Atlanta Falcons' 2017 draft class: Kiper's grades, McShay's best pick, more
NFL Draft Insiders
Posted: 2017-05-01

The 2017 NFL draft is over, and it's time to review how your favorite team fared. Where did it reach? Did it get a potential steal in Round 5? Is there a bust waiting to happen?

ESPN Insider's draft experts break down each draft class, starting with Mel Kiper Jr.'s grade, Todd McShay's favorite pick, and Scouts Inc.'s analysis on how each player fits into his new team.

Atlanta Falcons

Mel Kiper's Draft Grade: B-

Kiper: Atlanta paid a premium in moving up five spots -- a third- and seventh-round pick -- to get a pass-rusher opposite Vic Beasley Jr., but I can't fault the Falcons for identifying and addressing their biggest need. Takkarist McKinley and Beasley are almost identical in size, and both are speedy, explosive guys with high upside. Beasley had 15.5 sacks last season, but no other Falcon had more than 4.5. McKinley will help with that, though his shoulder issues gave at least a couple of teams pause. The Falcons traded out of the second round, picking up two fifth-round picks to drop 12 spots into the third round. The pick was interesting, as Duke Riley replaced Deion Jones as LSU's weakside linebacker last season, and now both could be playing beside each other. Jones, of course, was one of the best rookies in the league in 2016 after moving to middle linebacker, and Atlanta has to hope Riley can replicate some of that success. Riley's 4.58 40 at the combine was the fastest among linebackers.

Diminutive cornerback Damontae Kazee (5-10, 184) is a ballhawk -- 15 interceptions over the past two seasons -- and one of my favorite slot corners in the class. I thought tight end Eric Saubert could go early on Day 3, and that's good value in the fifth round.

1/26 Takkarist McKinley OLB UCLA
3/75 Duke Riley ILB LSU
4/136 Sean Harlow OT OREGON STATE
5/149 Damontae Kazee CB SAN DIEGO STATE
5/156 Brian Hill RB WYOMING
5/174 Eric Saubert TE DRAKE

Todd McShay's favorite pick

Duke Riley, ILB, LSU (pick No. 75)

The Falcons traded back from pick No. 63 to 75, receiving two additional fifth-round selections in the process, which turned into CB Damontae Kazee (a terrific value) and RB Brian Hill, a player I saw up close at Wyoming. Not to be overlooked, Atlanta selected Riley with the 75th pick. He'll pair with his former LSU teammate Deion Jones, who made a big impact in 2016 as a rookie. While Riley isn't quite as explosive as Jones, he displays quick redirect skills and the ability to get sideline-to-sideline in a hurry -- he record the second-fastest 40 time among linebackers at the combine. I love what the Falcons are doing on defense, adding even more speed to the fold. Their first-round pick, Takkarist McKinley, has a really quick first step off the edge and is a good complement to Vic Beasley Jr. in Atlanta.

Scouts Inc. on 2017 class

1 (26) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA | Highlights

What he brings: An explosive edge rusher, McKinley has excellent snap anticipation and first-step quickness to threaten the edge quickly as a pass-rusher. Also plays with the physical demeanor and relentless motor that teams look for in the front seven. -- Kevin Weidl

How he fits: The Falcons add another explosive edge rusher here opposite of Vic Beasley Jr., who led the league in sacks in 2016 (15.5). Atlanta continues to infuse speed into its defense and now has the potential to have a disruptive pair of book ends, which makes sense in a division in which they face Drew Brees, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton six times a year. -- Kevin Weidl

3 (11) Duke Riley, ILB, LSU

What he brings: Riley is an instinctive and rangy three-down linebacker. He doesn't have elite power at the point of the attack, but he shows savvy negotiating traffic inside the tackle box and finding the football. He's an extremely reliable tackler who holds up well in space. -- Kevin Weidl

How he fits: Coach Dan Quinn continues to infuse speed on the defensive side of the ball. Similar to Deion Jones (2016, second round), Riley is another space linebacker who should help provide the Falcons with more range and versatility at the second level of their defense. -- Kevin Weidl

4 (30) Sean Harlow, C, Oregon State

What he brings: A team captain, Harlow started 23 games at left tackle and 14 at right tackle. He also took snaps at all five offensive line positions in practice, and he projects best on the inside. While he lacks ideal power, he's a technician with good balance. -- Steve Muench

5 (5) Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State | Highlights

What he brings: Undersized with short arms and average top-end speed, Kazee is a better football player than athlete, and he stood out the week of the Senior Bowl. He's instinctive in coverage, he plays the ball well, and he's a tough run-stopper. -- Steve Muench

5 (12) Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming

What he brings: The 219-pound Hill is a tough downhill runner with good finishing power, but he's not much of a big-play threat as he caught just eight passes in 2016. He has carried a heavy workload, getting 610 carries over the past two seasons. -- Steve Muench

5 (31) Eric Saubert, TE, Drake

What he brings: Saubert showed well versus a higher level of competition at the East-West Shrine game. He's a big-play threat who has good size-speed combination and good special teams experience. However, his lean frame appears maxed out, and he's a liability as a blocker. -- Steve Muench

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