The Atlanta Falcons have spent enormous resources building up their defensive backfield.
The first two picks of Atlanta’s 2013 draft included Desmond Trufant (first round, 22nd overall), Robert Alford (2nd, 60 overall) and Kemal Ishmael (7th, 243 overall), who will relocate to the linebacker corps in 2017. Ricardo Allen was taken in the fifth round (147 overall) of the 2014 draft and Jalen Collins in the second round of the 2015 draft.
General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn added Keanu Neal (1st, 17 overall) prior to the 2016 season and were rewarded with a strong showing from undrafted corner Brian Poole. Two first-, two second-, an undrafted and a fifth-round pick make up the core of Atlanta’s secondary.
All that money and those high draft slots have gone to good use as Pro Football Focus recently ranked the Falcons’ secondary fifth in the NFL.
The Falcons had some young players step up in their secondary last season in Brian Poole, who led all rookie corners in yards per cover snap allowed (0.80), and Keanu Neal who finished as the top graded rookie safety with a 79.5 overall grade. Jalen Collins graded well in his second season during increased playing time, but the Falcons will also return potential top-ten corner Desmond Trufant, who missed the second half of the 2016 season with a pectoral injury. Safety Ricardo Allen was absurdly efficient, giving up just 0.18 receptions per snap, which was the third lowest rate of all safeties while spending more snaps (710) in coverage than any defensive back in the league.
Elsewhere in the NFC South, Tampa Bay was ranked 15th, Carolina 22nd and New Orleans 31st.