Atlanta Falcons Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson – Round 1
Many are probably surprised that I don’t have Beasley as the boom pick. However, sources from around the league had questions about Beasley’s ability to defend the run in the NFL. A number of teams said that, at least in the early going of his NFL career, Beasley was going to be a liability in run defense and was a front-seven defender who coaches would be hoping wouldn’t be ran at. Moving to outside linebacker from defensive end could help that issue, but the run-defense problems could prevent Beasley from becoming one of the top edge defenders in the NFL. Considering that teams play their nickel defense the majority of the time, Beasley should still be a starter, and with his pass-rush ability, he should be a quality starter at that.

Beasley was a pass-rushing terror for Clemson over the past three seasons. He had big games against good competition, including opponents like Florida State and South Carolina. Beasley is lighting fast off the edge with the agility to dodge blockers and turn the quarterback. He closes on the quarterback in an instant and tackles really struggle to get a hold of him.

In the NFL, I think Beasley is going to be a good pass-rusher who may never have run defense that matches his ability to put pressure on the quarterback. He still should be a quality starter for Atlanta with Pro Bowl potential by virtue of impressive sack totals.

Most Likely To Bust

Jalen Collins, CB, LSU – Round 2
I don’t feel great about this selection because the Falcons have one of the best secondary coaches in the NFL in Raheem Morris and I think that Morris could be the perfect coach to develop Collins while helping him to avoid trouble off the field. Morris went through the growing pains with Aqib Talib in Tampa Bay, and Collins has some of the same hurdles to overcome. Collins (6-1, 203) has a great physical skill set with size and speed. If Morris and head coach Dan Quinn turn Collins into a tough NFL cornerback, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

That being said, Collins is the riskiest selection of the Falcons’ early-rounders. He didn’t play up to his skill set in college and didn’t even start multiple seasons for LSU. Collins also had off-the-field issues with positive drug tests, and sources said that he did a stint in rehab earlier in college. Collins had other off-the-field concerns while Tigers as well. Between his underdeveloped talent and lack of experience combined with the character issues, there are a couple of avenues where you could see Collins not reaching his potential in the NFL.

Potential Boom Pick

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana – Round 3
There were questions about Coleman and a medical issue that impacted his stamina. That led to Coleman sliding to the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but Atlanta is a great landing spot for him, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the medical issues are a minor setback. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Coleman has size with speed to break any carry for a long gain.

At Indiana, Coleman was a steady source of long runs. He routinely hit holes and exploded down the field for huge gains. The junior averaged 7.5 yards per carry for 2,036 yards with 15 touchdowns in 2014. With Devonta Freeman there to spell him, Coleman could continue to be a big-play weapon in the NFL.

Atlanta is a good landing spot for Coleman as teams will be more cognizant to line their safeties up deep to defend Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing attack. Against seven-man fronts, Coleman could do a lot of damage for Atlanta. I wouldn’t be surprised if Coleman helps the Falcons re-establish a ground element like they had when Michael Turner was there to supply the ground offense.

Future Depth Player

Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina – Round 4
Hardy was a favorite wide receiver among a lot of scouts around the NFL. He didn’t have elite speed or size (5-10, 190), but he was able to get the job done well at East Carolina. Last year, Hardy recorded 121 catches for 1,494 yards and 10 touchdowns. He battled hard when he faced good competition, and scouts say that Hardy is just a football player who they feel has the ability to overcome some weaknesses. They felt that Hardy could turn into a solid No. 3 receiver and rotational backup. They said, in some ways, they could see Hardy being like a Cecil Shorts- or Nate Washington-type receiver. The Falcons could use a player like that after losing Harry Douglas in free agency and with Roddy White aging. I think Hardy is going to be a good role player for Atlanta.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

8. Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson: A Grade
This is an awesome pick. Vic Beasley had the talent to be a top-five selection, so the Falcons are getting a slight steal with the eighth-overall pick. Beasley also fits exactly what the Falcons were looking for from a scheme and athletic standpoint. Oh, and most importantly, he fills a huge need. The Falcons had absolutely no pass rush last year, which was disastrous in a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and now Jameis Winston. Beasley was a pass-rushing monster for Clemson, and he should automatically improve Atlanta’s defense.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

42. Jalen Collins, CB, LSU: C+ Grade
Dan Quinn wanted a tall cornerback, and Jalen Collins satisfies that. The Falcons love athleticism, and Collins satisfies that. This seems like a great pick for those two reasons, but it’s not. Colliins is not a very good football player, and he has some character issues. There were better options available for the Falcons who would’ve filled bigger needs. Collins could work out, but he has high bust potential.

73. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana: A+ Grade
I love this pick. First of all, Tevin Coleman should’ve gone earlier than this. He could have easily be chosen at the beginning of the previous round, so I think he’s a steal at No. 73. Also, Coleman fills a big need. The Falcons only had Devonta Freeman at running back, and he did not look good last year, so Coleman figures to be an upgrade.

107. Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina: A- Grade
This is a bit surprising to me because Justin Hardy doesn’t possess the sort of athleticism the Falcons look for in their draft prospects. I guess they considered him too good to pass up, as he easily could’ve gone in the third round. Hardy projects as a solid slot receiver, so he should be able to replace Harry Douglas.

137. Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson: A Grade
Grady Jarrett doesn’t provide a need at all for the Falcons, so why the “A” grade? Because he’s a steal here. Grady Jarrett was mocked in the first round by one draft analyst. I thought that was nuts – I had him in the third – but it just goes to show that Jarrett was highly regarded by some. It’s easy to see why; Jarrett has incredible athleticism and upside.

225. Jacob Rodgers, OT, Eastern Washington: C Grade
I didn’t have Jacob Rodgers getting drafted, but this isn’t a bad choice; Rodgers, a productive player at Eastern Washington, has nice athleticism for a 315-pound lineman. He might be able to develop into a swing tackle.

249. Akeem King, S, San Jose State: B Grade
I mocked Akeem King to the Falcons at one point because I thought he was what they were looking for from an athletic standpoint. King has good upside, but he’s a project right now. He has the potential to become a quality depth player at some point.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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