Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft Recap/Grade – 2018
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Atlanta Falcons Draft Picks (2018)
Key Positional Needs Entering Draft
- Defensive Tackle
- Offensive Guard
- Defensive End
- Tight End
- Wide Receiver
The ideal situation for an NFL team to be in during the draft is when that team is in a position to draft the best player available instead of reaching for a need. This is exactly what the Atlanta Falcons were able to do in the 2018 NFL Draft as they passed up on the need for a player in the trenches and selected the best player on their draft board in Calvin Ridley. The WR1 in my draft rankings fell to the Falcons at pick 26 which upgrades an offense that was already one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. Ridley’s pristine route running coupled with his explosiveness after the catch makes him a perfect complement to All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones and possession receiver Mohammed Sanu. Second round pick, cornerback Isaiah Oliver is not one of my favorites at the position but he has the length and the size/speed combination that Dan Quinn covets. The Falcons love to target guys that fit in their cover 3 scheme even if they are not the best from a technical standpoint. The Oliver pick reminds me a lot of the Atlanta Falcons 2015 second round selection, Jalen Collins. The Falcons finally addressed their biggest need in the 3rd round with defensive tackle Deadrin Senat. He will play next to Grady Jarrett on early downs and help replace Dontari Poe to sure up the Atlanta Falcons run defense. The rest of the Falcons’ selections will be key special teams players. The player to watch is LSU’s Russell Gage as he is garnering comparisons to Matthew Slater for his special team prowess.
It has to be the talented Mr Ridley. Some draft evaluators were down on Ridley as his production at Alabama left a lot to be desired and his combine numbers did not impress the SPARQ community. Here is my rebuttal. The Alabama passing offense has zapped many pass catchers (including Ridley) of their production due to the nature of running the football heavily and not having the requisite quarterback talent to get the ball out to the perimeter. Alabama’s quarterback Jalen Hurts was a run first quarterback that lacked the decision making and arm talent to help pass catchers i.e O.J. Howard. And for the SPARQ community… Ridley’s poor athletic testing doesn’t show up on film as he is the cleanest route runner in the draft that wins with a quick release from the line of scrimmage and ability to get open anywhere on the field.
Fantasy Football Implications
The only player in the Falcons draft class of note for fantasy purposes is Ridley. On the surface Ridley landed in an excellent position to be the next fantasy star with former MVP Matt Ryan as his quarterback and a superstar receiver to take coverage away from him. Dynasty owners should grab Ridley as the first rookie receiver off the board but I will temper expectations in Year 1. The Falcons just have too many mouths to feed in their offense and if they want to get back to their prolific 2016 output, they need to get back to relying on running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. There will be many one-on-one opportunities for Ridley to exploit but he will be more of a boom or bust prospect in his rookie season.