As a team focused on developing prospects for long-term success, the Falcons put together their latest draft class with the future in mind. But that doesn't mean Atlanta's first-year players won't be major contributors in 2016.
Three selections in particular have the experience and skill set needed to step in right away: Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Austin Hooper—all of whom appeared on NFL.com's top 100 rookie list.
Coming off two strong years at Stanford, Hooper earned the No. 71 spot. NFL.com's Chase Goodbread expects him to eventually become Atlanta's starting tight end and "bring more of a vertical threat to the position." With good length, reliable hands and the ability to maneuver through traffic in the red zone, he has the tools to make a smooth transition to the pros.
Jones is pegged a few spots ahead at No. 67. "The Falcons had a linebacker need," Goodbread wrote, "and wouldn't have taken him No. 52 overall if they weren't willing to let him learn on the fly." Jones could quickly earn snaps at inside linebacker thanks to his unique speed and athleticism.
Unsurprisingly, Neal is the highest-rated Falcon on this list, coming in at No. 32. Per Goodbread, the strong safety "has the football intelligence to be a commanding presence in the Atlanta secondary."
Atlanta's entire rookie class will have a chance to prove its worth Monday when OTAs begin at Flowery Branch.