As the NFL Draft comes to a close, the Atlanta Falcons are hoping this years draftees can provide a similar immediate impact as last years draft class.
Round Three: Pick 75.
The Selection: Duke Riley, LSU.
With their only draft pick on day two, the Atlanta Falcons decided to take the linebacker from LSU. Fans might have experienced a little deja vu with Atlanta taking fellow LSU linebacker Deion Jones on day two of last years draft. Jones and Riley are similar as both only started one year full time for the Tigers and are both considered “undersized” for the NFL linebacker position. However, with Jones winning the defensive rookie of the year award, if Riley can provide similar impact it would be excellent for the young defense. The initial thought from the Falcons is that Riley will stay at weak side linebacker with first round pick Takkarist Mckinley and perhaps Devondre Campbell playing the defensive end position. All in all, Riley’s speed and quickness play right into Coach Quinn’s system and I believe Riley can be an early impact player much like Deion Jones for the Falcons.
Round Four: Pick 136.
The Selection: Sean Harlow, Oregon State.
On Day three, the Falcons finally took an offensive lineman, certainly later than I expected. However, I like the Harlow pick mainly because of his versatility. Of course, with the retirement of starting guard Chris Chester, the job more than up for grabs. Harlow, along with Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer, have the inside track to win the job in Atlanta. It will be interesting to see who will step up in training camp. With the Falcons trading up to take Mckinley over guard Forrest Lamp, the pressure is on for someone on the line to impress.
Round Five: Pick 149.
The Selection: Damontae Kazee, San Diego State.
The back to back Mountain West defensive player of the year could very well be a steal this late in the draft. The SDSU defensive back has been a starter since his sophomore season and could very well see significant time early for the Falcons. Kazee has great ball skills demonstrated by his seven interception season. It’s likely Damontae will play some nickel corner and maybe even some safety throughout the year. All in all, the Falcons again waited late into the draft for a defensive backfield asset, but everything so far indicates Kazee could be a great late round selection.
Round Five: Pick 156.
The Selection: Brian Hill, Wyoming.
Over the last couple years, the Atlanta Falcons have had great success with mid to late round running back picks. Brian Hill will look to continue this trend. Hill should get the chance to compliment Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as Hill is more of a power runner. The selection of Brian Hill might also foreshadow a backup plan for the future. Freeman is a free agent after the season and Coleman is one the year after. If either Devonta or Tevin choose to go a different direction, Hill could perhaps fill the void. However, that’s a problem for another time. Brian Hill will have to come in and earn his place on a team with great running back depth. In any case, judging from his interview with the AJC, he’s ready for the challenge.
Round Five: Pick 176.
The Selection: Eric Saubert, Drake.
From early indications, the Drake tight end might have a sort of “redshirt season” in 2017. Saubert is very talented but raw coming from an FCS program. With Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper under contract, Eric will have experience to learn from throughout the year. Saubert is an excellent ball catcher but certainly needs some work in blocking schemes. The Atlanta Falcons could look to Saubert in a year or two if he develops and if they choose to not resign Toilolo.
Obviously, to some degree the NFL draft hinges on a little bit of luck. However, these 2017 draftees look to have a solid foundation similar to last year. If this athletes can come in and contribute immediately, the Atlanta Falcons will once again put themselves in an excellent position to succeed. Atlanta is building a fast, hard-nosed defense under Dan Quinn to complement a top-class offensive attack. The Falcons are once again ready to win with the conclusion of the 2017 NFL draft.