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Finding The Fits: In Loaded Atlanta Draft Class, Grady Jarrett Stands Tall


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http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/nfl-draft-scout/25214980/finding-the-fits-in-loaded-atlanta-draft-class-grady-jarrett-stands-tall

Finding the Fits: In loaded Atlanta draft class, Grady Jarrett stands tall

Atlanta's best fit: DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson, No. 137 overall

From the moment the Atlanta Falcons hired former Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to take over as head coach, it seemed obvious that goal No. 1 would be to add to the pass rush.

Despite fielding two exciting young cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, the Falcons finished dead last in 2014 in pass defense, surrendering an average of 279.9 yards per game. Remember, that's while playing in the NFC South against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers (which due to either talent or scheme) weren't especially effective through the air against most opponents. A big part of Atlanta's struggles against the pass tied into its lack of pass rush. The Falcons finished last in the NFC in sacks with 22, just two more than the No. 32-ranked Cincinnati Bengals in the pass rush department.

In terms of style, speed and immediate impact potential, handpicked LEO defensive end Vic Beasley should provide Atlanta the splashiest debut. His former Clemson teammate Jarrett, however, should provide an equally important impact for the Falcons -- adding the intensity, physicality and selflessness that, frankly, has been missing in Atlanta since the days in which his father, former Falcons' standout linebacker Jesse Tuggle was roaming the field.

Despite terrorizing the ACC with an average of 78 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 13 QB pressures over the past two seasons, Jarrett slipped on draft day because teams were afraid that his size would become a greater detriment in the NFL. There is no denying that at a quarter inch under 6-foot-1 and 304 pounds, Jarrett lacks ideal size. His quick burst off the snap, active hands and high-revving motor, however, make him a nuisance as an interior pass rusher. Quarterbacks seeking to step in the pocket to avoid Atlanta's new speedy edge threat Beasley could often find themselves running right into Jarrett. This is the same formula that has helped other short defensive tackles like Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, Tennessee's Jurrell Casey and St. Louis' Aaron Donald "surprise" in the NFL. Like Jarrett, these undersized defensive tackles play with a chip on their shoulder and entered the league as relatively proven commodities after starring against top competition in college (Georgia, Southern California and Pittsburgh, respectively).

Other thoughts on the Falcons' 2015 draft class:

While Jarrett's build and burst off the ball have drawn comparisons to a cannon ball, Beasley is more of a heat-seeking missile. He may not leave as much rubble in his wake, but Beasley is a finisher, wreaking havoc off the edge due to the extraordinary athleticism he demonstrated throughout his record-setting career with the Tigers as well as the combine.

Like Jarrett, Beasley's size (6-foot-3, 246 pounds) was a concern for some clubs but Quinn enjoyed great success in Seattle with similarly built edge rushers like Cliff Avril (6-3, 260), Bruce Irvin (6-3, 248) and O'Brien Schofield (6-3, 260), who followed Quinn to Atlanta. Beasley may never be as productive against the run as you'd like but he'll likely be among this year's most effective rookie rushers, which makes him an obvious Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

As mentioned previously, Atlanta already has two quality young corners in Trufant and Alford but Quinn learned the value of size at the position in Seattle and few defensive backs boasted Jalen Collins' combination of length (6-1, 203), agility and upside. After starting just 10 games for the Tigers over his collegiate career, Collins is understandably raw but he's a quality fit in Atlanta in part because the Falcons do have the time to develop him.

Roddy White's recent assertion that the Falcons won't be throwing the ball as much in 2015 (Matt Ryan attempted the second most passes in the NFL a year ago) is among the reasons why general manager Thomas Dmitroff's selection of Indiana running back Tevin Coleman made sense in the third round.

Coleman is used to handling a heavy workload, as his eye-popping 2,036 rushing yards a year ago can testify. In terms of style, Coleman (6-1, 210) is the polar opposite of steady second-year pro Devonta Freeman (5-08, 206), who pinballs his way through contact with agility, underrated power and sheer determination. Coleman is a long-strider with big play ability, racking up a staggering 14 touchdowns over his career of at least 40+ yards. Neither is going to remind Quinn of what he left in Seattle with Marshawn Lynch, but the 1-2 punch should give Atlanta the running game to control the tempo and play defense - the same strategy that helped the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks emerge in recent years.

With Ryan, White and the remarkably gifted Julio Jones, the Falcons aren't about to simply ignore its passing game. That's music to the ears of Justin Hardy, a reliable route-runner and hands catcher, who simply left East Carolina as the most productive pass-catcher in major college football history with 387 career receptions. Hardy (5-10, 192) could provide a very similar presence out of the slot as Harry Douglas, who the club released in February in a cost-cutting move. His addition was yet another example of why Dimitroff, Quinn and the Falcons appear to have nabbed one of this year's strongest rookie classes.

sidenote

vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 8h8 hours ago

Falcons newcomer O'Brien Schofield is going to spend some time with @chucksmithnfl over the next month to polish his pass-rush moves

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