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Myles Jack Injury: Updates on NFL Prospect's Recovery from Knee Surgery


Jack Sets Visits with NFL Teams

Friday, April 8

Jason Cole of Bleacher Report reported Jack will visit the San Francisco 49ers this weekend after recent visits with the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens.

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Add Boston College's Justin Simmons to the list of safeties the Falcons are interested in

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic on Apr 9, 2016, 9:00a 17 

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Physically, at least, Simmons looks the part.

The Atlanta Falcons are leaving no stone unturned in this draft class when it comes to safeties, and that means looking for projected late round options who might prove to be steals. Enter Justin Simmons.

Simmons is a projected 5th-7th rounder, depending on where you look, with his chief advantages being his length (Dan Quinn is fired about it!) and the major knocks on him having to do with fluidity and ability in coverage. From the limited amount of Simmons I've seen, I'd suggest that he's better than the projections give him credit for, and if the Falcons whiff on the likes of Darian Thompson and Keanu Neal early on, he'd be a high-upside selection late. We'll see how interested the Falcons are in less than three weeks, but I'm not opposed to Simmons at all.

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Falcons worked out Indiana lineman Jason Spriggs on Thursday

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic on Apr 9, 2016, 2:43p 7 

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The athletic tackle is unlikely to be a Falcon, but hey, you never know.

It's a day for tracking workouts, evidently! We'll point you in the direction of a complete list tomorrow morning, but for now, let's take a look at one of yesterday's reported visits that we didn't cover.

Spriggs seems like an odd fit for the Falcons at first (and perhaps even second) glance, because he's a tackle who is widely projected to go in the first three rounds. The only way I could see Atlanta taking him is if A) they think he can play guard at a high level in the NFL, since the team has a need there or B) they're not counting on having Ryan Schraeder after this season, and want his long-term replacement on the roster. As a plus athlete who moves well, Spriggs would be a nice fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense, either way, but I can't say I see him as a likely selection given the team's other needs.

How about you?

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Falcons worked out German wide receiver Moritz Boehringer Friday

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic on Apr 9, 2016, 10:35a 15 

More-its? - Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Cool name, real upside, no clue what he'll turn into.

Boehringer is a supremely interesting prospect, albeit one none of us really know much about. His pro day was insanely impressive, his athleticism jumps off the screen at you, and he's got excellent size. Considering he's unlikely to cost a team more than a sixth or seventh round pick, you can see why so many teams are interested in taking him on as a project at wide receiver.

That's the thing, though: He's almost certainly a project. Boehringer simply hasn't played football for all that long, the level of competition in German football is not, shall we say,robust, and there will be a steep learning curve to transfer to the NFL. Even if you're just burning a seventh rounder on him, there's a very good chance that investment won't pay off.

For the Falcons, he'd be a bottom-of-the-roster stash in his first (and perhaps second) year(s), but certainly would be a potential special teams asset with his speed and physicality, and might actually turn into something down the line. As we've seen from previous Falcons drafts, there are worse ways to spend your seventh round picks.

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Will Tyler Starr earn a 2016 role?

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic on Apr 9, 2016, 2:00p 9 

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Impossible, you say? Never.

This is such a ridiculous, offseason-centric question that I actually laughed while I was typing the headline. That doesn't mean that it's not a valid one, however.

Tyler Starr had some very intriguing measurables in the 2014 draft, but he went in the seventh round because he was a project, one that would need to be built up by an engaged coaching staff into a legitimate NFL player. He's spent each of the last two seasons primarily on the practice squad


Starr was so hyped in certain quarters as a seventh round pick in 2014 that he was almost destined to be considered a failure, but after spending two seasons quietly waiting in the wings and getting to play in exactly one regular season game, he enters 2016 with a legitimate chance at a role. The linebacker corps is far from settled, for one thing, and Starr is a legitimate athlete at a position group that has very few of those.

Starr isn't guaranteed a roster spot, much less a significant role, but if he's legitimately improved over the last two seasons, he may actually get some playing time on special teams and as a reserve linebacker. The team is starved for long-term help on both fronts, so we'll hope that Starr is up to the task.

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6 hours ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

Someone needs to run out and replenish their Geritol...:lol: Now back to off season news

The fact that you have to resort to Geritol shows yet again how lame you really are. These poor fans just haven't realized just what a self involved, condescending, lying P.O.S. you really are. I'm sure they'll find out soon enough when they see your 3rd party ********. What? You give that up because you ruined the best forum on these boards with the help of your third person ********? Or, you didn't and are just waiting to spring it on 'em when you start telling them this is YOUR message board and you're the Alpha Chicken?

