As if things weren’t already pressurized enough for Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn in possessing only five picks in this weekend’s NFL draft, the ante was upped exponentially for them when team owner Arthur Blank said he expected at least three starters for the 2016 season to come out of the upcoming draft class.
That’s high expectations for a team that’s been draft challenged during most of Dimitroff’s tenure in Atlanta. That said, Quinn’s first foray into the draft process in 2015 did provide some promising prospects (Vic Beasley & Grady Jarrett), as well as a few with flaws (Jalen Collins & Tevin Coleman).READ MORE: Americans Are Quitting At Record Rates. Georgia Leads The Pack.
Blank’s edict might be somewhat unrealistic, but putting the gauntlet out there keeps everybody on their toes in making sure the analysis of the talent on hand is locked and loaded.
More than starters, the Falcons need immediate contributors from the draft ranks. There is no longer any room for bringing players on board who are considered projects for the future. It’s all about now….who can hit the ground running from Day 1 and provide help in their respective area on the field.
Here are five players who I think can fit that bill:
1st round – DE Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky) – He’s a legit pass rush beast, which is – as we all know – the biggest need the Falcons have had the last 3-5 years. Yes, there are off the field issues. But Spence is trying to erase those with reports that he has send each and every one of the 32 teams around the NFL his past 20 clean drug test results. And immensely talented and physically imposing player, he was one of Urban Meyer’s top recruits at Ohio State. Spence can immediately help improve the Birds anemic pass rush. Do we really need to know anything else?
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2nd round – S Keanu Neal (Florida) – While everyone is talking about Vernon Hargreaves III (and deservedly so), let’s not forget about the guy who played in the same Gators defensive backfield. Neal is a brick wall who can lay the wood to people. He’s got great athletic ability and is ready to play Day 1 in the NFL. Not to make comparisons, but the way he plays, and wearing No. 42, I can’t help but see someone reminiscent of the great former Southern California safety Ronnie Lott. Neal is THAT kind of player.
3rd round – LB Jordan Jenkins (Georgia) – While the Falcons have shown a reluctance to go after local talent in the past, Jenkins would be worth the pick here. He’s a great athlete who can run, cover, and tackle. Jenkins might not grade out to be a big time sack guy, but he has the ability to be a disruptive force in the opposing backfield. Dan Quinn tried to recruit him when he was the defensive coordinator at Florida. While he failed then, he can succeed now.
4th round – OG Joe Dahl (Washington State) – While he missed the second half of the season due to a foot injury, Dahl impressed NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl and the combine. He played left tackle his last two years in Spokane, but NFL teams also can see him playing center and guard. In other words he’s flexible, and that’s an attractive trait to possess. Everything I’ve read about him says he’s a smart, tough dude who’s a very good pass blocker, and someone who will eagerly play through injuries. And then there’s the name. Dahl. Hopefully he’s got some nasty in him like Harvey did.
7th round – TE Jake McGee (Florida) – While not considered flashy, at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds McGee is big and athletic. This is a guy who played quarterback and safety in high school, where he led his team to back-to-back state championships. Looked upon as a being a quality blocker with good receiving skills, McGee isn’t fast, but he’s quick off the line and possesses enough speed to pose match-up problems in the passing game.MORE NEWS: Peloton Shares Fall After Report It Is Pausing Production Of Fitness Equipment