Knee Jerk reaction: Grading the Falcons draft class

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For the first time in the Thomas Dimitroff era, the Falcons did not make a trade during the draft. Despite all the noise, they decided to stand pat with their six selections, focusing on their most significant needs defensively. There were some picks that some might have considered reaches, but all of them had a purpose, and if a few of these guys can make an impact in 2020, Atlanta’s defense should be light year’s better. Let’s take a look at the newest members of the Falcons:

A.J. Terrell

I already did a piece grading the Falcons’ first-round selection, but the more time that passes, the more this pick has grown on me. I’m not going to change my grade, but Terrell fills the Falcons’ most glaring need. There are “experts” like Mel Kiper, who viewed this selection as a reach, but there are also reports that several teams had the Clemson corner high on their draft boards. There is no way he was going to make it out of the first round, and the Falcons didn’t want to take any chances moving back. Terrell is a fluid corner possessing terrific instincts that will fit well in Atlanta’s scheme. With him, Isaiah Oliver, and Kendall Sheffield in the fold, the future at the cornerback position is much more encouraging.

Grade: B-

Marlon Davidson

Davidson is without question my favorite selection of this draft class. He’s a 6’3″, 300-pound beast that can do it all on the defensive line. He has the power and quickness to set the edge in the run game as a defensive end but also possesses the size and quickness to wreak havoc as a pass rusher from the defensive tackle position. With his increase in weight coming into the draft, the Falcons probably view him as a running mate for Grady Jarrett on the inside. However, his versatility will be a plus. I expect him to start from day one and immediately be an impact player on the defensive line.

Grade: A

Matt Hennessy

Hennessy is another name we talked about a lot leading up to the draft. The converted offensive tackle from Temple was an excellent pass blocker in college from the center position, and he continued to work his way up draft boards during the draft process. Hennessy shined at the Senior Bowl and performed excellently at the NFL Combine. With Alex Mack still under contract for one more year, Hennessy will begin his pro career competing for the starting job at left guard. It would be awesome if he won the gig outright, but that might be a little far-fetched. However, in the long-term, Hennessy should be an excellent replacement for Alex Mack, whether he leaves after this season or not.

Grade: B

Mykal Walker

Once again, the Falcons addressed their most significant need in the fourth round, drafting Fresno State linebacker, Mykal Walker. Walker is an athletic prospect with fantastic instincts that was a First Team All-Mountain West selection in both of his seasons at Fresno State. Some scouts say he doesn’t play as fast as he tested, but it is impossible to ignore his collegiate production. Walker always seems to be in the right place and is a versatile piece that showed some promising pass-rushing skills as a linebacker. However, at only 230 pounds, I don’t imagine that being much of a factor at the next level. The Falcons took him around the same spot they selected De’Vondre Campbell. If they can get similar production out of him, this will be an A+ selection, but that won’t be easy to replicate.

Grade: C

Jaylinn Hawkins

This is the one selection that was a head-scratcher. With several pass rushers falling into the Falcons lap that could have furthered their depth across the defensive line, which has been dismal for years, they decided to take a backup safety. The Falcons have three starting-caliber safeties on their roster, so Hawkins probably won’t have an impact this season, and who knows when he will. Of the positives, he loves to hit and has a nose for the football, but he lacks the speed to cover wide receivers and may never be good enough in that area to start. It is obvious Dan Quinn liked this guy (judging by his reaction to the pick), so maybe he proves me wrong, but this was my least favorite selection.

Grade: D

Sterling Hofrichter

Some people may not love this pick, but in reality, Hofrichter has a fantastic chance of making the Falcons roster as the starting punter. That’s more than you can say about a lot of seventh-round selections. However, the Falcons might have been able to pick him up as an UDFA and attempted to fill another need — like a return specialist.

Grade: C

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