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12 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

I must have really gotten deep into that pirate head of yours (rent free) in RC for you to still follow me around like this.  Now the splinter boards don't even want you...:lol:

Everyone can see why you would NEED to say that. You poor deluded old *******.


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Just now, WhenFalconsWin said:

I'm multi-tasking now. I can watch the Rangers on MLB.Com while still engaging in the AFMBs.  This will increase my prowess on all levels now.  

Not doing a very good job of it either. Why is that not surprising? Posting baseball comments in the new format thread.....

Yeah you're right on top of things, huh? Dizzy old ****!


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21 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

There is more speculation out there that we may be dropping back from #17.  I would do it, we need the extra pick in the 2nd and I think we could land possibly two LBers.  Perfect scenario would be Lee and J. Smith/Floyd/Jones

You were told to keep your worthless opinions in RC. Am I gonna have to report you to the mods like you did to everyone else? Stay back over where you belong! 

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4 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

That was only with you.  If you want to talk football over there I'd more than welcome it.  

Back to Falcons news, is anyone as disappointed in Jalen Collins as I am right now? 

Hardly!!! That was all encompassing.

You've just been reported dirtbag!

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NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler rooting for 'little brother' on Atlanta Falcons

Apr 15, 2016
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=80&h=80&scale=cro
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Jimmy Butler can only watch when the NBA playoffs begin this weekend, but the Chicago Bulls two-time All-Star still will have something to cheer about despite missing the postseason.

No, it has nothing to do with rooting against LeBron James and the bitter rival Cavs. It has everything to do with pulling for the guy Butler calls his little brother; the guy who will start offseason workouts with the Atlanta Falconscome Monday.

Jimmy Butler, right, on Jordan Leslie: "He's extremely fortunate to have the people that he has in his life, and I'm fortunate to have him in mine. ... That's my best friend." Photo courtesy of Jordan Leslie

Jordan Leslie isn’t a household name just yet, but the former BYU and UTEP wide receiver who went undrafted is trying to earn recognition after spending time on the Falcons’ practice squad last season. Maybe Leslie is a longshot to make the roster, but he was one of 27 Falcons who joined quarterback Matt Ryan for workouts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recently.

"Atlanta will see, man, if they give my guy a shot, he could turn out the way I turned out," Butler said of Leslie. "Look at me. Nobody thought I’d be where I am right now. But the hard work and the dedication, he’s got that. Somebody’s going to see it and somebody’s going to give him a good chance."

The story has been well-documented how Butler was kicked out the house by his mother at age 13 and, without a father, found himself a homeless teen growing up in Houston. Butler bounced around until the summer before his senior year of high school, when he forged a friendship with Leslie during a shooting contest at basketball camp.

"There’s a lot of discrepancy about who won, but I’m going to say I won," Leslie said with a laugh. "He’ll probably say the other thing, but I definitely won. Just put down the facts.

"From then on, we were just kind of best friends. He was a senior, I was a freshman, but you couldn’t tell the difference with the way we pushed each other."

Leslie immediately became well aware of Butler’s living situation.

"So I was like, 'Just come over,' and he came over and stayed the night just about every night," Leslie said. "I kept asking my mom, 'Can he stay another night? Can he stay another night?' And then finally I was like, 'Can he live with us?' I have a lot of respect for my mom, because that’s kind of a big thing, to take in another person. That’s more bills. That’s more food. But she has a great heart."

Michelle Lambert and Jimmy Butler. Courtesy Michelle Lambert

Leslie’s mother, Michelle Lambert, had three children with Leslie’s father, who died. Then she married Michael Lambert, who had three kids of his own, and the couple had another child. Add Butler to the mix and you had a whole squad.

Butler stayed with the family throughout his time attending junior college in Texas. He went on to star at Marquette and become a first-round draft pick of the Bulls in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Throughout the journey, Butler never neglected the impactful relationship he established with Leslie.

"I love him to death," Butler said. "He’s extremely fortunate to have the people that he has in his life, and I’m fortunate to have him in mine. I think the brotherhood that we have, we’re always there for each other when one of us needs to talk or when one of us needs anything. That’s big. That’s my best friend."

Butler's meteoric rise resulted in a five-year, $92 million contract last summer. Leslie signed a futures contract with the Falcons in January worth a non-guaranteed $450,000 this season and $540,000 next season.

Leslie’s time on the practice squad a year ago included cameos as Allen Robinson (Jacksonville), Ted Ginn Jr. (Carolina), Brandin Cooks (New Orleans) on the scout team to give cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alfordgood looks.

