Written by Allison Smith
Photos by Atlanta Falcons
So, the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. Atlanta Falcon fans seemed very excited and pleased with the first pick of Alabama’s Wide Receiver, Calvin Ridley. As a Clemson fan, I have seen enough of Ridley across the field, so I know what he can do and am excited to see him play for MY side.
Another 6 picks this year, another even split between offense and defense. I think the big surprise, however, is that in the first round, Head Coach Dan Quinn did NOT select a defensive player. I do not know that anyone had thoughts of drafting a wide receiver, much less with the first Falcon pick. It is clear that the Falcons drafted best player available at each time, not just the couple of holes that we needed to fill. And those aren’t many.
The 6 rounds are listed below:
1 – 26: Calvin Ridley – WR, Alabama – 6’1” 189 lbs
2 – 58: Isaiah Oliver – CB, Colorado – 6’0” 201 lbs
3 – 90: Deadrin Senat – DT, South Florida – 6’0” 314 lbs
4 – 126: Ito Smith – RB, Southern Miss. – 5’9” 195 lbs
6 – 194: Russell Gage – WR, LSU – 6’0” 184 lbs
6 – 200: Foye Oluokun – LB, Yale – 6’2” 215 lbs
In Calvin Ridley’s senior year at Alabama, he caught 63 balls for 967 yards and 5 touchdowns and was named to the First Team All-SEC. Ridley waited patiently with family and friends for the draft day phone call, when the phone (finally) rang and Thomas Dimitroff was on the other end, Ridley was very appreciative and polite. I think Ridley at 26 was a surprise to him and many others, but as he heard that the Falcons were interested he said he “was stoked…(and this) was a blessing in disguise. He was not smarmy or negative, but I am sure everyone was telling him that he would go earlier. There was only one other receiver type (TE) that went before him, so clearly this draft was a little different that the norm.
As Ridley’s name was officially announced on television, his family and friends celebrated and Ridley was overcome with emotion. Early Friday, Ridley with mom and girlfriend in tow, was in Atlanta where he toured the Flowery Branch facility, was presented with his new #18 jersey, and spoke to the media. After a weekend in the sun, Ridley is ready to work and knows the commitment needed to be an NFL receiver and appears ready to put in that work.
Ridley was well-spoken, very appreciative to be in Atlanta, ready to light it up and bond with others in the Brotherhood. He noted that being drafted by the Falcons was “The best day of my life.” Ridley can play the slot or outside and will very likely be tested at punt and kick returner as well.
Ridley and Julio Jones were already in touch before the draft and both are excited to be partnered up, along with Mohamed Sanu, Sr. for an explosive 2018 season. TD said of the Ridley pick, “We wanted to add an extra additional of explosiveness to the offense” and they feel like they have done so with Ridley.
In the second round of the draft, the Falcons selected Isaiah Oliver. He is a decathlete, so he should be good for endurance; he runs a 4.5 40 and is praised for his speed and explosive leaping ability (hello disruptive). TD said that Oliver is a “long, versatile athlete than can get his hands on the ball.” Sounds like another ball hawk. Coming out after his junior year and missing a few games due to a leg injury, Oliver still shined, being named first-team All-Pac-12 with 2 interceptions, 27 tackles and 13 pass breakups. DQ mentioned his speed and length (33 inch arms) and his ability to play inside or outside and had spent some time on punt returns. You know how DQ likes versatility. TD seconded those emotions saying that Oliver “had some of the best skills in the draft” and is very versatile.
Oliver was “beyond excited” to be drafted into the Brotherhood. He said that he is “ready to work, ready to ball and make plays on the field.” He is definitely ready to contribute to this team.
