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Everything You Need to Know About Each Falcons Draft Pick


theProf
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Thomas Dimitroff used Atlanta’s 2016 first round pick on Keanu Nealicon-article-link.gif , who will be expected to assume a crucial role in the Falcons' defensive backfield. Here’s everything you need to know about the talented safety:

  • When watching tape of Neal, one trait sticks out immediately: He knows how to hit. The 6-foot, 211-pounder is the most physical athletes in this draft, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, and is able to utilize that aggressiveness during run and pass situations. Dan Quinn has championed physicality since he came to Flowery Branch, and Neal, who acknowledged he likes to hit with bad intentions, should bring that element to the table.

  • Speaking of Quinn, the Falcons coach is extremely familiar with Neal. Quinn helped recruit the young defensive back to Florida when he was the Gators’ defensive coordinator. According to Neal, the two had a good relationship throughout his recruiting process.

  • Neal’s approach to the game was fostered at an early age. As a kid, he played lots of tackle football with no pads; while attending South Sumter (Bushnell, Fla.), he developed a reputation as one of the most intense young men to ever come through the school.

  • Florida coach Jim McElwain lauded Neal in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s draft, saying, “He’s a guy that’s obviously going to be able to not only cover but going to also come down and play in the box when he’s needed to. He put that on film. Obviously his workouts have been really good as well.”

  • In coverage, Neal often displays impressive instincts and range. The Falcons have struggled to cover tight ends in recent years, and by adding Neal, they should improve in that regard.

  • Neal wasn’t the first athlete at his position taken Thursday—that would be Karl Joseph, who went 14th overall to Oakland—but he appears to be the best safety.

  • Neal’s parents named him after Hollywood star Keanu Reeves because, as he explained, “My brother is a huge fan of Keanu Reeves, so he was like, ‘Keanu.’ (My mother) loved it and it stuck.” Neal’s friends eventually nicknamed him “The Matrix,” but he recently admitted he’s not a Reeves fan and “didn’t really like” the sci-fi blockbuster.

  • Football runs in Neal’s family: His older brother, Clinton Hart, played safety in parts of seven NFL campaigns for the Chargers, Eagles and Rams.

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After trading back three spots to No. 52 overall, Atlanta bolstered its linebacking corps by selecting LSU’s Deion Jones. Here’s what you need to know about the newest Falcon:

  • Jones fills a big need for the Falcons, who entered Friday short on starting-caliber outside linebackers. The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder is the No. 6 OLB in this year’s draft class, according to CBS Sports, and should fit into Atlanta’s scheme thanks to his speed, athleticism, coverage ability and open-field tackling.

  • Many believe speed is Jones’ biggest strength. At LSU’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash and clocked in at 4.38 and 4.42 seconds. While his 40 time at the combine (4.59) was disappointing, he knew he could do much better when given the opportunity in Baton Rouge “We went back and trained, and we were like, ‘That’s not us, bro,’” he told ESPN.

  • More on his speed: LSU coach Les Miles recently said this about Jones: “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.”

  • Few players improved their stock more than Jones in 2015. A relatively unknown commodity before his senior campaign, the New Orleans native led LSU in tackles last year (100) and tackles for loss (13.5). He also chipped in six quarterback hurries, five sacks and a forced fumble. Those numbers helped him earn LSU’s defensive MVP honors.

  • Jones ascended so fast in 2015 that he was named a finalist for the Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the best linebacker in college football.

  • The Falcons showed a lot of interest in Jones leading up Friday. As we noted in our pre-draft visit tracker, Atlanta met with him during the Senior Bowl and conducted a private workout with the 21-year-old in March.

  • Like Keanu Nealicon-article-link.gif, Jones plugs a big hole on defense and has the skill set to be a three-down player. Another similarity the two have is leadership. Jones was a permanent defensive last season for the Tigers even though he entered the year with just one start on D.

  • Some believe Jones deserved to go much higher than No. 52. In ESPN NFL Nation’s mock draft, he was projected to land in Arizona at No. 29 overall. Josh Weinfuss, ESPN’s Cardinals reporter, said Jones has “the size and speed to immediately come in and be an impact player,” adding that he “also has the ability to cover receivers and tight ends in space.”