"Honestly, I enjoyed it a lot," Leslie said. "I’ve been to several organizations. I was on Jacksonville for a week and was with Minnesota for the whole preseason, minicamp. Atlanta was one of the best places I’ve been. The coaching staff was just relaxed, and you could tell they really care about the players.


"Getting to learn from the greatest receiver in the NFL right now in Julio Jonesis always something I look forward to. One thing about Julio is he’s just God-given. His work ethic is great. Plus he’s really detailed in his route-running. That’s something I can pick his brain about: how to get in and out of cuts better."

Butler, known as a Broncos fan because of his friendship with Demaryius Thomas, has no problem doubling as a Falcons fan -- for now.

"I know Matt Ryan is the quarterback, I know they’ve got a **** of a receiver in Julio Jones, and I know they’ve got a diamond in the rough in Jordan Leslie," Butler said. "My advice to Jordan is just to keep working, trust the process, fall in love with the game, and let God handle everything.

"People overlooked me, too. That’s fine. You’ve got to understand that it happens. But when you get that shot and you get that chance, you make the most of it. Jordan’s always going to compete. I’ve known that since Day 1. And the Atlanta Falcons are going to find that out about him real soon."

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WR Julio Jones on 2015 Atlanta Falcons offense: 'We really didn't have an identity'

But Jones says he believes in Falcons second-year OC Kyle Shanahan

By ARTHUR ARKUSH -- aarkush@profootballweekly.comPublished: April 19, 2016 — 2:38 p.m.Updated: April 19, 2016 — 2:39 p.m.

Pro Football Weekly  


Julio Jones was his usual brilliant self in 2015. The rest of the Falcons passing game left a lot to be desired.

Jones took note of the lack of aerial continuty, saying Tuesday that the first year in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense was too nondescript.

"I believe in everything [Shanahan] puts in, Jones said, via ESPN. "But my thing was being consistent and going out there and knowing what we were going to do."

Jones said the Falcons offense "didn't really have an identity," and although the team stats in passing and total offense don't show a major drop-off from the last year under Dirk Koetter, the red zone was one source of greater futility, as Atlanta fell from No. 5 to No. 17 and tied with the Giants for most red-zone turnovers despite having the physically dominant Jones.

Quarterback Matt Ryan admitted last season to being a bit "overwhelmed" in Shanahan's scheme, but like Jones, he said Tuesday he's fully committed to his coach and thinks the familarity in Year Two will help the Falcons greatly.

"I think, certainly, I'm going to be much more familiar with what we're doing as we head into this next season than I was last year," said Ryan, whose 89.0 passer rating and 21 touchdowns were the lowest totals since his second year in the league.

"That's part of it when you're playing a new offense. There were some things that were different. You don't have quite as much experience with some of those things."

Ryan pointed to better execution and understanding of how to maximize each player's skill set, something Shanahan and his staff are hard at work attempting to correct.

"I'm excited that he's back," Ryan said. "I'm glad to be in Year Two in this system. I think we've learned a lot in Year One — a lot about each other, a lot about the guys that we have in our locker room, a lot about what we can be and a lot about what we don't need to be.

"And I'm looking forward to winning a lot of games with Kyle here as our offensive coordinator. I think a lot of guys in our locker room feel that way."

The way we see it

In fairness to Shanahan, he rarely worked with a full deck last year, when Roddy White was injured and declining, Ryan seemed to struggle in key moments and no other consistent threats in the passing game emerged alongside Jones.

We expect a rebound from Ryan and much better showing from the Atlanta offense overall in Shanahan's second season. His scheme takes time to master and bringing in guys like Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu should help the Falcons soar again, particularly given Mack's experience in the coordinator's zone-blocking scheme from their days in Cleveland. They'll have to or statements like the one from Jones on Tuesday will be much tougher to sweep under the rug this time next year.

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GM: Falcons not interested in Josh Norman




Apr 21, 5:44 PM
At least one team can already be crossed off the list of potential suitors for Josh Norman.

Just one day after the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag from the All-Pro cornerback, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Thursday that his team isn't interested in Norman.

"We are not going in that direction," Dimitroff said, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Atlanta was considered a fit for Norman's services in the hours after he officially hit the open market. Given the salary-cap constraints, however, it always appeared unlikely the Falcons would be able to match the lucrative offers he'll almost certainly receive elsewhere.

Norman, who is coming off a season in which he earned both Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors, is the rare player to become an unrestricted free agent at this stage in the offseason.

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NFL rumors: Are Atlanta Falcons a likely landing spot for ex-New England Patriots DT Dominique Easley?




Nine days since his release, former New England Patriots first-round pick Dominique Easley has yet to find a new NFL home.

According to The Boston Herald, Easley will likely wait for the draft to play out and then take visits to any teams that are interested.

