Post 2016 NFL Draft
New Inspiration or Continued Frustration?
Special Guest Writer: Roddy E. “Seminole Warrior” Nixon, Jr.
The 2016 NFL Annual Selection Meeting, aka, the Draft, is officially history. As I sit here in the CEO’s suite at the Tee Pee, I am attempting to assess how this draft will impact my team.
I’m all over the place as it relates to this draft. I sense some good things but I also am left with a lot of lingering questions. My concerns are not with any of the young men that we picked. Rather, my issues remain with a front office that just seems not to get it.
I have a vision for the Falcons that does not appear to be one that is shared by the owner, the GM, the head coach, and a large number of Falcons fans. And let me say that I respect the variations in opinion that are resonating across Falcons Nation at this time.
So let me make this point before I start. You do not have to agree with me. You can refer to my commentary in any manner you see fit to. But just know that these are the thoughts of one fan; one set of opinions, views, or criticisms. I have chosen my destiny. The Falcons seem to have chosen theirs.
Allow me, if you will, a moment to present two terms. First, I give you INSPIRATION. Webster defines it as a creative force. It is further defined as suddenly brilliant idea. A third meaning would suggest a revelation, a vision, or a stroke of genius.
The second term is FRUSTRATION. Again, using Webster, this word reflects inability to achieve a given desire. Another term often associated with it is disappointment. A third is discouraged.
As I listen to a fellow Falcons fan here in middle Georgia, I sense a growing divide. There are certainly those that are in group one, inspired. But there are an increasing number of residents in the second group. There are many reasons for their emotional roller coaster; far more than I have time to commit to in this narrative.
Respect both sides. For, my friends, there is merit in both sides. And in what may come as no shock to quite a few, I choose FRUSTRATION over INSPIRATION.
THE DRAFT GRADE…..
Many were happy with this draft. They like the fact that we added speed, physical play, and an element of depth with this class. Let me again repeat. I have no issues with the players that were selected. I see potential in each one of them; I see where a couple of them may go on to very productive careers in this league.
But, my friends, in my humble point of view, this draft class was an exercise in something VERY different as it relates to the Atlanta approach. Given the Falcons are so talent-void at several key spots, this class ACTUALLY has some promising components.
Tee Pee Sports is going to give the Atlanta Falcons front office a “C-” grade. This front office and key staff had an opportunity, even with limited resources, to make an impact going forward. Preliminary analysis suggests, in my opinion, as the reconstruction continues, that they made some potentially solid moves. BUT….it could have been better. It could have been better.
THE INDIVIDUAL EVALUATIONS…
ROUND ONE: SS Keanu Neal – University of Florida Grade: A-
The Falcons were certainly in need of a presence at the strong safety position. I had the luxury of being able to watch Keanu Neal in person over the last three years. He is the answer to a prayer for this team and this defense. He will be the enforcer that we so truly need against the run and is better than most think against the pass. I love the fact that he is relentless and has the same energy at the end of the game that he possessed at the start of it. Initially though, I was very unhappy with this selection. Was it too early to take Neal at #17?
My reply is going to shock many. NO. See we are firm believers, just as our mentor and sensei, Ozzie Newsome teaches, in the principle of taking the best player available at a position of critical need when the chance presents itself. There is no doubt in my mind after watching him for three years that Neal fits the bill. And the Falcons thought so as well.
I witnessed firsthand some minor concerns with Neal. But they are minor. With quality coaching, this guy is going to be something special. In Neal, I see a lot of former Broncos safety Steve Atwater.
Make no mistake. With Neal at the strong safety and Kemal Ishmael at the free safety, what was once a weakness is now primed to show improvement in a significant way.
ROUND TWO: OLB Deion Jones – Louisiana State University Grade: C+
I am not going to punish the player for being selected here. I totally understand the need to upgrade the linebacker position. I totally understand the need to acquire fast, attacking linebackers. I get all that. But…
For a team whose collective front seven managed only 19 sacks all season, the inability to strengthen that concept was striking. As you look at the critical defensive end and/or tackle position, where do you find reason to believe that things will be better than last season?
Enter the one year wonder. An emerging talent. Deion Jones. That is what I see time and time again where I study him. There is a skill set there that COULD allow him to become a very productive weak side linebacker. But can his frame handle more weight? I think that the front office was thinking of current Panther LB Shaq Thompson when they made this pick.
The Falcons needed a presence in the middle. They needed a physical presence in the middle. And they had the chance to acquire it here. There were several defensive tackles and defensive ends in play that were rated as stellar against the run and capable of being interior presence against the pass. We passed on them all. BAD MOVE….
In the end, was the second round the right place to select a SPECIAL TEAMS ACE and then search for a place to play him?
ROUND THREE: TE Austin Hooper – Stanford University Grade: B
Outside of Jacob Tamme, the Falcons have absolutely NOTHING at the tight end position. So this pick was a need of critical order. And in this case, they followed the principle to the letter. If they wanted the best available, it appears that they got him. Hooper is an INSTANT upgrade at the position and makes any tight end on the roster other than Tamme a distant memory.
All the key intangibles are in place. And his few documented shortfalls are all correctable with solid coaching. This pick was a win-win. It fills a key need and upgrades the position long term.
ROUND FOUR: OLB DeVondre Campbell – University of Minnesota Grade: C-
This is where I could no longer contain my anger. I guess SPEED strikes again over common sense. This guy is a work in progress. Size and speed are in play but his technique, his recognition skills, and his physicality need some serious work. Some suggest that he can play the SAM but where is the strength? Do you trust him as a WILL? This one is a special teamer taken WAY too early; especially considering there were MORE COMPLETE linebackers still on the big board.
NOTE: This position is where the Tee Pee identifies the greatest failures of this draft. Here, there were several offensive linemen on the board that could have been of great value and significant benefit to the Falcons. There is NO WAY Campbell represents greater value than McGovern, Dahl, or Westerman at this point. I hope Chris Chester is ready come September.
ROUND SIX: OT Wes Schweitzer – San Jose State University Grade: B-
This is the textbook meaning of a value pick. This young tackle brings scheme familiarity, nice size, and an aggressive approach to a position that needs depth and talent. Some want to move him inside to guard but Atlanta has issues, whether many want to acknowledge it or not, at the tackle position. Depth is critical for one and uncertainty prevails long term at right tackle.
This was a very solid, safe, scheme-friendly pick.
ROUND SEVEN: WR/KR Devin Fuller – University of California, Los Angeles
The Falcons made TWO value selections in a row!! Elizabeth, I’m coming to join you, honey!!
Good bye and good riddance, Devin Hester. Why they brought you here in the first place is still beyond comprehension. Devin Fuller can run like the wind. But there is a lot to be desired as it relates to being a wide receiver. By all accounts, his hands are unreliable, his route running suspect at best, and his technique poor. He IS NOT coming to Atlanta to be a receiver though.
But…speed, speed, speed. If he can reign in the ball, shift those gears, hitting 0 to 40 in 4.39m then bring him in. Keep Weems for a year as a reserve and mentor then turn this kid loose.
What are your thoughts, opinions, etc. now POST draft?
Do you think this draft class meets Arthur Blank’s desired expectations?
Do you STILL think that Dan Quinn is up to the task of turning this around in Atlanta?
Is an 8-8 record in 2016 enough to save Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta?
What team weakness is now the most improved post draft?
Of Neal or Hopper, which will have the GREATEST impact on the team?
Which of these six players has the MOST difficult road ahead in terms of making this team?