigh” each pick, possibly giving a more fair assessment of the draft. Afterall, a 7th round pick who washes out shouldn’t carry as much weight as a 1st rounder who washes out.
So, without further ado, I give you Coach Dan Quinn’s 1st NFL draft
ROUND 1-VIC BEASLEY, DE, CLEMSON
The 2014 season our Atlanta Falcons produce fewer than 20 sacks for the entire season. There have been single players in NFL history to record 20 sacks in a single season. Quinn needed to pump some life into a miserable pass rush. Beasley had a slow rookie season (4 sacks), then burst onto the scene in year number 2 to lead the NFC with 15.5 sacks. Then year 3 saw a backslide in pass rush production (5 sacks). There will be many excuses given for these numbers. Played out of position, played injured, not used correctly, etc. The reality of the situation is, Quinn drafted Beasley to be his Atlanta version of Seattle’s Bruce Irvin or Denver’s Von Miler. Beasley was supposed to be a linebacker that rushed the QB on passing downs. The main problem here was Vic had never played linebacker and was not given the chance to do so his rookie season. Year#2 he played some linebacker, but mostly rushed the passer. Year#3, Vic was forced to play more linebacker (because of injury and poor personnel decisions) and seemed generally lost doing so. After the 2017 season ended, Quinn stated that Beasley would be moving back to DE full time. Good and bad news. Beasley is not a full time DE, he’s just to small. Injuries are mounting on the young player because he is routinely asked to do battle with players that outweigh him by 80+lbs. Moving forward, I don’t see Beasley as being anything more than a pass rush specialist. 2nd down and 9+yards to go, 3rd down and 4+yards to go and 2 minute defenses. Line him up and tell him to go get the QB, don’t worry about anything else.
24.5 sacks your 1st 3 years in the league is nothing to be ashamed of. But when 15.5 of those came in one season (and it wasn’t the most recent), then there is some cause for concern. So far, Beasley has not been the beast we’d all hoped he would become, and in the next few months, the team must decide whether or not to pick up his 5th year option for being a 1st round pick, which is going to be somewhere north of $10 million for 1 season. I can’t consciously give Beasley a high grade for 1 good season out of 3.
ROUND 2-JALEN COLLINS, CB, LSU
This pick raised more than a few eyebrows for a variety of reasons. Collins had only started 9 career college games. Collins had run afoul of his team and the NCAA a total of 3 times for substance abuse. Trufant and Alford were our starting CB’s and played solidly if not spectacularly. There were so many other holes on the roster, adding a 3rd CB was way down on most folks lists.
You all know the story of how this turned out. Collins was slow to pick things up as a rookie and played sparingly. Year 2, his 1st NFL suspension, came back, couldn’t crack his way into the starting lineup. Trufant gets hurt, Collins is forced into the lineup. Collins places well, sometimes really well, causing some fans (GUILTY!) to wonder if the Falcons should trade Trufant rather than signing him to a big contract extension. Well, Trufant got his fat raise, and Collins was suspended a 2nd time, leading to his ultimate dismissal from the team. To the best of my knowledge, he’s still not with a club. Cautionary Tale: if you’re really good, you can screw up as many times as you want and teams will give you chance after chance after chance. If you’re just average, well there are 100’s of those guys out there, teams don’t want to deal with a major headache for average.
ROUND 3-TEVIN COLEMAN, RB, INDIANA
Heading into the 2015 season, the Falcons only had 1 real RB on the roster, Devonta Freeman, who was a seldom used rookie just 1 year prior. Regardless if Devonta was starting caliber or not, another RB was needed. Tevin pretty much fell into Atlanta’s lap in the 2015 draft. Coleman had over 2,000 yards his senior year in Indiana and was a proven pass catcher and kick returner. So impressed were the Falcons with Tevin during training camp and pre-season, that he was named the starting RB. But then an injury caused Tevin to relinquish his starting job, one which Devonta would grab hold of and not let go. Injuries marred Tevin’s rookie season, as did a bad case of fumblitis. But in 2016, Tevin came back strong and formed a lethal 1-2 punch with Devonta. Tevin has been a perfect compliment to Devonta, and even showing he could be the workhorse when Devonta was out. Honestly, Tevin has been everything you could hope for. No complaints.