One potential suitor: The Atlanta Falcons. Easley's defensive coordinator at Florida, Dan Quinn, is the team's head coach.

"He is a fantastic competitor," Quinn said, via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Honestly, a guy I have great history with. We've talked since he's been released. We'll kind of leave it there. There's nothing to report today. He's someone that I think the world of."

Easley, an explosive interior pass rusher, was cut after just two seasons with the Patriots. He has endured two ACL surgeries since 2010. His attitude has also been under scrutiny for the past week. No teams submitted a waiver claim for Easley, making him an unrestricted free agent.

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Atlanta Falcons: Can they really find three starters in the draft?


by Colin Hubbard5 hours agoFollow @__chubs__

Blogging Dirty  


Atlanta Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank said that he wanted to get three starters out of the 2016 NFL draft. While that’s exactly what they need to happen, it just isn’t feasible whatsoever and here’s why.

At the end of the day, the NFL draft is a lottery. There is never a guarantee that who the Falcons draft will turn out to be a good NFL player. No matter how many tests and tape a scout can watch, they will never be able to see the future and determine how good their career will be.

Let’s take Kam Chancellor for instance. The Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft.  He was never supposed to be as good as he is now and that’s why drafting is never a sure thing.

Realistically the Falcons will get just one starter out of the 2016 draft and that will be from their first-round pick. Whoever Atlanta selects in that round whether they trade down or not will likely get tabbed as the week 1 starter but after that it’s a crap Shute.

If the Falcons draft a safety in the second round then there’s a good chance that they get tabbed as the starter as well but to think that Atlanta will hit three homeruns in this draft with only five picks to work with is absurd.

If drafting three starters a year was as easy as that, everyone in the NFL would be a lot better than they are. There wouldn’t be any bad teams but here we are year after year and we still have the same old bottom feeders as the year before.

If Atlanta trades back, that will give them the best chance to secure three starters. If they don’t trade back, getting three starters won’t happen. And let’s remember something else. Just because the Falcons tab a rookie as a starter doesn’t mean they will be good. It’s never ideal to start a rookie right out of the gate and if Atlanta is starting multiple rookies that won’t be very good.

Atlanta needs a lot of things to fall into place if they want to walk out of this draft with a smile on their face.

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5 Biggest Games On Atlanta Falcons’ 2016 NFL Schedule


Taylor Sturm



After a 5-0 start to the 2015 season, the Atlanta Falcons finished 8-8. Six of these losses came within a stretch from the start of November to the middle of December, including their bye week. With expectations high once again in 2016, Atlanta will have an opportunity to make it to the playoffs. Here are the five biggest games on the Falcons’ schedule.

Sept. 11 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


A victory in this NFC South showdown in Week 1 at home could be just what this team needs to set the tone for the rest of the year.

Oct. 2 vs. Carolina Panthers


The road to winning the NFC South starts with at least splitting the series with the Carolina Panthers.

Oct. 23 vs. San Diego Chargers


Although a clearly winnable game, the Falcons’ matchup with the Chargers comes before a tough streak that includes the Green Bay Packers at home and then back-to-back road games.

Nov. 13 at Philadelphia Eagles


One of the aforementioned road games is Atlanta’s road matchup with the Eagles which comes right before their bye week. This is a winnable road game that Atlanta could need to keep pace with the Panthers.

Dec. 24 at Carolina Panthers


The Falcons’ road matchup with the Panthers could see the NFC South crown on the line.

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Five NFL general managers on the hot seat entering the draft




While the players that are drafted get the majority of the attention during the NFL draft, the executives who draft them are being watched just as closely.

If the general managers take the wrong players and draft a generally unproductive class, they quickly become the least popular people in town.

These general managers have all produced too many bad drafts to get any more slack. Their records put them on the hot seat and if their draft classes don’t pay immediate dividends, it’s hard to see any of these GM’s being around for next year’s draft.

Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers

Three years ago, Baalke was the architect of a team that had narrowly lost the Super Bowl and looked poised to be one of the NFL’s best for the better part of a decade.

Things have changed. If we go back only four years, nobody from San Francisco’s 2012 draft class remains on the team. Meanwhile, their rivals (in name only), the Seattle Seahawks, used that draft to acquire Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, among many others.

The 49ers are now solidly one of the NFL’s worst teams. And while CEO Jed York deserves plenty of blame for it, he’s not going to fire himself. On the other hand, Baalke is a prime candidate to be fired if the 2016 season goes bad.

A turnaround will start with a good draft. San Francisco has 12 picks in the upcoming draft, which will give Baalke an adequate chance to reload the roster.