Finally, in the 3rd round of the draft, Ben Garland takes the stage to announce the Defensive Tackle we all expected in the 1st round. Deadrin Senat is another interesting story and looks to be a perfect fit to the Brotherhood. Quinn noted that with the adversity he has already faced in life, it is obvious that Senat “has tremendous amount of resiliency.” Senat is definitely motivated. He grew up in a rough neighborhood, lost both parents before he was 20, helped his older sister with her daughters, but still stayed in college, and finished his 4 years. He is compared to Grady Jarrett in size and is noted to be strong and active, (big and quick) a real gym nut. His game tape shows a persistent disruptor, and we know DQ isn’t all about stats and numbers, he knows who is causing havoc in the backfield. And it looks like Grady Jarrett and Deadrin Senat are going to do just that.
Senat has shown marked improvement each year at USF, successful at both run and pass defense, he has steadily moved his run defense grade from 75 to 86.7 and pass rush grade from 69.2 to 80.1 from freshman to senior year. He started 36 games for USF with 178 tackles, 23.5 for loss and 7 sacks. In 2017, Senat had 30 run stops which is the 4th most among the draft DL class.
TD noted that Senat is a “big interior guy that can be very strong holding the point, he moves well inside.” While DQ followed that he is strong, square, and tough and will be in there with Grady and Jack Crawford. Likely will be in the rotation very early in the season.
Senat is very excited to be in Atlanta, “It is all about my family, I love my nieces. I am willing to work, eager to soak in knowledge from anyone.” He also said that “If they want me to play fullback, I will play fullback.” That is definitely the heart that you want added to your team. Also, he would make his own hole at FB!!! He has clearly already bought in to the Brotherhood, already using the “one thing at a time” improvement mentality.
In the 4th round, the Falcons selected running back Ito Smith, likely looking to groom the next RB behind Devonta Freeman. Thoughts are that Tevin Coleman is too good to be a 2nd or joint back and will move on next season, especially since Free has already been paid. Clearly Smith could be used at a variety of positions, or even throw 3 backs in there at one time. Smith ran a 4.45 40 at the combine. He had 1145 yards on 248 carries and 13 touchdowns while at Southern Mississippi. He had 7 – 100 yard games as a Senior. He is “willing to line up in the slot or in the backfield.” And seems excited to be in Atlanta as well. Falcons new running backs coach, Bernie Parmalee worked him out and clearly had some good insight into this pick. Smith is a good utility back and, as with Free and Tevin, can run and catch the ball. He is not a big bruising back, but that is not the Falcons’ current backs either. He was 1 of 10 players in NCAA history with at least 4000 rushing yards and 1000 receiving yards.
Smith said that when he saw Atlanta back on the clock, then the phone rang and it was an Atlanta number, excitedly, “Oh my God. Here we go.” He later noted, “Only 256 guys gets picked. Coach Quinn gave me a chance. They are going to get my best….going to give it my all.”
The Falcons skip out of the 5th round and their first of two picks in the 6th round had Atlanta picking another offensive weapon, WR Russell Gage out of LSU. A departure from our 3 years of back to back LSU defenders, but a 4th year of LSU Tigers joining the team. Gage is recognized for being really fast. He also (versatility comment coming) played defensive back in high school, so you wonder if he may be converted. Gage is recognized for being a Special Teams stud, one of the nation’s best kickoff and punt gunners. Again, make the team, then work. You never know where that will lead.
And with their second 6th round pick and final pick of the 2018 draft, the Atlanta Falcons select linebacker/safety Foye Oluokun out of Yale. Oluokun is very athletic and has a proven track record on special teams. Likely, if he comes in on defense, it will be as depth at the linebacker spot. Oluokun is smaller than the average linebacker, but his speed and athleticism may make up for his size. Oluokun is very effective against running backs and tight ends coming out of the backfield, but less affective directly against the run. He is often so fast however, that he does make stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Overall, we need to see everyone in game day action, but sounds like another good draft class; maybe not big names, but I am excited about these guys and seeing what all they can do. Clearly, Ridley will/should be the star of this class, but Senat is likely going to be a standout as well.
@FalconAlley Owt #RiseUp