Falcons 2016 Draft: Would Darron Lee make sense at No. 17?
Could Darron Lee be the answer at linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons?
It’s no secret the Atlanta Falcons need a coverage linebacker. Desperately. It’s a priority entering the 2016 NFL Draft for general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn. Could Ohio State’s Darron Lee be the answer?
Lee has been flying up draft boards over the past couple of months and has the look of a first-round talent. If he falls to Atlanta at No. 17, they could fill one of the biggest needs on defense by selecting the Ohio State product.
There are concerns with Lee’s size. At just 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, he is considered small to play the linebacker position. But in an ever-changing league which is dominated by the pass, many believe Lee is a glimpse into the future of the position. The days of bigger, stronger linebackers could be evolving into smaller, faster players.
The latter certainly describes Lee. He lit up the track at the scouting combine with 40-yard time of 4.47 seconds, faster than anyone else at the position. In contrast Reggie Ragland — considered by many to be the best inside linebacker in the class — clocked a 4.72.
Quinn often speaks about adding speed on defense, and he likes defenders to swarm to the football. Lee feels like a typical Quinn player. He can chase sideline to sideline and make plays on the ball in coverage, which is something the Falcons’ defense lacked in 2015.
What the Falcons would be getting by selecting him first is an outstanding athlete with tremendous speed. Quinn could put him in the best position to succeed — that won’t come as a thumping run-stuffer, but rather a guy who can hang with tight ends and running backs in the middle of the field, and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.
The two biggest priorities for the Falcons is to improve the pass rush and find a linebacker who can cover. Both are equally important, and the defense will struggle to function without either.
It’s unclear how Atlanta will address one of these areas in the first round, but Lee is a name to strongly consider.
Next: Five Falcons who could see expanded roles in 2016
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