Baalke can’t follow his past models of draft players who are injured and need to be red-shirted. His early picks will have to step in immediately and show that they can play to help rebuild a talent-stricken roster.

Les Snead, Los Angeles Rams

Snead became the Rams general manager in 2012 and has not overseen a lot of improvement.

Their three division rivals, the 49ers, Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals, have all made the playoffs at least twice in that time and won an NFC West championship at least once.

In that same window, the Rams have not qualified for the playoffs and have yet to post more than seven wins in a single season.

They’ve also dealt with instability at the quarterback position, something that no NFL team can realistically win with. This year, he made a bold trade, landing the No. 1 pick from the Tennessee Titans.

That’s certainly a good step, but now he needs that pick to hit. Right now, it looks like the pick will be Cal’s Jared Goff but whether it’s Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, he needs to hit. It will look especially bad for Snead if whatever quarterback he does not take ends up being significantly better than the one he does select.

Snead was bold. Now he needs that boldness to pay off.

Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis Colts

Grigson needs a good draft this weekend. And if you don’t believe that, just ask him.

Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star quoted the general manager, saying: “(We’ve) got to really knock this out of the park.”

Keefer also laid out specifically how bad Grigson’s drafts have gone. It’s not pretty:

“Bottom line: They can’t miss as often as they have in years past. For example: None of Grigson’s 12 draft picks on defense before 2015 is currently on the roster. That’ll need to change if this team wants to compete for a world championship any time soon.”

Andrew Luck was the first pick he ever made. That’s worked out, but it was a gimme. Aside from Luck, the best pick Grigson has made was T.Y. Hilton. Unfortunately, those kinds of selections have been few and far between. Instead, disastrous picks like Bjoern Werner in 2013 and Phillip Dorsett last year loom large.

Somehow Grigson needs to improve his defense while also giving Luck adequate protection, something that he has not had since coming to the team.

It’s a tall order but if Grigson doesn’t make significant progress in the 2016 draft, it’s hard to imagine him being around for 2017.

Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons posted winning records in each of Dimitroff’s first five years running the team, making the playoffs four times. In the three subsequent years, Atlanta has seen regression and a lot of it, going a combined 18-30. Not surprisingly, they’ve failed to qualify for the playoffs each year.

Even if it came in the form of a complete second half collapse, Atlanta took some steps forward in 2015, going 8-8. Heading into the draft, Atlanta doesn’t have any gaping holes that need to be filled, so it can take the best player available with pretty much no exceptions. The team just needs impact players.

If the Falcons don’t make the playoffs in 2016, it would be awfully hard for Dimitroff to sell Arthur Blank and the team’s fans that the franchise is heading in the right direction under his watch.

Jerry Reese, New York Giants

Of course, no discussion of regression in the NFL would be complete without bringing up Jerry Reese and the Giants. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the team has not returned to the playoffs. Big Blue has failed to even post a winning record since a nine-win campaign back in 2012.

That’s simply not going to cut it. Giants ownership already showed a willingness to move on from the team’s recent glory days when they fired coach Tom Coughlin. By extension, Reese should be next if things don’t get immediately better.

Even in an NFC East that appears to be winnable, it’s hard to imagine the Giants making significant progress if they don’t significantly upgrade their defense.

While a linebacker would be nice, New York needs to improve in all areas of its defense. Reese simply can’t miss again this year. If he does, then the Giants would be easily justified in looking for a different architect.

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Where The Falcons Can Find Pass-Rush Help After The First Round Of the 2016 NFL Draft


cbslocal.com | April 26, 2016 10:41 AM


The 2016 NFL Draft is just days away as the first round begins Thursday in Chicago. The Atlanta Falcons have five picks and own the 17th-overall pick in the draft. With many holes to fill on the roster, how will they choose to attack the draft?

The Falcons could bolster their linebacker corps, add a safety, continue rebuilding the interior of their offensive line, choose a tight end or even look at the interior of their defensive line. But possibly one of the most glaring weaknesses – remember, Atlanta finished dead last in sacks with just 19 in 2015 – is the need to add pass-rush help.

What happens, however, if the right pass-rusher isn’t available when the Falcons pick at 17? Sure, Atlanta could trade back and add a pick or two to its arsenal. But there are ways to stay at 17, grab a player that fills a different need and then find a pass-rusher later in the draft.

If the Falcons decide to go in a different direction in the first round and don’t select a pass-rusher, here’s how they could fill that need later in the draft:

For the sake of having a placeholder, let’s say the Falcons selected linebacker Darron Lee in the first round at pick No. 17. Lee would fill a desperate need in the middle of Atlanta’s defense, but he’s not enough of a pass-rusher to fix Atlanta’s issue with attacking opposing quarterbacks. Where could the Falcons go later in the draft?

