The obvious position of need for the Falcons is a pass-rusher. Everyone knows that. Hell, I bet even Kroy Bierman is in favor for Atlanta to draft someone better than him at his position. So that begs the question, which prospect should Atlanta choose between the talented players to draft? Realistically, the Falcons will have the chance to choose between Vic Beasley, Shane Ray, Bud Dupree, or Randy Gregory. Those four players have the best overall chance to succeed in the NFL at their position compared to the others in the draft class. With such a top-heavy position, we will go more in depth between the young and talented prospects.
The first prospect we will go in depth on is Vic Beasley, outside linebacker, out of Clemson. Beasley was beastly during his tenure playing for the Tigers. The outside linebacker played in 13 games while totaling 21.5 tackles for loss with 12 sacks. He also had 13 sacks his junior year, reaching 25 sacks in 2 years. The even more impressive part about his play was that he was double-teamed during most of his games he played in. Dan Quinn and the Falcons defensive coaches could mold this prospect into something special. His play is compared to Seahawks pass-rushing specialist, Bruce Irvin. He is a perfect fit for the “Leo” linebacker position that Quinn utilized in Seattle. Some NFL experts believe Beasley needs to put on more weight to become successful in the league, but his combine numbers did not disappoint. Running a 4.53 40-yard dash shows his quick speed, and benching 225 pounds 35 times on bench press shows his strength. He has very flexible hips, quick feet, and is always first off the snap. He needs to become more vocal as a player and more of a leader on the football field. There are so many more positives to this man’s future in the NFL, and whoever drafts this prospect is getting a true talent.
Shane Ray is a prospect that has been on Atlanta’s radar for a while now. The 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year totaled 14.5 sacks in 2014, which was the school record at Missouri. He also totaled 22.5 tackles for loss and caused two forced fumbles. One question mark regarding Ray is his durability. There are rumors that he has a toe that could require surgery, which could cause him to miss 3-5 months. Atlanta can’t afford that. Luckily for Ray, the foot specialist he saw said he probably will not need to have surgery. However, he will have to ease into football drills. Another thing may that raise concern among NFL coaches was late hit on Blake Sims during the 2014 SEC Championship. Look, we know targeting is somewhat absurd in College Football, but Ray knew very well what the rules were and him being ejected really hurt his team. Nevertheless, during his time in Missouri, he was about as explosive as any player in the country. He can change his direction very quickly, has excellent hands and feet, and excellent with controlling his lower and upper body. Missouri produces a lot of talented defensive ends, but Ray is different from the others. He has the potential to be great, but also has the potential to be a bust. He sometimes will take plays off, does not have a variety of pass-rushing moves, and sometimes gets pummeled by the bigger tackles he had to go against. A very quick and athletic pass-rusher, Ray should be getting looks by NFL teams in the top 10. He has drawn comparisons to Baltimore ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Bud Dupree is an interesting prospect to say the least. He comes from a Kentucky team that has seen minimal success, but he was by far the most talented player on the roster. He is bigger and has more weight than most of the players at his position. He is 6’4’’ and 269 lbs, while possessing 32 5/8’’ arms. Dupree is very versatile, never really settling into playing one position for the Wildcats. The coaches at Kentucky salivated over Dupree’s explosiveness. Dupree is one of the most explosive pass-rushers, if not the most, in the 2015 draft class. His go to move is the bull-rush, and most offensive lineman he faced had a tough time against it. He also will fake rush to the outside and quickly slip inside to beat his competition. His downfall is that he is not the best at bending the edge after getting a first-step on the offensive tackles. He can beat them, but he sometimes can not turn his body and hips to the quarterback, making him over-run the play. Dupree needs to improve his technique and flexibility. NFL coaches should be able to help out with that cause, so it should not cause a red-flag. He had 23.5 sacks in his career at Kentucky, so he does know how to hit the quaterback. Being an explosive and athletic freak that needs to settle into one position, Dupree should be taken off the board in the first round.
The final prospect that Atlanta could realistically draft is Randy Gregory out of Nebraska. Gregory has a very unique and diverse set of pass-rushing moves to his arsenal. He played two years in a Nebraska uniform, and had 17.5 sacks. He was always centered on the opposition’s game plan because he is a physical and athletic freak. His diverse skill set as an edge rusher include his power, speed, and technique he uses on offensive tackles. At one point, Gregory was being talked about being a top 3 draft pick, but he failed a drug test at the combine for marijuana. His lack of weight and his off the field issues have hurt his stock as of late as well. Many NFL organizations do not tolerate off the field issues, so Gregory will need to leave those issues in the past. Gregory is a very raw prospect that can be coached up to improve his game, because he has an unlimited amount of potential.
After looking in-depth on these four edge rushers, it’s very hard to choose between them. All four of them have a chance to succeed in the NFL, but who will succeed the most? Having the chance to miss out on a great player is always in the back of a general manager’s mind when they draft. If I was in charge of choosing between these four, I would have to take Vic Beasley. His potential is off the charts, his on the field play is incredible, and he is very respectable off the field. The man has publicly stated he wants to be a Falcon, and grew up in Georgia. Having a special player that wants to play for your team is always a positive. I am not knocking down the other three prospects, but Vic Beasley has my vote if he is waiting to be picked if Atlanta is on the clock.