Recapping the Atlanta Falcons 2016 Draft

Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons
Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

As the NFL Draft quickly approaches, it seems like the perfect time to start reliving the Atlanta Falcons draft classes from the past ten years. We’ll look into their hits, their misses, who they should have drafted, and a fun fact about every draft class.

This eleven-part series will end with a full recap of the Falcons 2023 draft with information on their picks, how they might impact the team in its upcoming season, and draft grades for the team’s choices as well.

Keanu Neal (1st – 17th Overall) – The Atlanta Falcons likely thought they were getting a long-term building block for their defense after Neal’s first two seasons. The physical safety started 30 games, had over 200 tackles, and eight forced fumbles.

Unfortunately for both Neal and Atlanta, injuries destroyed his next two seasons. In the season opener in 2018, he suffered a non-contact injury that ended up being a torn ACL. After missing the remainder of the season, Neal came back in 2019 and subsequently played in three games before suffering a torn Achilles.

He came back to play in 15 games the following season but seemed a step slower and left the Falcons in the off-season to sign with the Cowboys. After a one-year stint there, he spent last year with the Buccaneers and is currently a free agent. Neal is an obvious case of how injuries can quickly affect a player’s career and how it affects both him and the team he plays for.

Deion Jones (2nd – 52nd Overall) – The Falcons went back-to-back on defense as they drafted Jones out of LSU in the second round. Jones started more than 80 games in Atlanta, racked up more than 600 tackles, and made numerous big plays throughout his Falcons career.

Late last year, the Falcons traded Jones to the Cleveland Browns for a sixth-round pick. He ended up playing in 11 games after the trade and is expected to be a full-time starter for Cleveland this year.  

Austin Hooper (3rd – 81st Overall) – After being drafted in the third round, Austin Hooper was expected to serve as a complimentary piece in the Atlanta Falcons offense. Throughout his first season, he showed flashes of his long-term potential, but only ended up starting 3 games and recorded less than 300 yards.

Throughout the next three seasons though, Hooper played a significant part in Atlanta’s offense and recorded almost 200 receptions, 13 touchdowns, and almost 2,000 yards. Hooper ended up leaving Atlanta after his rookie contract ended for a big deal with the Cleveland Browns but was subsequently traded to the Titans before signing with the Las Vegas Raiders this off-season.

De’Vondre Campbell (4th – 115th Overall) – After drafting Deion Jones earlier in the draft, the Falcons added Campbell to their defense in an attempt to shore up their linebacking corps. Campbell ended up starting ten games in his first season and recorded nearly 50 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Campbell ended up becoming a fixture of the Atlanta defense over the next three seasons as he recorded over 300 tackles, forced six turnovers, and provided stability for Dan Quinn’s unit. After his rookie contract expired though, Campbell signed with the Arizona Cardinals and started every game during the 2020 season. After signing with the Packers the following year, Campbell recently signed a four-year contract and will be in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

Fun Fact: Although the 2016 NFL Draft had 36 linebackers taken between the seven rounds, not a single one is still with the respective team that drafted them.

Wes Schweitzer (6th – 195th Overall) – The late rounds are typically a crapshoot during the NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons have a history of getting production out of players they’ve drafted on the third day. Wes Schweitzer played in 46 games for the Falcons during his first three seasons before signing with the Washington Commanders.

He has played in 80 games throughout his career, including 60 starts. Although he’s no longer a member of the offensive line in Atlanta, the guard was clearly a smart late-round choice and has had a career that’s exceeded expectations.

Devin Fuller (7th – 238th Overall) – Fuller suffered injuries and never ended up playing for either the Falcons or the NFL.

Jones > Fuller: Although it’s easy to look back at a player’s career and critique the front office for missing on a draft pick, the Atlanta Falcons likely wish they would have used their last pick on Jonathan Jones instead.

The cornerback has played in over 100 games for the New England Patriots, has 330 career tackles, 11 interceptions, and would have provided a speedy element for Coach Quinn in Atlanta’s defensive backfield.