ROUND 4-JUSTIN HARDY, WR, EAST CAROLINA
Justin came to Atlanta with a lot of NCAA receptions but not much fanfare. Justin can catch pretty much anything thrown his way, but one of the knocks on him was East Carolina didn’t really have a playbook as much as they ran sandlot football. Justin didn’t really run routes at East Carolina as he just fond the open spot and hoped the QB found him. That caused Justin to be a bit tardy in his learning curve coming to the NFL. Since then, what we have learned about Hardy is he seems just a tad too slow, not quite quick enough, but yes, he pretty much catches anything he can get his hands on. In the one game in 2017 where the Falcons lost Sanu an Julio, Hardy had his chance to prove what he could do…not much happened. Hardy has done everything the Falcons have asked of him. Plays special teams, blocks, runs clearing routes or rub routes, and does catch the occasional pass. This past year he had as many TD’s as Julio (which is more of an indictment of Julio than it is praise for Justin). The fact is, 3 years in, Justin is a take-him or leave-him wide receiver. The fact that he’s still here 3 years later is the only thing that gets him a passing grade(barely).
ROUND 5-GRADY JARRETT, DT, CLEMSON
I wish all of Thomas Dimitroff’s trade ups worked out this well. For what we gave up, this is quite possibly the best trade up of Dimitroff’s many trade ups. This is how and when you do it. Late in the draft, where there’s a player still available who by all rights shouldn’t still be there. Grady has been everything you could hope for in a DT. He plays the run well, gets penetration, gets pressure on the QB and can occasionally get a sack. Grady saved his best game for Super Bowl 51, in which he surely would have been MVP (sorry Devonta, it would not have been you) had we just run the damn ball and kicked the FG. Sorry bout that, old wounds. Anyway, Grady is in the top half of the league’s DT’s. Not dominant every play or even every game, but he can dominate at times during games. The only part of his game you would like to se improvement in is actually getting to the QB, which may come when we finally get a full compliment of pass rushers around him.
ROUND 6-JAKE RODGERS, OT, EASTERN MICHIGAN
This pick alone stands as a major statement selection in the Dan Quinn era. A trend that is thus far more disturbing than any. Draft what you perceive to be an athletic offensive linemen late in the draft, try to mold him into something you’re looking for, fail, move on to the next one. This is all I will say about this pick and this player. Jake never amounted to anything for the Falcons and is now out of the league.
ROUND 7-AKEEM KING, S, SAN JOSE STATE
Here is the other Dan Quinn trend that has marked the Dan Quinn era so far. What do these players have in common? Ricardo Allen, Akeem King, Damonte Kazee. They are all DB’s that Quinn has switched from their natural position once they arrived in the NFL. So far it has worked for Allen (switched from CB to S), though he is not spectacular at any one thing. The book is still out on Kazee (switched from CB to S), who looked ok filling in for Allen a few times as a rookie. The switch did not work out well for King (moved from S to CB). King was dropped from the Falcons in 2016, has landed on a couple of practice squads, and if I’m not mistaken, is now looking for work as a free agent.
I told you at the beginning, I have a new grading system for the overall all grade of the draft. Before I came up with grades, averaged them all, then came up with a final number, which usually ended up being a fail. Now I’m weighing the rounds, 1st round counts more, 2nd a little less, so on and so forth.
Maybe I need to find another new way to come up with overall grade. But when you’re 2nd round pick is no longer even on the team, for whatever reason, that’s going to drag your overall score down. When 3 of 7 picks are no longer on the team, that will hurt as well.
Regardless of grade, this was a solid draft. Nothing fancy. Beasley, Tevin, Hardy are all part-timers. Though Tevin has shown he can be a full timer, and Beasley has shown he can be a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher (which, in my book, is still only part time work). Grady Jarrett is easily the crown jewel of the 2015 draft.
My grading system may be lacking in overall sophistication, but it does go to show you how missing on an early pick can really mess you up. I’ve seen plenty of mocks for the 2018 draft which have us needing a CB. Had Collins kept his nose clean, that would not be a need in this upcoming draft, a pick that could be better spent somewhere else.