  • Before becoming a starter on defense, Jones built a reputation as a special teams ace. His willingness to play on kick and punt coverage, even when he’s needed on D, speaks to his mindset on the field. “I’m not a selfish person, so it’s more like if they need me to play special teams, then I will play special teams. Simple as that,” Jones said in November. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win.”

  • Jones’ dad named him after Falcons legend Deion Sanders. His nickname is “Debo”—a combination of Deion and Bo, as in Bo Jackson. Not a bad combination.

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Atlanta improved its tight end group Friday drafting Stanford’s Austin Hoopericon-article-link.gif No. 81 overall. Here’s what you need to know about the newest Falcon:

  • Hooper is the latest of many Stanford tight ends to go pro. Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Atlanta’s own Levine Toiloloicon-article-link.gif are among the other Cardinals to reach the NFL. There’s a reason why people in California refer to the school as Tight End U.

  • Stanford runs a pro-style offense that, according to Hooper, closely resembles the Falcons’ system. This should help him transition to the next level and begin to grasp Kyle Shanahan’s playbook.

  • With excellent hand-eye coordination, and impressive speed for his size and good separation ability, Hooper has grown into a valuable pass-catcher. He tallied 937 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 74 receptions at Stanford.

  • In addition to being fast, Hooper possesses another trait Quinn loves: “I’m very physical,” Hooper said at the combine. “I grew up playing defensive line my whole life until I came to college, so the physical side of the game of football isn’t something that scares me in the slightest. I feel confident with my abilities and, hopefully, a team does, too.”
  • Hooper’s hands, which measure at 10 ⅝ inches, rank in the 93rd percentile among NFL tight ends, according to mockdraftables.com. General manager Thomas Dimitroff noted the third-rounder’s hand size as an important feature.

  • The Falcons know they have to improve in the red zone, and Hooper, who scored eight touchdowns at Stanford, should help in that regard. Dimitroff said Friday that Hooper’s work inside the 20 was a big factor in the drafting process.

  • With only 24 college games under his belt, Hooper is viewed as something of a project. That’s to be expected when a redshirt sophomore decides to enter the draft. His ceiling is high, though, and that made him worthy of a Day 2 pick and, according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, the No. 2 TE in this class. With Jacob Tammeicon-article-link.gif signed through 2016, Hooper won’t be pushed into action while he learns the ropes and fine-tunes his game.

  • Hooper is considered a solid run blocker, which should help him get a healthy number of snaps as a rookie.

  • Hooper attended De La Salle High School, running back Terron Wardicon-article-link.gif’s alma mater.

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Atlanta continued to add to its 2016 Rookie Club on Saturday by drafting linebacker De’Vondre Campbell in the fourth round, No. 115 overall. Here’s what you need to know about the newest Falcon:

  • Campbell played his college ball at Minnesota and finished 2015 with 92 tackles (6.5 for loss), a team-high four sacks, an interception and a forced fumble en route to an All-Big Ten honorable mention.

  • Like the three draft picks before him, Campbell is considered fast for his position. He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine, the third-best time among linebackers who participated. His height (6-foot-4) ranks in the 89th percentile among linebackers, and his arms, 33 ⅝ inches long, are in the 88th percentile at his position.

  • Campbell has spent this offseason in Orlando training with former Falcon Chuck Smith. The two have been working on the pass rush together, and according to Smith, Campbell "doesn't make the same mistake twice," adding that he's a strong learning and challenges the other guys he works with.
  • Here’s what Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys had to say about Campbell: “De’Vondre is a big, fast, athletic linebacker who can cover a lot of field and make plays. You cannot teach height and speed and he has plenty of both. His best football is still ahead of him and with the right fit he could have tremendous success at the next level.”

  • Scouts agree that Campbell’s best days are in the future. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said the linebacker “is just scratching the surface of his potential.” SB Nation's Dan Kadar believes "he's got everything you want in an athletic pass rushing linebacker. From a tools standpoint, Campbell has all the ones you want: He's long with speed and good movement skills."

  • Campbell made a strong impression at this year's East-West Shrine Game. Here's USA Today's Cory Mull report from that event: "When he hit the field for the West squad on Tuesday, just four days away from the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, you could see the obvious characteristics that most NFL teams crave on Sundays: height, size, speed, length and athletic ability."
  • Two of his seasons as a Gopher were spent with Ra’Shede Hageman. On Friday, Campbell said the Atlanta defensive tackle was one of his role models at Minnesota.