Round 2 (Pick 50)

With the pick of Lee in the first round, Atlanta could turn around in the second and grab former Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun. While Calhoun still needs to add to his pass-rush repertoire and build NFL strength, he notched 10.5 sacks last season after logging eight during his junior season and 7.5 the year prior. He’s a speed rusher that can attack from either side of the defensive line, which adds versatility for head coach Dan Quinn to move pieces around him and let him attack.

Round 3 (Pick 81)

If for some reason the Falcons pass on adding a pass-rusher in the first two rounds, or if they decide to add multiple players who can get after the quarterback, they could look at former Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins. If he lands with Atlanta, Jenkins likely doesn’t have the coverage skills to stay on the field every down, but he’s versatile and can be moved around to take advantage of his abilities as a stand-up rusher or a hand-in-the-dirt attacker. Because of his football IQ and multi-purpose skills, Quinn could find a number of ways to ensure Jenkins thrives.

Round 4 (Pick 115)

While waiting until the fourth round would definitely raise questions with the Falcons’ faithful, former Grand Valley State defensive end Matt Judon could eventually make everyone happy. Judon logged 204 tackles, 34 sacks and 51.5 tackles for loss over his college career with 20 sacks coming last year as he led the country (no matter the level). Judon finished fifth among defensive linemen at the combine with a 4.73-second 40-yard dash. He was also seventh with 30 reps on the bench press and tied for fourth with a 35-inch vertical jump. He’s explosive and could be an absolute steal for the Falcons if he can prove he’s able to wreak havoc above the Division II ranks.

Round 7 (Pick 238)

Outside linebacker Ian Seau could end up as a late-round gem for the Falcons. The nephew of NFL great Junior Seau, this former Nevada star led the Mountain West with 10 sacks last season. Seau has shown fantastic burst and seems to have mastered the entire book of pass-rush moves. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, he might not be big enough to last at defensive end for an entire season in the NFL. But Quinn could surely find ways to utilize him as a pass-rush specialist.

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Falcons knew Keanu Neal could hit, but his coverage skills sold them

11:39 AM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=80&h=80&scale=cro
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons knew he could hit. That was evident from the film Keanu Neal put out during his time at the University of Florida.

But what about in coverage? How would he fare?

A private workout during the pre-draft process answered any concerns the Falcons had before they made Neal the NFL draft's 17th overall selection.

Florida safety Keanu Neal is a big hitter whom the Falcons will employ in a similar fashion to Seattle's Kam Chancellor. Stacy Revere/Getty Images

As part of a 45-minute session alongside Falcons coach Dan Quinn and secondary coach Marquand Manuel, Neal went through a series of drills that focused on his coverage ability in the Cover 3 scheme.

"They tested my backing and breaking from cone to cone,'' Neal said. "Once I finished that, I did some stuff specific to their defense and what they do with the strong safety. One of the drills was like busting to the flat and being able to get there by knowing the specifics of the defense and reacting to the quarterback -- if he's looking toward me I've got to go a certain place, and if he's looking away I've got to go a certain place. Also, if he's breaking me deep, I've got to turn my hips and open up.

"While they did some stuff in the flat, they also did some stuff with me playing in the hook [zone], playing the strong hook and breaking on the quarterback, just to see how fast I react and how fast I can cover ground.''

Neal obviously impressed, which is why the Falcons felt comfortable selecting him in the first round despite him having a second-round grade, according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. Quinn expects Neal to be an immediate impact starter.

A large part of Quinn's confidence in Neal has to do with the coverage skills Neal displayed during that private workout.

"You love to see the guy play in the zone defense, and he played in the middle of the field a lot at Florida, so it's not the same scheme that we employ here,'' Quinn noted. "So we wanted to make sure the ball skills, the movement stuff -- at the workout, you can ask him to have the exact movements he's going to have.''

Quinn firmly believes Neal should help improve the Falcons' ability to cover tight ends. Remember, former Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, at age 34, had a 10-catch, 127-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Falcons in Week 6 last season. And seven different tight ends -- Larry Donnell (Giants), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Texans), Derek Carrier (Redskins), Cameron Brate (Buccaneers),Garrett Celek (49ers), Ed Dickson (Panthers)and Watson had touchdown receptions against the Falcons a year ago, including two apiece by Celek and Watson.


