The Atlanta Falcons: Post Draft Analysis

SHADOW

by Roddy E. “Seminole Warrior” Nixon, Jr.

Well, the 2017 edition of the NFL’s Annual Selection Meetings, aka the NFL Draft, has come and gone. After a couple of days to assess the workings of the Atlanta front office, we here at Tee Pee Sports decided to take a closer look. The Falcons went into this draft with concerning needs at several positions. Among these were offensive line, defensive line (particularly a defensive end/pass rusher), safety, and linebacker.

TeePeeSports_150Tee Pee Sports will now take a look at the players selected, assign a grade, and give an outlook in regards to anticipated impact on the team. The FINAL OVERALL draft grade assessed to the team by Cocoa Mel and Tee Pee Sports is C+.

The draft could have been better despite an overall weak class in many areas. As you will see, the Falcons did well in some areas and not so good in others. The trade in the first round may have been essential if the player selected TRULY was the man we wanted all the time. Only the shadow knows!!

But this front office has a history, more troubling than productive, of making moves up for players that are more “splash” than “solid”. So, let’s see how it all played out in the eyes of the Tee Pee.


ROUND ONE

DE/OLB Takkarist McKinley – University of California, Los Angeles Grade: A

takThe Falcons HAD to address their pass rush. I hate that they had to move up in the draft to do so but I have no issues with the player they selected. I am going to be this kid’s biggest fan!!

Takkarist McKinney represents an emerging talent. He is filled with an intense degree of pride and dedication. He is driven by something GREATER than football. He wants to succeed not because he stands to make millions in the process. TM has a much higher, more personal reason to represent himself well and leave a legacy. And it is that edge that Tee Pee Sports senses will result in the greatest Falcons pass rusher since John Abraham wore our colors.

TM is still developing his skill set. But make no mistake. It has the potential to be one HELL of a skill set. His game has grown each year during his time at UCLA as has his role. A review of video reflects a player that is a bonified pass rushing specialist. But the same video review indicates that there is still a raw nature to his game in terms of technique. He does not possess a dominate move (i.e., Reggie White’s famous club move) but he still gets to the target.

Quality coaching and improved technique will certainly be essential in developing this talented player. His combination of speed, aggression, and drive can’t be taught. And if properly enhanced, he is going to become one of the league’s most feared defenders. Expect an ascent very similar to that of former first round pick and Deacon Jones Award winner, Vic Beasley. Four to six sacks this season is likely but by year three, double digit sacks each season should be the norm.


ROUND THREE

OLB/ILB Duke Riley – Louisiana State University. Grade: D

rileyThe Falcons needed depth at the linebacker position but to select a special team ace with one year of experience at this point in the draft was not the approach TPS would have taken. First, Riley is an undersized linebacker who put on some twelve pounds just to get to the 232 he was listed at for the NFL Combine. Second, his coverage skills are questionable when one takes a look at the tape. Granted, he has a very quick step and may offer some promise as a blitzing linebacker (evident on tape), the total package is not there. Sure, he followed in the footsteps of former Tiger Deion Jones, TPS does not feel that he is as complete a package as Jones was. Using a third -round selection was not in order here as TPS sees Riley as a future special team linchpin and a quality reserve player.

At this point, given the need and value, Tee Pee Sports would have taken, instead of Riley, Pittsburgh offensive guard Dorian Johnson would have been the choice. Johnson would be an instant plug and play at right guard in his rookie season. In the zone blocking scheme, Johnson displayed, as his tape reflects, solid footwork and solid blocking technique. Further review reflects a solid performance in both pass protection and opening lanes for running backs.

An alternate to Johnson, Tee Pee Sports also considered CB Fabian Moreau from UCLA. Moreau’s 6 foot, 205lb frame and talents would have been great opposite Desmond Trufant and would have allowed me to use the skill set of Robert Alford in his new position, free safety.


ROUND FOUR

OG Sean Harlow – Oregon State University Grade: C+

harlowOffensive line depth had to be addressed in this draft. At this point, Sean Harlow represents a solid pick and quality value at this point. He is a versatile lineman and is capable according to scouting reports of playing all positions along the line. Some reports we here at TPS looked at compared Harlow’s game to that of former New York Giant and current Fox broadcaster, David Diehl. If that is the case, given Diehl’s fifth round selection by the Giants and his ensuing eleven-year career, this may be a quality find. This was a good selection in an overall not too impressive offensive line class.

