Round 1: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
While the Atlanta Falcons had certain positions of need, they went best player available for this selection. Calvin Ridley declared after his junior year to enter himself into the NFL Draft, with many believing he was the best receiver in the draft class. Carolina and Baltimore had the chance to take him but decided to go with other players instead. Ridley adds yet another deadly weapon in this offense. His route-running is about as crisp as any, and he is exceptional for yards after the catch. He has never had a legitimate quarterback besides his freshman year throwing to him, and with Matt Ryan throwing to him in an already dangerous offense, this pick can become pure gold.
Round 2: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Just like Ridley, the Falcons yet again took the best player available in Round 2 of the 2018 Draft. Many believed Oliver was a first-round talent, but somehow saw his name fall to the 58th overall selection. Oliver has the physic and intangibles to be an everyday starter in the NFL, but not his rookie season. With Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford on the outside, Oliver will provide much-needed depth for the unit. What impresses me most about his film is his ability to create pass break-ups in any scenario. He had 32 pass breakups in his three years at Colorado. With receivers becoming taller and stronger, cornerbacks have to be able to match that. Oliver was a steal in the second-round, and he will make a monumental difference for the upcoming years.
Round 3: Deadrin Senat, DT, USF
The Falcons main position of need coming into the draft was defensive tackle, and they finally took one in the third round. Senat looks like the prototypical interior defensive lineman and will provide much needed rotational depth to the unit. Senat had 10.5 tackles for loss, while also notching 6 sacks in his last year at USF. The 315-pound lineman will have to find a quick role on this team, especially stopping the run. The Falcons were decimated by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round of last years’ playoffs, so bringing in Senat could be a great move. Even though I had Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford) higher on my board, Senat still has a chance to play a big role on this defense next season.
Round 4: Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss
The Falcons decided to bring in another running back into the mix when they selected the speedy Ito Smith in the fourth-round. While the Falcons needed a running back, I am not so sure they should have taken Smith this early. With Tevin Coleman entering the final year of his rookie deal, it looks as if the Thomas Dimitroff and the front office will likely not resign him to another deal. Smith has decent vision as a runner and shows patience waiting for his blockers. Southern Miss also used him a lot as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, which is starting to become a trend for all NFL running backs. Smith can be used as a solid change of pace back, but he could have been picked in later rounds.
Round 6: Russell Gage, WR, LSU
Russell Gage will most likely be used primarily on special teams, where he excelled at LSU. Gage is a speed demon and was a nightmare for opposing defenses to keep up with. Gage is fast and athletic and would run many jet sweeps in his last season for the Tigers. He also played gunner on the punt team, and he was one of the best in the nation at it. Expect Gage to come in right away and make a name on the special teams unit.
Round 6: Foyesade Oluokun, S, Yale
It is very hard for late round picks to make an NFL roster. Oluokun is listed as a safety, but might also be used as linebacker depth. Having hybrid players on an NFL roster can make a big difference for any team, so Oluokun has a chance to make the roster. This player obviously fit Dan Quinn’s eye, and he also had a very solid Pro Day. He will be used at depth at LB, but his best chance to make the team is through special teams.
Overall, the Falcons draft class was not sexy, but it still was very solid. The team took players that will help now, while also making a difference in the future. Ridley, Oliver, and Senat should make immediate impacts next season. Ridley will make an already stellar offense even better. Thomas will be much-needed rotational depth, while also defending against big-framed receivers such as Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess, and others. Senat will have to find a way to make his mark in his rookie year, as defensive tackle is still a concern with the departure of Dontari Poe. Smith will fight out a roster spot against third-string running back Terron Ward. Gage will hopefully make a significant impact on special teams, and hopefully, Oluokon can make a roster spot. I will never doubt Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn, as they have aced more drafts than not.
Overall Draft Grade: B+