The National Football League does a great job of keeping their sport talked about across all sports media outlets throughout the calendar year. One of the most anticipated off season times for football is the draft. A new influx of talent brought in to either take that team to contender status, or to start a youth movement to respectability.
But the draft is an inexact science. Hits and misses are part of the job. It’s also the biggest smoke screen time of year for general managers and coaches alike. Team needs are obvious to even the most casual observer, but management will do everything in their power to hold their cards close to the vest. What will we hear when the Falcons pick is brought to the podium on Thursday night?
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Since arriving in Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn has preached a clear message for how he wants his team to look– fast and physical. In back to back drafts, the Falcons brain trust (Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff, and Scott Pioli) have done just that. The 2015 draft class began with Vic Beasley, the speedy edge rusher who became the NFL’s 2016 sack leader. Their second round pick from LSU, Jalen Collins, is a big and physical cornerback. Running back Tevin Coleman has become a key contributor in the passing game spelling primary running back Devonta Freeman. Grady Jarrett, the 5th round steal from 2015 and Falcons’ legacy, is a disruptive force on the interior of the defensive line. His play in Super Bowl LI validated what the team saw in him initially.
Then came the 2016 draft class. If you look up the definition of fast and physical, Keanu Neal’s picture will be there. Viewed as a reach by some on draft day, Neal has became the envy of many general managers league wide. Linebacker Deion Jones, another LSU second rounder, flashes tremendous sideline to sideline speed. Neal and Jones contributed 100+ tackles each, and served notice to be careful crossing the middle of the field on game day.
Third round tight end Austin Hooper became a nice red zone target for Matt Ryan. Lastly, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell brought additional speed on the outside, and his instincts improved as the year went on. He’s been another late round gem for Quinn and company. The roster turnover has been swift in two seasons under Quinn, so what will the 2017 draft bring?
As opposed to getting into specific players, let’s just focus on needs. Beasley could use a running mate off the edge. Last season’s starting guard Chris Chester retired, and the Falcons could use a replacement right guard. The defensive and offensive lines have been referenced more than once this offseason. Strengthening the trenches may just be priority number one.
There has been some talk of possible position changes for existing Falcons players (specifically safeties Kemal Ishmael and Ricardo Allen). These position changes may all depend on how the draft shakes out and what new talent is acquired.
That’s a brief overview, but I’ll leave you with this. Trust the process. The new Falcons regime should have instilled confidence in the fan base based on their previous two draft classes. I’m sure draft day 2017 will bring both excitement and disappointment from Falcons fans. Fans too often fall in love with a player leading up to the draft and when that player is passed by, it’s immediately viewed as a failure. Quinn and company should receive the benefit of the doubt on whatever players are added in 2017 via the draft because the track record is becoming a solid one.
With the 31st pick in the 2017 National Football League draft the Atlanta Falcons select… We’ll soon find out.