Atlanta Falcons Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn – Round 2
The Falcons have had a defense built on speed and athleticism over the past few years, but they were in need of more size and toughness at the point of attack. Davidson should help those issues immediately as he was tough as nails for Auburn and a real fighter at the point of attack.

For the NFL, Davidson is a physical defender at the point of attack. He is extremely tough and difficult to move in the ground game. He holds his gap well and has the strength to work off blocks. Because of his quality lateral anchor and good leverage, offensive linemen struggle to move Davidson. He takes on and sheds blocks to get in on tackles that help produce quality down-and-distance situations. Davidson has a steady motor and doesn’t quit on plays. With his strength, build, good fundamentals, and technique, Davidson should be an asset as a run defender at the next level.

Davidson is a solid contributor to the pass rush, but not a world beater. He lacks elite speed and athleticism off the edge. Davidson has a powerful bull rush and some quickness out of his stance, but he is stiff and can struggle to dip his hips to redirect to the quarterback. As a rusher, he has the versatility to move inside and go against guards. Davidson will probably never be a prolific sacker of the quarterback in the NFL, but he could be a really good complement on the other side from an elite edge rusher.

In Atlanta, Davidson could be a powerful left defensive end to go against right tackles in the base defense and then slide inside to tackle to rush the passer in the sub package. While he may never rack up gaudy sack numbers as a pro, he should become a well-rounded solid starter, just like he was at Auburn.

2019: Kendall Sheffield, CB
2018: Calvin Ridley, WR
2017: Sean Harlow, G
2016: Austin Hooper, TE
2015: Vic Beasley, DE
2014: Jake Matthews, OT
2013: Desmond Trufant, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Matt Hennessy, OT, Temple – Round 3
Last year, the Falcons started to rework their offensive line with the selections of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. They continued the youth movement by taking Hennessy in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft even though they have one of the better centers in the NFL in Alex Mack. Hennessy could start out his career competing at left guard with the likes of James Carpenter. If he does well there, he might end up being the heir apparent to Mack.

The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Hennessy has some upside with athleticism and quickness, but he lacks strength and power. He needs developmental time in a NFL strength and conditioning program, as I believe that he is going to get pushed around by pro linemen until he grows stronger. Given that issue with strength, I think moving him to guard could be a mistake, as I could see tackles overpowering him and him struggling to create movement in the ground game. Of the Falcons’ early-round picks, I could see Hennessy having the highest bust potential.

2019: Kaleb McGary, OT
2018: Ito Smith, RB
2017: Takk McKinley, DE
2016: Deion Jones, LB
2015: Jalen Collins, CB
2014: Dez Southward, S
2013: Levine Toilolo, TE

Potential Boom Pick

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson – Round 1
This was a tough call for me because I did not see any of Atlanta’s prospects as having true boom potential. I went with Terrell, however, because I am a big believer in Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Over his career, Morris has been one of the best defensive back coaches in the NFL, and I believe that he can work with Terrell to tap into his great skill set. Right now, Terrell is a better athlete than football player, possessing an excellent combination of size and speed.

Sources at other teams also felt that Terrell is a better athlete than football player entering the NFL. Hence many had him graded in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft even though they acknowledged he has a first-round skill set. Terrell has good height and length to go along with excellent speed. At the combine, he illustrated that he is very fast with his 4.42-second time in the 40-yard dash. In 2019, Terrell totaled 21 tackles with a pass broken up and two interceptions. He was solid, but unspectacular, for Clemson and then had a rough National Championship Game in which he was repeatedly picked on by LSU.

For pass coverage, Mullen has good size to him and has excellent straight-line speed for a big corner. He is a solid tackler and willing to help in run support. Terrell could stand to improve his route recognition, footwork, and overall technique. He is not overly instinctive, and his route recognition has major room for improvement. In the NFL, Terrell might fit best as a press-man corner.

I could see Morris eventually developing Terrell into a rock solid pro if Terrell works hard and takes to Morris’ coaching. Of the Falcons early-round picks, Terrell has the most boom potential.

2019: Chris Lindstrom, G
2018: Isaiah Oliver, CB
2017: Duke Riley, LB
2016: Keanu Neal, S
2015: Tevin Coleman, RB
2014: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT
2013: Malliciah Goodman, DE

Future Depth Player

Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State – Round 4
The Falcons have dealt with a number of injuries at the linebacker position in recent years, so it made sense for them to add some depth to the inside of their defense. While Walker may not become a starter in the NFL, he is a tough inside linebacker who could be a good rotational run defender and special teams contributor. Walker (6-3, 230) could have some limitations in pass coverage, but he is a sturdy linebacker tackles well. He could rotate into the game in run situations while being a solid backup for Atlanta.

2019: Qadree Ollison, RB
2018: Russell Gage, WR
2017: Brian Hill, RB
2016: De’Vondre Campbell, LB
2015: Justin Hardy, WR
2014: Devonta Freeman, RB
2013: Robert Alford, CB

Walt’s 2020 NFL Draft Grades:

16. A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson – C+ Grade
I’m torn on this grade. On one hand, I really like A.J. Terrell. I think he was underrated by the media because of how poor he was in the national championship versus LSU. What people don’t recognize was that Terrell was playing with a 103-degree fever that day. However, on the other hand, the Falcons needed to trade up to make a splash in an attempt to keep up with the Buccaneers and Saints. Getting a player like Javon Kinlaw would’ve been a nice piece to help them defend Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Terrell will help, but he won’t be as impactful.

47. Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn – B+ Grade
The Falcons finally get their defensive tackle. I thought they would trade up for Javon Kinlaw on Thursday, but perhaps the virtual conditions made that difficult for them. They get a nice consolation prize with Marlon Davidson, a very solid player who wasn’t quite athletic enough to be considered in the first round. Davidson will be needed to pressure Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

78. Matt Hennessy, C/G, Temple – A+ Grade
You love to see the Falcons protecting Matt Ryan. Matt Hennessy can play both guard and center, and he will be able to start at one of the former spots until Alex Mack retires or moves on elsewhere. Hennessy is someone who should’ve been chosen early in the second round, so this is a terrific steal. This is a perfect pick for the Falcons.

119. Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State – D Grade
I’m not going to give this an O’Brien, but I don’t like this pick at all. Mykal Walker is a smart linebacker, but I don’t think he has the physical tools to be someone who can remain in the NFL. I had him in the seventh round.

134. Jaylinn Hawkins, S, California – O’BRIEN Grade
Get ready for some bad grades because ESPN is trash and playing music to appease dumb people who don’t like football. This is a terrible pick. Jaylinn Hawkins was not a draftable prospect. He’s a slow safety who will have to play on special teams if he even makes the roster.

228. Steling Hofrichter, P, Syracuse – C Grade
Punter pick. Meh. The Falcons needed a punter, but they grow on trees.

2020 NFL Draft Team Grade: B- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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