NOTE: The Falcons are STILL in need of OL depth across the board. 2018 looks to be a better OL class.


ROUND FIVE:

RB Brian Hill – University of Wyoming Grade: B+

hillOutstanding value and a fine pick at this point. The Falcons were hurt several times last season by the lack of size and power when attempting the inside rushing game. Courtesy of the Mountain West Conference, those days may well be over in Atlanta now. Brian Hill is a PERFECT counter to the skill set of Devonta Freeman in the Atlanta rushing attack. The 220 pounder runs with a purpose. There is a little Michael Turner in his game as he can be deceptively effective and hit another gear on sweeps and around the end. Video review of Hill shows a power back that grinds out the tough yards. He is a solid blocker as well. The perfect red-zone compliment for Atlanta and the perfect spell-man for Freeman. Most of all, review of the tape reveals one of the most secure ballhandlers in college football over the past two years.

However, Hill is not the most gifted receiving option. But that is not why we are bringing him to Atlanta. There are a few minor things to clean up in his game but this is a VERY solid pick.


ROUND FIVE:

TE Eric Saubert – Drake University Grade: D

saubertAt this point in any draft, a few chances are taken. Some turn out to be the rare discoveries and others just fade into the twilight. I really do not know what to think of the selection of Eric Saubert. We do not have a lot of depth at tight end; Austin Hooper shows flashes of potential and will have every chance to emerge big time in 2017. Every other tight end on the roster is living on borrowed time.

In the limited film study, TPS noted that Saubert was much more inconsistent than I care to see. There are some things there to build upon. There is nice size and speed. At times, his routes look nice. But….

Here comes that word again – consistency. It’s missing in action too often. We saw easy passes dropped. He saw a lack of effort in blocking too often. Overall game would run hot and cold too easily. Honestly, Tee Pee Sports thinks that the Falcons would have been better off here with perhaps, another offensive line selection.


ROUND FIVE: CB/S Damontae Kazee – San Diego State University Grade: B-

kazeeI love the Mountain West. And for a defense that relies on depth at defensive back, the Falcons found pretty VERY GOOD value here if they are looking for the ultimate “nickel” corner. Damontae Kazee is the real deal. He is very solid in slot. DK displays a very nice talent suite; a fine feel for the ball; reads the quarterback well and understands how to attack passing lanes. DK further displays a nice ability to jump routes having secured FIFTEEN interceptions over the last two years. This pick DEFINES value.

So, there you have it. The 2017 edition of what the defending NFC Champions need to address in the eyes of the Tee Pee. Let the discussion, pro or con, now begin….

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203 thoughts on “The Atlanta Falcons: Post Draft Analysis

    1. JB Falcon

      It ain’t dead until it quits breathing. The excitement and enthusiasm this year seems to be the highest I’ve seen so this zone will probably the most active ever.

      Reply
    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      Dewey – Does Hill really have that kind of agility? Have to say that I haven’t seen much of Hill on tape but maybe he’s more “LeGarrette Blount”?

      Reply
    2. Hamad Meander

      Brian Hill might be my favorite draft pick in this class. Seems like he was a good value in the 5th round. Highlight Reel is fun to watch:

      There’s lots of good tough running inside the tackles there. I like it.

      Reply
      1. Mr B

        He has good feet, and is shifty, and can turn it up field and packs a punch, and goes N-S….He runs high though, might be why his scouting report does not call him a “power” back, I never saw him get down low behind his shoulder pads…Runs a little like OJ Simpson.

        Reply
  1. just "little ole" me

    I think it might have been JWW who was asking about LB Jermaine Grace out of Miami. He is not listed on the Falcons website, but his is listed on Sportrac.com as having signed a UDFA contract with Atlanta. Not sure what the deal is. I guess we will have to watch for him at Rookie mini camp in a few days.

    Reply
    1. John Waynesworld

      JLOM, he’s on the roster page but not much else. He’s one of those “non-angels” that Dim was hinting about. Jermaine is very fast, but he’s another short LB (6’0″). He has alot of hometown praise for his game. Maybe there’s a Flowery Branch press brown-out on him because he’s a bit tainted.

      Reply
      1. just "little ole" me

        I will have to see if I can find it again, but seems like I read somewhere that he was projected as a second day pick before being dismissed from the program in Miami. If I remember correctly the article also said that the dismissal came down from the Athletic office not from the coaches.