  • Campbell believes his biggest strength is versatility. When speaking with the Atlanta media, he said he can play all three linebacker positions, line up in nickel situations, rush the passer and cover running backs, slot receivers and tight ends.

  • Like Deion Jonesicon-article-link.gif, Campbell was tabbed by Atlanta to play weakside linebacker and contribute on special teams.

  • Jones was named after former Falcon Deion Sanders, and Campbell shares a hometown with the Hall of Fame cornerback: Fort Myers, Fla.

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Atlanta continued to add to its 2016 Rookie Club on Saturday by drafting offensive guard Wes Schweitzer in the sixth round, No. 195 overall. Here’s what you need to know about the newest Falcon:

  • Schweitzer was a star wrestler in high school and made it to the 2010 Arizona state wrestling championships. Success on the gridiron, however, didn't come easily for him. As a junior at Chaparral High (Scottsdale, Ariz.), he was a 189-pound tight end who didn’t get much playing time. He was receiving minimal interest from colleges, so he started working with a strength coach and gained a whopping 80 pounds before his senior season.

  • After adding bulk, Schweitzer transitioned to offensive line, where he emerged as a starter. Multiple outlets listed him as a first team all-city and all-region player. Even though his added weight helped him see the field, colleges weren’t showing him much interested as graduation approached. So he decided to apply for the Marines. He never enlisted, though, because when he went in for his physical, Schweitzer got an offer to play for New Mexico. San Jose State offered him shortly thereafter.

  • While at SJSU, Schweitzer played for Keith Carter, who’s now the Falcons’ assistant offensive line coach. He started 38 straight games for the Spartans and was a team captain in 2015.

  • Schweitzer told the Falcons media that SJSU employs a zone blocking scheme similar to Atlanta’s, which should help the sixth-rounder adjust to his new team.

  • Schweitzer majored in biochemistry at SJSU. He hopes to get his PhD in chemistry and eventually go into research. Not surprisingly, he scored an impressive 31 on the Wonderlic test.

  • This is the second consecutive year the Falcons have drafted a player out of San Jose State. Last spring, Atlanta selected cornerback Akeem Kingicon-article-link.gif in the seventh round.

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Atlanta continued to add to its 2016 Rookie Club on Saturday by drafting wide receiver Devin Fullericon-article-link.gif in the seventh round, No. 238 overall. Here’s what you need to know about the newest Falcon:

  • Fuller came to UCLA as a four-star quarterback recruit but switched to wideout as a freshman. As a Bruin, he tallied 1,322 receiving yards on 146 receptions and 10 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 200-pounder made his mark on offense by running vertical routes and breaking free on screen passes.

  • Like almost every other member of Atlanta’s 2016 draft class, Fuller is known for his speed. The 21-year-old ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash during his pro day, and when talking to the Falcons media, he said that time wasn’t a fluke.

  • Fuller is considered one of the best kick/punt returners available in this year’s class. In 2015, he averaged 11.8 yards per punt return on 12 tries; he also earned 411 kickoff return yards on 17 attempts, a 24.2 average.

  • Fuller said he grew up a Miami Hurricanes fan and has always dreamed of becoming a player like Devin Hestericon-article-link.gif. Now, as a member of the Falcons, he’ll get a chance to learn from the best kick/punt returner in league history.

  • He received numerous academic and athletic honors while in college: In 2013, Fuller was an All Pa-12 honorable mention; he also made it onto the UCLA athletic director’s honor roll.

  • Fuller spent a portion of his childhood traveling the country with his mom, Cindy Mizelle, a singer who’s toured with Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross.

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One thing about DQ is that he doesn't play mind games... He  has been extremely straight forward with what he wants the team to be and drafted as such -  "Fast and Physical "

Some persons say we ignored pass rush, but if you go back to our mantra after we filled over coverage issues, i didn't see many fast and physical rushers left. 

Loved this draft and am excited to see what else happens this off season. Im crossing my fingers that we bring in an experienced pass rusher, Freeney? 

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Wow, Schweitzer gained 80lbs before his senior year in HS.  Talk about a growth spurt.

