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Roundtable: Evaluating the WR Draft Prospects

Several writers had Laquon Treadwell as an option for the Falcons at No. 17 this week. If Atlanta decides to go with a WR in the first round, what qualities do you want the WR to have knowing they will likely be expected to play right away opposite of Julio Jones?

Andrew Hirsh: If the Falcons draft a wide receiver and want him to chip in immediately, that player will need to be someone who's willing to soak in knowledge from veterans. Atlanta's offense is somewhat complex for WRs since they're expected to line up at a variety of spots, and listening to older players—especially Jones—can make a huge difference in 2016. Last summer, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Jones all complimented Justin Hardy's willingness to sit down and listen, and it helped him become a contributor in the second half of his rookie season. Other newcomers will have to do the same.

Kelsey Conway: We all know that any player the Falcons draft will be fast, so that's a given. What I am looking for is a player who is physical, who just beats up defensive backs on the outside. The more physical the receiver, the better in my opinion. Look at Julio Jones for example. Part of what makes him so great is the physical style in which he plays with. Can you get past a cornerback holding and grabbing you? Can you play through pain? All of the questions circle back to a player's toughness, and I believe that is key for any player who wants to play in Atlanta's offense.

Jay Adams: The way things seem to be shaking out in the early stages of free agency make something like this more and more of a possibility. Whether it's Treadwell or another of the top NFL Draft wide receivers available, they will definitely have to come in and contribute right away. Conventional thinking on young wide receivers, however, is that they need three years to develop in the NFL. There are exceptions. Look at Amari Cooper. He came in and set the league on fire right away with the Raiders. But Amari Coopers are rare, so if you're looking for someone on the offensive side with this pick, the front office will make sure it's someone who exhibits the same qualities as Cooper and other young receivers who have made an impact early.

Who do you believe is the best WR in the draft?

AH: Treadwell, simply because he has the physical tools, body of work and competitive edge needed to become a star in the NFL. I'm not sure any other WR prospect can say that.

KC: Will Fuller. I watched his highlights, and wow is he fast. I heard all about his speed after his exceptional Combine showing, and his ability to beat defenders and create separation is impressive. The numbers he posted at Notre Dame in just the 2015 season are exceptional: 62 receptions for 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns. "Fuller has the type of functional speed that can win deep and free teammates up in the intermediate passing game," Lance Zierlein of said of Fuller. That's exactly what the Falcons need in a WR right now, and I think Fuller is not only the best WR in this year's draft class, he's also seems to be the best WR fit for Atlanta and, oh by the way, he said he wants to catch passes from Matt Ryan.

JA: At 6-2, 221, you've gotta go with Treadwell here. He's got average speed for his size but his ability to just go up and get the ball is similar to that of Julio Jones. Speaking of, can you imagine Jones on one side and Treadwell on the other? Defensive coordinators wouldn't enjoy that very much, especially when you'd also have to pay attention to Justin Hardy in the slot.

Some people believe a tall, lengthy WR is necessary for a player to be successful at this position in the NFL, but more and more teams are showing the smaller, shiftier WR's can also make big impacts in today's game. Knowing Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff's emphasis on speed, do you believe height is something to seriously consider when evaluating draft prospects?

AH: As guys like Steve Smith have shown, good height isn't needed to be a star wideout in the NFL. That said, for shorter WRs to succeed at the highest level, they need to compensate with speed, good hands, separation ability, intelligence and, like Smith, a warrior mentality.

KC: I think height is nice to have, but not necessary. Speed and solid hands are more important to me than height. It doesn't matter how good a player looks. If he can't catch the ball consistently and can't break away from a defender to stretch the field, it doesn't matter how tall he is. Also, I think when answering this question it's important to look at who is on the current roster at this position. For example, the Falcons don't necessarily need a tall WR because Julio Jones is 6-3; they get height and a lot of other great things from him. I think you do need at least one receiver on your roster, but not a multitude if they don't posses the other qualities I mentioned above.

JA: It depends on what you're trying to get out of that player. If you want a speedster who can stretch the field on the opposite side of Julio, you may want a more compact guy who can get down the field. If you're looking for a Julio clone, you're looking for height over speed. It's rare when the two combine together in one player (and Julio is one of those rare guys). My gut tells me height won't come into play much with whatever decision the Falcons make at this position. It's going to be all about speed — someone who can really move down the field, create separation and garner a safety's attention to keep Julio as clean as possible.

If you were the person picking for the Falcons right now, who would you take and why?

AH: If he's available, Shaq Lawson is still my pick. While the Falcons used their first-round pick on a Clemson pass-rusher last spring, adding another—one who's big, physical and put up great numbers in college—could make a huge impact long-term. Atlanta has been at or near the bottom in sack totals for the past few seasons, and disrupting quarterbacks more effectively is a top priority for Dan Quinn. Lawson could be a tremendous help in that regard.

KC: This is going to change based off what the Falcons do in free agency this week, but right now I am going to stick with my pick of LB Reggie Ragland. I've explained it before, but his physical style of play and his ability to lead at such an important position is not something that can be taught. Either a player has it, or they don't. Ragland has shown he can take command of an elite defense, and has been coached by Nick Saban, who has done a great job of preparing his players for the NFL, and Atlanta needs a player who can come in and play right away, and I believe Ragland can.

JA: We are on the doorstep of free agency, so anyone I pick right now could look absolutely silly in a few hours. That being said, I still like Darron Lee out of Ohio State as an outside linebacker. He brings speed and the coverage ability of a safety, which could help in those games when an opponent's tight end is being particularly pesky.

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