        Reply
  2. Flo-Ri-Duh

    Damontae Kazee (CB) is on Mel Kiper’s early-impact rookie’s list. In the past two seasons Kazee has recorded 15 INT’s and “catches the ball like a receiver. His ball-hawking ability could make Kazee a contributor for the Falcons right away. I think he’ll have a better NFL career than some of these CB’s drafted in the second round. He will be a solid slot corner for the Falcons. Kazee has real nice ball skills and he’s a very quick underneath guy, aggressive and comes up to support the run very well. He also has a knack for locating the ball. He’s smart.” (atlantafalcons.com)

    * I’m expecting Kazee to replace Poole as the starting “slot corner”.

    Reply
    1. Grits Blitz

      Flo – If we’re upgrading, then it will be a must! Got to be able to do better than Poole. Really going to be pulling for Kazee! (Just call me crazy for KZ.)

      Reply
  3. Flo-Ri-Duh

    Headed to Atlanta – Dr. appointment tuesday – just a checkup. Visiting a friend battling cancer tonight – also in Atlanta area. Keep it REAL in The Cage!

    Reply
    1. Hamad Meander

      If you find yourself around Ponce De Leon Avenue, let me know Flo. I’d buy you a drink. Or a hamburger.

      Reply
      1. ajarnbangkapi

        I am in Winder, if you’re headed near this area happy to buy you a Coke or a minute or something. He’ll break up the trip.

        Reply
        1. Grits Blitz

          ajarn – When asking Flo earlier, he told me he was not frequenting Colorado, and didn’t do any drugs, inc. Coke (i.e. cocaine)! Anyway, rumor has it he may be having a power lunch with Quinn before returning homeward to discuss TD and Cromwell replacement possibilities for the future! We need a rep. from the Cage in the FO…

          Reply
          1. ajarnbangkapi

            Gritz;

            I would have to take him out for coke (either kind) none in the house. Just milk, water, juice, tea (several versions) and some wine for special occasions. I DO know (or knew), where hash huts were available fo the use of tourists – near the Golden triangle, near Khun Sa’s old stomping grounds.

            I wish him luck for the perch in the branch. I would LOVE to get a gig in there, working with the rookies and coaches teaching how t talk, train, communicate effectively, etc.

            I actually don’t live that far away from Flowery Branch, and would love to have a seat at the table. Maybe AB’s eyes and ears??????

        2. Grits Blitz

          ajarn – Would love for you to be the 20-20 eyes of The Cage at The Branch and in the FO! Remember in the movie, The Waterboy? He started at the bottom, was recognized, and made his way to the top of the hit parade. Any gig will do to get a foothold. (Worked for Cromwell in Henry VIII’s court…)

          Reply
          1. ajarnbangkapi

            Gritz – Outstanding insert of history there – Cromwell, Henry VIII, well done (just reading a fictional account of some of the finer details of Agincourt, shockingly relevant reference to English history).

            Now waiting for AB to make a “let them eat cake” reference at Benzberg, a visit by madam guillotene to the branch as the turk wanders the halls during training camp, the march thru the 16 game season being described as journey of a thousand miles (beginning with that first step into Matty’s Icehouse), on and on.

      2. Grits Blitz

        Hamad – Now you know Flo is more a caviar guy. (Known to carry some with him at all times.)

        Reply
        1. Hamad Meander

          His mock drafts are like caviar to the cage. Gritz – wouldn’t it be fun to be a Cager in Flowery Branch especially in the war room? I heard a rumor this week that a certain NFL GM that works here just moved into my neighborhood. If you don’t think I’ll be dropping mocks into his mailbox next spring……

          Reply
  4. John Waynesworld

    Here’s how I think the whole Draft played out…

    Round One: Quinn had a top 3 wish list of pass rushers and any one of them that reached the mid 20s was their target to reach. CHECK

    Round Two: It’s very possible that Safety was the target but only if certain names fell to us. They didn’t and neither did Lamp. I don’t think they expected Lamp to fall to #63. Feeney may have been a possibility but he was snagged just before our pick. Decision made…trade back & get picks. CHECK

    Round Three: With the trade back 12 spots, maybe Quinn’s looking at a few Secondary players (again) but I believe here is where he made a decision change. In the previous 74 picks, Quinn saw CAR & NO pick up playmakers at RB in McCaffrey & Alvin Kamara. In fact, Kamara was picked just a few spots before at #67, so Quinn knew he was going to face some fast, shifty runners and needed a speedy LB to catch them near the LOS before they really get going. Quinn may have thought about the addition of A.P playing with the Sain’ts as well in this decision. CHECK