Tangent- , but I think this shows why small schools (as a whole) put as many players into the league as big colleges.  Ohio St. Can't afford to recruit a development project, they get the kid who is already 270lbs as a Jr. In HS.  San Jose St. gets a later bloomer guy like Schweitzer and lets him grow more during college.  By the end of college, some small college guys have risen above the ceiling of the 5 star recruit from high school that went to a big college and never got much bigger or faster, etc.

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I don't think we have ever had a better draft for the picks we had,, And here's the big Kicker,, The Free agents we picked up before the draft was not only the best we've ever had,, WE had the best haul in the NFL in that area.. THAT IS A BIG DEAL !!!!  Add all these players to the ones we already had here. And I think we will be a top team this year with as good of a chance as any team to go to a SB. But as I say every year. Always a big ,,, If we can keep Ryan healthy and upright. He's the key to our success. I hope we take the Denver road to a SB,, That road is that our O# plays has Ryan getting rid of the ball very quickly... None of that long wait in the pocket to get Ryan killed with O# plays that take way to long to develop .  This is the Key........And exactly how Denver won that Game. 

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10 minutes ago, Draftnut57 said:

I don't think we have ever had a better draft for the picks we had,, And here's the big Kicker,, The Free agents we picked up before the draft was not only the best we've ever had,, WE had the best haul in the NFL in that area.. THAT IS A BIG DEAL !!!!  Add all these players to the ones we already had here. And I think we will be a top team this year with as good of a chance as any team to go to a SB. But as I say every year. Always a big ,,, If we can keep Ryan healthy and upright. He's the key to our success. I hope we take the Denver road to a SB,, That road is that our O# plays has Ryan getting rid of the ball very quickly... None of that long wait in the pocket to get Ryan killed with O# plays that take way to long to develop .  This is the Key........And exactly how Denver won that Game. 

We had some heavy roster turnover and that's what I like about the new regime. Two fast linebacking prospects and an enforcer like Neal ought to stop all those dumpoffs to the TE and Rbs. Can't wait to see Upshaw and Shelby lay the wood.

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Great post OP thnx for sharing the good stuff on all our picks. I love this draft! We had all those hurries last year rushing and now we can better deal with dumpoffs that kept us on the field. It was blaring last year how bad our lb play was.

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Well done OP!

Reading about how young each one is and how Atlanta is tapping guys who haven't even reached their full potential just makes me really excited. 

With our free agency and this haul, we have a chance to make very long strides in improving our teams talent level.

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5 hours ago, sdogg said:

Great post. I really like this draft.

 

5 hours ago, HillbillyFalcon said:

Prof,Thanks for putting this together, I think we can clearly see DQ's vision of the team he wants. We are headed in the right direction

 

5 hours ago, xSICKxWITHxITx said:

Thanks, good post.

 

5 hours ago, The Great American said:

Good stuff!!

 

4 hours ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

Nice read, thanks for the post   Love this draft

 

4 hours ago, Tim Mazetti said:

Excellent post.................AND draft!

 

4 hours ago, toadfishtom said:

interesting stuff , good information . thank you sir

 

4 hours ago, blkbigdog35 said:

Thanks OP for the information! I think this was a good draft.

 

3 hours ago, Canadian Jesus said:

Great consolidated post. +1

 

3 hours ago, Absolute said:

Great post.  Thanks!

 

2 hours ago, Charles Wright said:

Great post OP thnx for sharing the good stuff on all our picks. I love this draft!

 

1 hour ago, gazoo said:

Dynamite stuff Prof, thanks for posting all that.

 

1 hour ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

Well done OP!

 

1 hour ago, Road Warrior said:

Appreciate you putting this together....  I feel better about the draft already.  

 

1 hour ago, dardan said:

Good stuff.  Thanks, OP.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Quinn does with these guys.

Well I certainly appreciate all the thanks and accolades, but you're giving me far too much credit. The credit really belongs to Andrew Hirsh of AtlantaFalcons.com who wrote some good and informative articles on each of Atlanta's draft choices. All I did was copied and pasted them over here. My initial dilemma was whether to post each article individually, or to make one long post  incorporating all six articles into one. I think a composite of all the articles into one gave a better overall perspective and continuity to the Falcons 2016 draft. However, it did make the one composite post extremely long. So thanks for taking the time to read through it all and sharing your thoughts thereon.

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