Falcons get very little out of young draft picks in loss to Buccaneers

AP Photo/David Goldman

In recent years, the chief concern surrounding the Atlanta Falcons is that their front office has not drafted the kind of talent necessary to rebuild a struggling team. On Sunday, that complaint reared its ugly head yet again.

In the 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, only three of the Falcons’ six draft picks from this year’s NFL Draft saw the field. That did not include first-round pick Keanu Neal, who missed Week 1 with a knee injury and likely won’t be back until Week 3 at the earliest. Sixth-round pick Wes Schweitzer, a guard, did not see any action, and Devin Fuller, a receiver selected in the seventh round, is on injured reserve.

That leaves two linebackers – Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell – and tight end Austin Hooper as the only three 2016 draft picks to play in the game. Jones and Campbell combined for 10 tackles, and Hooper had one catch for 14 yards. Sure, a decent start.

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But if you look further back to past drafts, where players should be maturing and adjusting to the speed of the NFL by now, there’s still a lot of questions. Linebacker Vic Beasley, who was the top pick of the 2015 draft, didn’t even register on the stat sheet. Beasley recorded no tackles or sacks in the ballgame.

Tackle Jake Matthews was awful in Sunday’s loss. He committed several key penalties that stalled Atlanta drives, and the rest of the line wasn’t much better. They didn’t create running lanes for the Falcons’ running backs, and the offense gained just 52 yards on the ground the entire day.

And then there’s Ra’Shede Hageman, who was expected to solidify a terrible defensive line when he was picked in 2014. He didn’t play on Sunday, and now we know why: according to AJC.com, Hageman was involved in a domestic violence case earlier this year and has been charged with three misdemeanors. The Falcons deny that as the reason for why Hageman was inactive for Sunday’s game, but the report would suggest otherwise.

Oh, and 36-year-old Dwight Freeney, a veteran who was brought in to possibly get to the quarterback? He didn’t record a single sack on Sunday, and he only managed to hit quarterback Jameis Winston once.

In fact, you have as many sacks as the Falcons following Week 1, and you didn’t even have to suit up to achieve that feat. It’s clear that the Falcons still have the same problems along the defensive line, and they’re going to get exposed regularly with so many good quarterbacks facing Atlanta this season.

Were there any bright spots from the youngsters? Absolutely. Running back Tevin Coleman (drafted in 2015) looks like he’s becoming a legitimate weapon in the passing game, which will help quarterback Matt Ryan in games where the running game isn’t working. Coleman led the team in receiving on Sunday, making five catches for 95 yards.

You also have to be impressed with the play of safety Ricardo Allen, who had team-high totals for tackles (7) and solo tackles (5) on Sunday. Allen, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, has proven to be a pretty dependable safety, especially for a player that’s just 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds.

But when your safety is leading the team in tackles, you have a problem. In the case of the Falcons, who were yet again exposed Sunday for their shortcomings in the draft, they have a whole bunch of problems.

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