Moving forward, the Falcons have to contend with one of the league's best tight ends twice a year in Carolina'sGreg Olsen along with New Orleans newcomer Coby Fleener and Tampa Bay's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

"Tight ends and [running] backs, that strong safety, that's primarily where we feature him,'' Quinn said. "And when we play those kinds of downs, we have to play really tight, aggressive coverage. You've got to know the matchups that you have at tight end. So, you've got to have a guy who has some length -- whether it's arm length or jumping ability -- that length to be able to defend when guys are running option routes. And he has the ability to do that.''

The 6-foot-1-inch, 211-pound Neal has a 38-inch vertical and 32 3/4-inch arm length.

"I'm a bigger safety,'' Neal said. "But I'm as fast as the smaller guys. I'm as quick as the smaller guys. So, just being a bigger body, being able to handle those guys and not be bullied by big guys in the league, that helps me out a lot.''

In terms of defending the run and playing fast and physical, Quinn had no doubts at all about Neal.

"I knew the hitter was there,'' Quinn said. "And you can see that on the tape. You just pop the tape on and it comes alive.''

Quinn was asked how Neal compares to Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor, who thrived playing Quinn's defensive scheme in Seattle.


"I won't say ... that's a hard guy to compare to, to live up to that standard,'' Quinn said. "But what I can tell you is that on the field, this is an aggressive player. And I love that style. And I know that's what makes zone defense come to life; where guys who are going to catch the ball down in a zone, they better get hit and [the defender] comes there with some bad intentions. On tape, he brings that.''

Neal, who mentioned guys such as the late Sean Taylor, Earl Thomas, Ronnie Lott and Chancellor as hard-hitting safeties he always liked, doesn't want to pattern his game after anyone specifically.

"As far as modeling my game after, I don't model my game after anyone,'' Neal said. "I'm my own player. I want to be the best `me' I can be.''

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NFC South



Atlanta Falcons 
Draft picks: Keanu Neal (No. 17 overall), Deion Jones (No. 52 overall), Austin Hooper No. 81 overall) 
Day 1 grade: A 
Day 2 grade: A 
Overall grade: A 
The skinny: Keanu Neal is scheduled to be a strong safety for the Falcons, flying all over the field and aiding in coverage. That's exactly what they needed. The team found great values in the speedy Jones and athletic tight end Hooper, meeting two big needs.


Carolina Panthers 
Draft picks: Vernon Butler (No. 30 overall), James Bradberry (No. 62 overall), Daryl Worley (No. 77 overall) 
Day 1 grade: C 
Day 2 grade: C- 
Overall grade: C- 
The skinny: I like the potential of Butler, but depth at defensive tackle in this year's draft and the team's existing talent at the position makes me wonder if picking offensive tackle Germain Ifedi or pass rusher Kevin Dodd wouldn't have been a better move. 

The Panthers picked up two defensive backs in the second and third rounds, both with good traits. Some other need areas were left alone, however, like the offensive line. And trading a couple of Day 3 picks was a handsome price to pay to get Worley.


New Orleans Saints 
Draft picks: Sheldon Rankins (No. 12 overall), Michael Thomas (No. 47 overall), Vonn Bell(No. 61 overall) 
Day 1 grade: B 
Day 2 grade: A 
Overall grade: A- 
The skinny: Everyone knew the Saints needed a dynamic interior force that they haven't had since Sedrick Ellis. Rankins should fill that role well. He'll have to prove he can handle his run-stopping duties, however, to be worth this pick. 

I love, love, love the Saints picking two Buckeyes in the second round. I'm not a big fan of giving up a fourth-round pick in this draft, but Bell was a darn good player at pick No. 61. Thomas will be aMarques Colston-type producer in New Orleans.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Draft picks: Vernon Hargreaves (No. 11 overall), Noah Spence (No. 39 overall), Roberto Aguayo (No. 59 overall) 
Day 1 grade: A 
Day 2 grade: C 
Overall grade: B 
The skinny: The Bucs picked up a fourth-round pick, which in this draft is a potential starter. And they got the playmaker they wanted at No. 9 in Hargreaves! You knew the Bucs would pick a pass rusher in this draft, even after signing Robert Ayers. Spence is a good fit for their defense, and fell in the right spot in the draft given his off-field issues. Picking a kicker in the second round will always be questioned, especially when you give up an early fourth-round pick in a deep draft to do so. But he's a darn good kicker -- a position becoming more important with the recent rule changes.

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2016 Atlanta Falcons draft picks: Analysis for every selection

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  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=80&h=80&scale=cro
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Vaughn McClure breaks down the 2016 Atlanta Falcons draft class.


