FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) General manager Thomas Dimitroff and new coach Dan Quinn say the Atlanta Falcons got exactly what they were looking for on the last day of the NFL draft.
”We stayed with our need approach,” Dimitroff said. ”We feel like we pulled off some more players who are going to be really nice contributors to this team.”
Entering the first round on Thursday, the team sorely needed a talented pass rusher to develop into an elite player, and Clemson’s Vic Beasley, the No. 8 overall pick, fits the mold Quinn wants.
Article continues below ...
LSU cornerback Jalen Collins will push right-side cornerback Robert Alford for playing time, and Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, drafted in the fifth round Saturday, beefs up the interior depth.
Atlanta drafted three offensive players, but Quinn’s primary focus is to make the defense – one of the NFL’s worst over the last two years – faster, stronger and more versatile.
Quinn joined the Falcons after two highly successful seasons as defensive coordinator with Seattle and helping the Seahawks win a Super Bowl and two NFC titles.
His hope is to remake Atlanta into a facsimile of Seattle’s defense, arguably the league’s best. That might take more time than Quinn would prefer, but he likes the rebuilding that’s taken place in free agency and the draft.
”This has been the kind of environment I’ve wanted to be a part of,” Quinn said. ”On my second or third day here (in February), I went into a draft meeting with the guys. From that time forward, they’ve helped me get up to speed, and I believe I’ve helped Thomas and the (scouts) have a clear vision of how we can allow the players to play in the very best spots.”
Jarrett will begin as a three-technique tackle behind starter Jonathan Babineaux with his primary competition coming from Ra’Shede Hageman, a second-round pick last year who mostly struggled.
Quinn likes Jarrett’s initial quickness coming out his stance.
”As a defensive (lineman), if you can beat the guy to the punch as an inside player, that’s when you can be really disruptive,” Quinn said. His ”strength comes out, too. He’s going to play a single-gap scheme with us where he can penetrate and be disruptive. That’s how we’ll best feature him.”
The Falcons beefed up their front seven in free agency by signing linebacker Brooks Reed and Justin Durant and left end O’Brien Schofield.
Atlanta used a seventh-round draft pick on San Jose State cornerback Akeem King.
Offensively, the Falcons added running back Tevin Coleman of Indiana in the third round and East Carolina receiver Justin Hardy in the fourth.
Hardy, the FBS career leader with 387 catches, becomes the top candidate for the No. 3 receiver’s job behind Julio Jones and Roddy White. Leonard Hankerson would be the No. 4 option for quarterback Matt Ryan.
Atlanta needs to fill the role after Harry Douglas was released and signed with Tennessee. Hardy averaged 107 catches, 1,294 yards receiving and 9.7 touchdowns the last three years.
”The route running, the work to get open, the catching radius that he has – we couldn’t have been more thrilled to add him to a group of receivers that we think are really terrific,” Quinn said. ”We love the competitive fire that he has and the edge he plays with.”
In Friday’s third round, the Falcons picked Coleman to compete with Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith for the starting job vacated when Steven Jackson was released. Coleman set Indiana’s single-season rushing record with 2,036 yards last year. He couldn’t run at the NFL combine due to a broken foot but ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds at the Hoosiers’ pro day.
Atlanta took 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive tackle Jake Rodgers of Eastern Washington in the seventh round. With last year’s first-round pick – Jake Matthews – a certain starter at left tackle, Rodgers will compete with Ryan Schraeder and other for the right-side job.
Rodgers signed with Washington State as a tight end and started all 12 games for the Cougars on the offensive line before transferring in 2013 to Eastern Washington.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL