The Falcons haven’t had a ton of success in the later rounds of the draft. Obviously, there have been home runs over the past couple of decades in the first round. Julio Jones is a first ballot Hall of Famer; Matt Ryan is the greatest quarterback in franchise history. More recently, the club has found All-Pros in the middle part of the first round in Chris Lindstrom and A.J. Terrell, but what about the steals in the middle rounds?
Well, the most prominent gem outside of the first round has to be Grady Jarrett, who is likely headed for the ring of honor when his Falcons career is all said and done. ESPN’s Matt Miller and Jordan Reid actually ranked him as the 26th-biggest steal of the last decade.
A few housekeeping notes from Miller and Reid:
- First-rounders weren’t included, even if they were taken late on Day 1. Undrafted free agents were also excluded since the list would skew in that direction.
- To qualify, a player must have been drafted at least 15 spots — roughly half a round — later than he should have been, and that’s just the floor for the exercise.
Here’s what they said about the Clemson product taken in the 5th round of the 2015 draft cycle:
26. Grady Jarrett, DT
Drafted: No. 137 in 2015 (Atlanta Falcons)
Career stats: 420 tackles and 32.5 sacks in eight seasons
Jarrett’s pre-draft scouting report included the word “undersized,” as he lacked length and strength at the point of attack at 6-foot and 305 pounds. Aaron Donald blazed a trail for undersized interior defenders, but Jarrett also helped prove that smaller interior prospects can make a big NFL impact. His 17.5% pass rush win rate since 2017 ranks third among interior players, and he landed a big three-year extension in 2022 worth over $50 million. — Reid
The Falcons haven’t done right by Grady Jarrett for much of his time in Atlanta, giving him next to no help in the trenches, but all of that changed this offseason.
For the first time in his career, Jarrett will be surrounded by guys of his caliber. Though he’s past his prime, Calais Campbell is still a menacing presence in the trenches. David Onyemata comes over from New Orleans, inking a three-year deal worth north of $30 million. Eddie Goldman returns from retirement, while Lorenzo Carter and Bud Dupree bolster the edge unit. Then, there’s the ascension of Ta’Quon Graham, Arnold Ebiketie, and DeAngelo Malone.
Grady Jarrett has never played with a defensive front as talented and deep as he will in 2023. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when he puts up career numbers.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire