Thomas Dimitroff used Atlanta's 2016 first round pick on Keanu Neal, who will be expected to assume a crucial role in the Falcons' defensive backfield. Here's everything you need to know about the talented safety:
When watching tape of Neal, one trait sticks out immediately: He knows how to hit. The 6-foot, 211-pounder is the most physical athletes in this draft, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, and is able to utilize that aggressiveness during run and pass situations. Dan Quinn has championed physicality since he came to Flowery Branch, and Neal, who acknowledged he likes to hit with bad intentions, should bring that element to the table.
Speaking of Quinn, the Falcons coach is extremely familiar with Neal. Quinn helped recruit the young defensive back to Florida when he was the Gators' defensive coordinator. According to Neal, the two had a good relationship throughout his recruiting process.
Neal's approach to the game was fostered at an early age. As a kid, he played lots of tackle football with no pads; while attending South Sumter (Bushnell, Fla.), he developed a reputation as one of the most intense young men to ever come through the school.
Florida coach Jim McElwain lauded Neal in the weeks leading up to Thursday's draft, saying, "He's a guy that's obviously going to be able to not only cover but going to also come down and play in the box when he's needed to. He put that on film. Obviously his workouts have been really good as well."
In coverage, Neal often displays impressive instincts and range. The Falcons have struggled to cover tight ends in recent years, and by adding Neal, they should improve in that regard.
Neal wasn't the first athlete at his position taken Thursday—that would be Karl Joseph, who went 14th overall to Oakland—but he appears to be the best safety.
Neal's parents named him after Hollywood star Keanu Reeves because, as he explained, "My brother is a huge fan of Keanu Reeves, so he was like, 'Keanu.' (My mother) loved it and it stuck." Neal's friends eventually nicknamed him "The Matrix," but he recently admitted he's not a Reeves fan and "didn't really like" the sci-fi blockbuster.
Football runs in Neal's family: His older brother, Clinton Hart, played safety in parts of seven NFL campaigns for the Chargers, Eagles and Rams.
The Atlanta Falcons selected DB Keanu Neal from the University of Florida with the 17th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.