Round 1, pick 17: Keanu Neal, S, Florida | Highlights

My take: My hunch is that Neal was high on the Falcons' board, but it seemed more likely for him to be targeted in a trade-down scenario since Neal got a second-round grade from ESPN draft expert Todd McShay. But the Falcons clearly felt comfortable enough with him to overlook UCLA linebackerMyles Jack and Clemson pass-rusher Shaq Lawson. Neal is a strong safety who can run but can also hit like a linebacker. It's easy to see him playing a Kam Chancellor-type role in the Falcons' Cover 3 scheme. Quinn believes Neal has the ability to cover tight ends, which has been a struggle for the Falcons. Neal, of course, now has to go out and show he has the footwork to cover, which is something he's never proven. And Quinn also believes having Neal's coverage on third down will aid the pass-rush issues. The Falcons needed to address their defensive holes before anything else, and adding Neal helps at least one glaring need in the secondary. The Falcons cut ties with William Moore because he couldn't run the way he used to. And they didn't have confidence in Kemal Ishmael to step in as the starter.

No place like Atlanta: Neal told ESPN.com Thursday afternoon that he would love to get a call from the Falcons. Well, it happened, and Neal is now headed to his desired destination. Here is what he said about the Falcons about a week ago when asked if Atlanta was the best fit: "For me, schematically, yes. I feel like that's a great fit for me and my style of play. The coaching staff is authentic. I can tell they really care about each other and the program. I feel like [secondary coach] Marquand Manuel can really help me out as a person and a player. And Coach Quinn, he's a tremendous head coach. Getting under him, getting under his wing and learning will skyrocket my career."

What's in a name? Neal is named after actor Keanu Reeves, as you might expect. "Everything he's been through, he's stayed humble and grateful," Neal said of Reeves. "He gave all his 'The Matrix' revenue to a charity. Really good dude."

Stacy Revere/Getty Images atl.png?w=110&h=110&transparent=true

Round 2, pick 52: Deion Jones, LB, LSU | Highlights

My take: The Falcons obviously had an interest in Jones from the start based on how closely they monitored him at the Senior Bowl. Then Jones had a private workout with the team, just another indication of the interest level the Falcons had. Although Jones didn't have a lot of starting experience at LSU, his speed is such an asset and something the Falcons sorely need at inside linebacker. In the Cover 3 scheme, Jones' speed can be utilized as he drops in coverage and closes on the ball. What might hurt Jones is he's not the most instinctive player. But again, a team needing improved speed at linebacker just took a significant step. Jones expects to step into a role at weakside linebacker, where the Falcons are unsettled after cutting veteran starter Justin Durant. You wonder if the Falcons had maybe just a little hesitation after taking another LSU player, cornerback Jalen Collins, in the second round last season then seeing Collins struggle as a rookie. They hope Jones doesn't have the same type of rookie experience. Pro Football Focus gave the Falcons a `D' for drafting Jones, saying he misses too many tackles. And scouts around the league say although he has great straight-line speed, Jones might be a little stiff when it comes to coverage.

In the middle of the rivalry: Jones, who is from New Orleans, told ESPN.com during the draft process that his father is a die-hard Saints fan. So it should make matters much more interesting that Jones now plays for the bitter-rival Falcons. "He'll get over it," Jones said of his father. "He won't have a choice." Jones gets to return home in Week 3 of the regular season, when the Falcons and Saints square off on ESPN's Monday Night Football in the 10-year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.

High praise: Here's what LSU coach Les Miles told ESPN.com's Mike Triplett about Jones after he ran that 4.38 at the pro day: "Not a lot of linebackers in history will run like that. That guy may be the fastest linebacker that I personally have been around that had any size to him at all. He’s absolutely the first. That fits into the NFL game as a guy that can move and make plays and has ball skills. He’s going to fit right into the NFL game." Jones was upset about running a 4.59 at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.


Round 3, pick 81: Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford | Highlights


My take: The Falcons obviously needed another red zone threat, particularly with the added defensive attention given to Julio Jones. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Hooper gives the Falcons that type of target. Hooper has long arms and big hands. He's a crafty route runner who should provide a great mismatch in favor of the Falcons. Since he was split outside a lot in college, he didn't have the type of blocking responsibilities he'll have in the NFL. So, expect him to improve his blocking with time. The Falcons might have eyed Arkansas'Hunter Henry, but he came off the board earlier. Hooper has the tools to start immediately in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme, which is likely to have more two-tight ends sets now. Jacob Tamme returns off a 59-catch season.

Stanford connection: Stanford has produced solid tight ends as of late, so the Falcons hope Hooper can follow suit. Those players include Zach Ertz(Eagles) and Coby Fleener (Saints). Current Falcons tight end Levine Toiloloalso played at Stanford. Toilolo can continue to carve out his niche as a blocker, he could stick. Those are not strengths for Hooper and Tamme.

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