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'They trust this kid': How the Falcons decided on DeMarcco Hellams in 2023 NFL Draft

The Falcons No. 224 overall pick never disappeared from game to game, and that consistency is what landed him in Atlanta. 

Finding Falcons is a series dedicated to telling the stories of not just the fact that the Falcons decided to draft a specific player, but rather the why behind doing so. Based on exclusive interviews with Falcons position coaches, area scouts and the decision-makers at the top, the Falcons brass details the moments that solidified the decision to draft each of the men who make up their 2023 draft class. For six consecutive weeks, we'll tell those stories.

We've already told the stories of the Falcons first four draft picks: Bijan Robinson, Matthew Bergeron, Zach Harrison and Clark Phillips III. Now, we're into the seventh round, as Atlanta zeros in on a player who's never shied away from competition, DeMarcco Hellams.

By: Tori McElhaney

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Falcons southeast area scout Shepley Heard honed in on DeMarcco Hellams for a few reasons. For starters, the Alabama safety had the right look to him. When Heard saw him in person for the first time, his build lended itself to the physical nature of Hellams' play that Heard had seen on film time and time again.

"You see him close up and you're like, 'Oh yeah, this checks out,'" Heard recalls thinking.

There was also the communication skills that stood out, even Falcons secondary coach Steve Jackson took note of that the first few times he watched film of Hellams. The connection of the Alabama secondary was evident. Hellams was a big part of that.

"You can tell that they played together, they play with a bond," Jackson said. "Just the way you see him play on the field as far as the way he runs to the ball, as far as the way he helps his teammates, just the little things that you're seeing make you think that if you get a chance to get this guy he'll fit right in with our locker room."

What Heard really stuck on, though, was the consistency Hellams has displayed year in and year out. Consistency is something you can't overlook with Hellams, Heard said. It's what has led to his longevity at the college level. Case in point? Playing in all 54 games in his four college seasons. With 28 consecutive starts since 2020 and a whopping 400 career snaps on special teams coverages, Hellams was all over the field for Alabama, all the time.

This is notable because Alabama is a program that has churned out large groups of NFL-level talent in each of Hellams' four years in Tuscaloosa. So, even when Heard wasn't particularly watching Alabama for Hellams, he still took note of him because he was... well... everywhere.

"You don't see these ups and downs with his game," Heard said. "Week to week you don't see these games where he disappears."

That consistency, Heard said, is one of the reasons Hellams had so many starts and successes at Alabama. And it's that consistency that, when it came time to make their first of two seventh-round picks, the Falcons went with someone reliable.


When you get to the seventh round - the No. 224 overall pick no less - you're not necessarily looking for a game changer. If you find one? Great. But the more realistic goal is to find a role player, someone who can come in and fill in depth. You're also looking for someone who has the potential to make a name for themselves on special teams.

Hellams fits this exact mold.

That potential was seen most poignantly in all 108 tackles Hellams made in 2022 alone. Some would say a safety being a team's leading tackler leaves something to be desired, but considering how Alabama liked to use Hellams and the role of support he played in run defense, it makes sense. It also makes sense when considering Hellams knack for chasing down the ball, too.

"Being the leading tackler, especially at safety, you better be smart," Heard said. "You have to be in the right place and you have to have the instincts, which a lot of times are not coachable. For him, knowing where to be at the right time and with the right angle - stuff like that - that's how you become the leading tackler at Alabama."

Heard expounded on this thought, adding that Hellams' urgency is something that stands out. He's not letting up on the back side. He's like a Labrador with a tennis ball: Find ball, chase ball.

"He's relentless to get to the ball," Heard said. "That's how he put up those type of numbers."

It's a mindset, Jackson said, that makes sense for what this Falcons team is within every unit.

"He's got the kind of mentality that we need in this scheme," the secondary coach said.

Through his four years at Alabama, Hellams built up a reputation for himself. One that centers around this idea of consistency and reliability.

"They trust this kid," Heard said of the Alabama program and Hellams. "He can do a lot of different things and that's one thing about Alabama: They're going to ask you to do a lot. He was going to have to play special teams. He was going to have to play defense. With this kid, they trusted the intelligence part."

It's a trust the Falcons found compelling. Compelling enough to pick up Hellams as a role player - they hope - can be just as consistent at the next level. After all, this foundation of reliability was never something that disappeared for Hellams.

"You can tell he fits that toughness, that competitive aspect," Heard concluded. "It showed up in film. It showed up in practice, and it showed up live when you're at games."

Take a look at the 2023 Atlanta Falcons in action during offseason practice, presented by MegaFit Meals.

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