Although only time will tell how Atlanta’s 2017 draft class will grade out, this doesn’t stop pundits from revealing their analysis of the picks made over the weekend.
The Falcons received high praise for their six selections of DE Takk McKinley (first round), LB Duke Riley (third round), G Sean Harlow (fourth round), DB Damontae Kazee (fifth round), RB Brian Hill (fifth round) and TE Eric Saubert (fifth round).
Here’s a closer look at the draft grades for Atlanta’s six picks:
NFL.Com: Chad Reuter, Grade: A-
The skinny: “Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley will make it difficult for Tom Brady (or anyone else) to pick apart the Falcons' defense in the second half as he did in the Super Bowl. They chose to given up a third round pick, but it's hard to blame them with the Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers ahead of them -- they were all looking for edge guys. Duke Riley joins former teammate Deion Jones in the linebacking corps, a good pick-up to keep the speed coming. It was a good Day 3 for the Falcons. Sean Harlow is an agile and strong guard who will start right away (which they need). Damontae Kazee is a great value in the fifth round as a tough slot corner. Getting a pass-catcher like tight end Eric Saubert could pay off in a year or two.”
Sports Illustrated: Chris Burker, Grade: B
“The Falcons traded up in Round 1 to nab edge defender Takk McKinley, shipping picks 31, 95 and 249 to Seattle for the 26th spot. They then traded down later to recoup some capital, sending No. 63 to Buffalo for Nos. 75, 149 and 156. McKinley, obviously, is the headliner—he’s working back from shoulder surgery, but his upside opposite Vic Beasley in that front seven intrigued the Falcons enough to make that move for him. Atlanta then added three quality prospects with the picks from Buffalo: LB Duke Riley, CB Damontae Kazee and RB Brian Hill. Both Riley and Kazee are athletic playmakers; none of those guys has a clear path to playing time in 2017. Round 4 guard Sean Harlow should compete to take over the starting job left vacant by Chris Chester’s retirement. “
ESPN: Mel Kiper, Grade: B-
“Atlanta paid a premium in moving up five spots -- a third- and seventh-round pick -- to get a pass-rusher opposite Vic Beasley Jr., but I can't fault the Falcons for identifying and addressing their biggest need. Takkarist McKinley and Beasley are almost identical in size, and both are speedy, explosive guys with high upside. Beasley had 15.5 sacks last season, but no other Falcon had more than 4.5. McKinley will help with that, though his shoulder issues gave at least a couple of teams pause. The Falcons traded out of the second round, picking up two fifth-round picks to drop 12 spots into the third round. The pick was interesting, as Duke Riley replaced Deion Jones as LSU's weakside linebacker last season, and now both could be playing beside each other. Jones, of course, was one of the best rookies in the league in 2016 after moving to middle linebacker, and Atlanta has to hope Riley can replicate some of that success. Riley's 4.58 40 at the combine was the fastest among linebackers.”
“Diminutive cornerback Damontae Kazee (5-10, 184) is a ballhawk -- 15 interceptions over the past two seasons -- and one of my favorite slot corners in the class. I thought tight end Eric Saubert could go early on Day 3, and that's good value in the fifth round.”
*CBS Sports: Pete Prisco, Grade: B *
“The Atlanta Falcons wanted to get an edge rusher, and they got a good one in UCLA Bruins 's Takk McKinley in the first round, which was an outstanding pick. They came back and added a speed linebacker in LSU Tigers 's Duke Riley in the second round and a much-needed guard in Sean Harlow from Oregon State Beavers , who should be the starting right guard. They got faster on defense, which is not a good thing for NFC South quarterbacks.”
*Bleacher Report: Doug Farrar, Grade: B *
"The defending NFC champs have done a marvelous job of drafting defensive players since hiring Quinn in 2015, and that’s no coincidence. He knows what kinds of players work for his defense, and he’s an astute evaluator. Atlanta had four rookie starters on defense in its Super Bowl loss, and the Falcons went back to the well early in this draft. McKinley gives them a great bookend for Vic Beasley, and Riley could see a lot of time in sub-packages."
"Harlow could be a plug-and-play guy from day one, given the team’s current guard situation. Kazee isn’t the biggest cornerback, but he’s always around the ball, and he’ll see some time in the slot. Hill is a power back, and Saubert will need to learn to block at the NFL level. Not a bad haul for a franchise already loaded with talent."