Quinn Excited to Develop 2016 Rookie Club

Given Dan Quinn's emphasis on player development, it's not surprising that Atlanta used most of its 2016 draft picks on relatively raw, high-ceiling options.

First-rounder Keanu Neal, still 20 years old, forwent his senior season at Florida. Second-rounder Deion Jones started just 12 games at LSU. Third-rounder Austin Hooper left Stanford after his redshirt sophomore campaign, and fourth-rounder De'Vondre Campbell, who spent three years as a Minnesota Gopher, "is just scratching the surface of his potential," according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein.

All of these rookies possess the traits Atlanta was looking for: athleticism, physicality, competitiveness and, of course, speed. They all appear to fit the club's system, too, whether it be Quinn's defense or Kyle Shanahan's offense.

The Atlanta Falcons selected LB De'Vondre Campbell from University of Minnesota with the 115th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Now, the key is for Atlanta's staff to coach them up and make sure they evolve into polished, NFL-ready contributors.

"That was one of the things when we talked about being together to say, 'Okay, let's look at all the unique things that this player had, the speed, the close, the coverage ability.' And that's one of the things that we enjoy most to see these guys develop," said Quinn.

"We put a plan together to help them do that, and then for them to become like our vision for how good they can be. Sometimes a player may not even know what that vision is, so that's our job to connect the vision to say, 'This is what I think you could become here.' That's really the fun part of the job."

As the No. 17 overall pick, Neal will be expected to lock down a starting job in 2016. One of the biggest storylines of the offseason will be how the strong safety grows in a pro-style defense.

"We say we're a developmental staff and that's our job to take every guy here as far as we can, and Keanu's no different than that," he said. "The competitor that he is, that much we know, and he will work at it. When you have that kind of balance when a guy's really trying to go for it and here the coaches are trying to help develop, usually good things happen."

Beyond the draft class, Atlanta will continue its focus on "Plan D," which involves adding college free agents and helping practice squad members reach their potential. This effort began last year when Quinn hired assistants who focus on those at the bottom of the depth chart.

To help articulate how committed they are to the developmental process, the Falcons decided to make a recruiting video, which articulates how invested they are in helping those who can presently sign anywhere. According to Quinn, the film was shot last season and sent to agents on Saturday morning.

Plan D has already paid dividends: In 2015, three college free agents, Robenson Therezie, Joey Mbu and Terron Ward, made it onto Atlanta's active roster.

"This is a multifaceted Plan D and it's one you don't see that often with coaching staffs," said general manager Thomas Dimitroff. "Dan has taken it and run with it with the staff, and it's not just on the field. There are other elements to it, without getting into specifics ... (it's important) for the agent to be able to see that and understand this isn't just listening, it's to try to get someone in here."

The draftees, college free agents and a number of tryout players will congregate at Flowery Branch on Thursday for the start of rookie minicamp.

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