    Round Four: With the trade back, Quinn knows he has 3 of his last 4 picks all in the same vicinity (#136, #149 & #156) so he decides to “reach” for Sean Harlow, a Offensive Lineman they knew very well and liked very much but feared he may be taken soon. It could be that Quinn saw several CBs still on the board and thought that he could nail down his Guard position before adding to his Secondary. I believe next to McKinley, the Harlow pick satisfied (or relieved) Quinn the most because I think they really wanted him. CHECK

    Round Five: Damontae Kazee…enough said. This playmaker fell into our laps and we STILL got our Guard. The Falcons Draft Room did a group hug. CHECK

    Round Five: Time to help the offense. Some of us had a feeling we were looking seriously at a RB but some discounted it because of Free & Tevin. The only reasons I thought we might was because of the sheer number of RBs they looked at during the draft process, plus the fact that our #3 RB Ward’s contract was up (and he was basically a less-talented clone of Freeman). I had thought Quinn was looking at James Conner, because of the great note our HC sent the cancer survivor. Turns out Quinn was looking for someone very similar in talent to be his finishing hammer. CHECK

    Round Five: More offense. I think this was a Sark pick, someone for our new OC to mold down the road and pair up with Austin Hooper. Saubert is raw as can be (and no, SW, he couldn’t block a grocery store checkout aisle, lol) but he is a big, athletic prospect with experience all along the LOS as a receiver. CHECK PLEASE

    Reply
  5. Hamad Meander

    JWW – very good read. I enjoyed it. The only thing I find trouble with is the FO thinking that Harlow wouldn’t be available with their last pick in the 5th round. He was not highly graded and the chance of him being there toward the end of the 5th was pretty good. WIth three really good TE prospects on the board still (Jake Butt, George Kittle, and Jordan Leggett) we could have significantly upgraded our TE position instead of adding another body at guard. While I would have preferred a more lineman focused draft, I like Brian Hill and Damontae Kazee and think they are locks to make the team. I’m not very impressed with the Harlow or Saubert picks – nothing again against the guys specifically – more about the value and position at the pick. Not entirely sold on the Duke Riley pick when there were more explosive playmakers available that were bigger, faster, maybe more talented. I really liked both guys unfortunately picked just ahead of Riley in Jordan Willis and Chris Wormley. Ugh. SO close.

    It also brings to mind the thoughts you had about us drafting based on what other teams in our division are doing. Seems to me that would be awfully shortsighted. I’d rather address our deficiencies first before I addressed what other teams in our division were doing. “SQUIRREL!”

    Reply
    1. John Waynesworld

      “He was not highly graded and the chance of him being there toward the end of the 5th was pretty good.”

      HM, that is where we all get caught up…someone else’s projections. I remember in 2013, Belichick drafted a guy in the 3rd round that was projected as a 6th-7th rounder. Duron Harmon was his name. They gave Bill a big “D-” on that one (he is presently their #2 Safety).

      If Mel Kiper said Harlow was a 4th rounder, would we believe that? How about Mike Mayock? McShay? Well there’s 3 guys who never set foot on an NFL field. Maybe we should believe that motley crew of happy nerds over at CBS. Hmmm.

      All I’m saying is that I would have taken Quinn and company at their word if they said Harlow was a 3rd rounder (Fine with me…sign him up!). Why wouldn’t anyone here doubt our Head Coach, given what Quinn has done here in only 2 years?

      Lol at the last sentence, HM. I sure hope our front 4 isn’t yelling “squirrel!” to our back 7 all game long when McCaffrey blows by them with his effortless speed. Fast LBs can take care of that and we got ourselves one more.

      Reply
      1. just "little ole" me

        JWW – not to rain on your parade, but Mayock played for the Steelers and the Giants.

        Reply
  6. Mr B

    It does not matter where they are drafted, it matters how they play, how they contribute, doing what is expected. As i dig into every player we drafted, I in awe that we finally have someone drafting who knows what they wants, they have a strategy. We can quibble about WHAT we should have drafted, but it appears we have a distinct strategy about WHO we draft. We draft speed, and we draft scheme fit, and we draft passion. You can’t go wrong with that plan.

    Reply

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