Four Falcons represent the two teams competing for the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday night.
In the days following last spring's NFL Draft, pundits across America more or less agreed the Falcons came away with an impressive haul. One season isn't enough time to know if those talent evaluators were right, but given what Atlanta's first-year players accomplished in 2015, it's starting to look that way.
Dan Quinn's general philosophies are big reasons why the rookies have fared well so far. As he mentioned in December, he wants his development program to "take every guy as far as they can and say, 'Can you be at your very best?'"
This approach has already made an appreciable difference, as prospects—from a top-10 pick to undrafted up-and-comers—helped the Falcons tremendously in 2015. Here's a look at how each one fared this season:
Vic Beasley, Jr. (first round, eighth overall): The talented pass-rusher out of Clemson showed flashes of brilliance in 2015, finishing with four sacks and 33 QB hurries—both team-highs. Beasley had one of his best showings in Week 16, when he strip-sacked Cam Newton to seal a win over the previously undefeated Panthers. He looked like the eighth-overall pick that day. And by finishing strong, Beasley has set himself up for a breakout campaign in 2016.
Jalen Collins (second round, 42nd overall): A relatively inexperienced prospect when he left LSU, Collins endured his fair share of lumps as a rookie. The coaching staff figured that would happen, though, and understand the value of giving young cornerbacks game experience. The kind of tall, physical DB Quinn likes to utilize, Collins has the raw skills needed to flourish in Atlanta.
Tevin Coleman (third round, 73rd overall): Coleman faced a lot of adversity in 2015 in the form of injuries and costly fumbles, but he had some nice moments, too. The Indiana University alum, who joined Atlanta with a lot of experience in an outside-zone offense, finished with 392 rushing yards on 87 carries, a 4.5 average, and a touchdown. If he can take better care of the football, Coleman should blossom into a solid NFL running back, one who can adequately compliment Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman.
Justin Hardy (fourth round, 107th overall): Hardy was patient during the first few months of the season, during which he remained inactive and committed to learning the Falcons' playbook. When the ECU product got a chance to play, he proved to be a reliable target for Matt Ryan, one who could move the chains as a slot WR. He finished 2015 with 194 receiving yards on 21 catches, a 9.2 average, along with 12 first downs. As he continues to adjust to the pro game, Hardy should become a bigger and bigger presence in Atlanta's offense.
Grady Jarrett (fifth round, 137th overall): Many draft pundits couldn't believe Jarrett fell to the fifth round, and it's easy to see why. The stocky defensive tackle out of Clemson finished with the second-best Pro Football Focus grade on Atlanta's defense, behind only Jonathan Babineaux, and was undoubtedly the team's most consistent rookie. He was also one of the league's best at defending the rush, as evident by his 12.4 run stop percentage—good for fourth among qualifying DTs.
Akeem King (seventh round, 249th overall): King spent a lot of time on the practice squad but got a few chances as the year wore on. He played 16 regular season snaps and could provide depth at S/CB as he improves his mechanics and grows more accustomed to the speed of NFL receivers.
Robensen Therezie (undrafted): After a successful career at Auburn, Therezie joined the Falcons as a UDFA signing and quickly worked his way up the depth chart. His interception in Tennessee locked up a win for Atlanta; in total, he made five stops and 27 tackles during 289 defensive snaps.
Terron Ward (undrafted): The Oregon State graduate joined a crowded backfield and earned a roster spot at RB by adapting to Kyle Shanahan's system and exhibiting consistent progress throughout the summer. He finished the year with 73 receiving yards, 95 rushing yards and a touchdown. Ward could remain an option behind Devonta Freeman and Coleman.
Joey Mbu (undrafted): Mbu paid his dues on the practice squad and earned a call-up in December, when he showed why he had such a fruitful run at University of Houston. He made four stops and registered two QB hurries on just 55 snaps on D.