Grading the Draft - Atlanta Falcons

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The Falcons were looking for defensive line help and receiver depth entering the draft. They exited the event with both.

Round 1 (No. 26 overall): Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Round 2 (No. 58): Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

Round 3 (No. 90): Deadrin Senat, DT, South Florida

Round 4 (No. 126): Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss

Round 6 (No. 194): Russell Gage, WR, LSU

Round 6 (No. 200): Foye Oluokun, LB, Yale

UDFA: Kurt Benkert, QB, Virginia; Christian Blake, WR, Northern Illinois; Dontez Byrd, WR, Tennessee Tech; Mackendy Cheridor, DE, Georgia State; Detrich Clark, WR, Colorado State; Secdrick Cooper, S, Louisiana Tech; Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia; Jon Cunningham, DT, Kent State; Emmanuel Ellerbee, OLB, Rice; Matt Gono, OT, Wesley College; Devin Gray, WR, Cincinnati; J.C. Hassenauer, OC, Alabama; Richard Jarvis, OLB, Brown; Lamar Jordan, WR, New Mexico; Chris Lammons, S, South Carolina; Troy Mangen, TE, Ohio; David Marvin, K, Georgia; Daniel Marx, FB, Stanford; Luke McNitt, FB, Nebraska; Joseph Putu, CB, Florida; Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State; Jake Roh, TE, Boise State; Emmanuel Smith, LB, Vanderbilt; Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, DT, UCLA; Salesi Uhatafe, OG, Utah; Malik Williams, RB, Louisville; Anthony Winbush, OLB, Ball State

As we reported in the lead-up to the draft, Da’Ron Payne was the Falcons target in Round 1, and the hope was to move up and select him. But when the Redskins swiped him off the board at No. 15, Atlanta had to reverse course. Many were surprised when Atlanta let Taven Bryan slide past them at No. 26, although I had noted that the team really didn’t like him. They finally settled on receiver Calvin Ridley, who will be a terrific fit. Ridley will be able to line up in the slot for the Falcons and won’t have to deal with press coverage. He’ll be able to use his quickness to separate from defenders and should produce as a rookie.

Isaiah Oliver will add size and talent to the cornerback position and plays the tough, aggressive style the Falcons like. He’s athletic with good upside, and I could see him in nickel packages as a rookie. Oliver was solid value in Round 2 but is by no means a sure thing.

I’m a big fan of Deadrin Senat, and the short, squatty lineman fills a need at defensive tackle. Senat is explosive and tough and finds ways to make plays. I could see the team easing Senat into the lineup as a future replacement for Jack Crawford.

Ito Smith was a bit of a reach in Round 6. He’s a solid prospect with an all-around game, but his lack of quickness and speed is a concern.

Russell Gage brings a lot to special teams and could also line up as a fifth receiver. His punt-return skills could help him snag a roster spot.

Foye Oluokun was a surprise in the last round. He fits the Falcons mold at linebacker as a smallish run-and-chase defender, but I thought better players were available.

The Falcons signed a bunch of UDFAs, and several could make the squad. Demario Richard could battle for the fourth spot at running back with either Daniel Marx or Luke McNitt lining up as the lead blocker. McNitt has more potential as a ball carrier, but Marx is a much better blocker. Matt Gono could compete to be a backup guard and at the very least is practice-squad material.

Analysis: The Falcons did a great job on the first two days, filling needs and getting value. I’m not a big fan of their last-day picks, but Atlanta is consistently fighting for a spot in the NFC title game and the team only needs a few pieces. Grade: B+