By: Gary VanDyke II (Tiwtter: @HBogart27)
Updated: 6/30/2017

FFD260 IDPs: Rookies 3.0

“Perfect Situation”

After a long opening to my last “Perfect Situation” in FDD260 IDPs: Rookies 2.0 at: FFD260 IDPs: Rookies 2.0 I won’t rattle on here, we will just keep it nice and short.

Sometimes a rookie being drafted into a “Perfect Situation” can matter more than we think. We just have to take notice and let it play out over the off-season unfolds. We will cover Atlanta’s rookie LB Duke Riley and see why he may have fallen into what could be the situation where he can be a good productive linebacker in year one.

Duke Riley

H/W: 6’1” 232lbs
AGE: 22
Drafted: Rd 3, pick 11
College: LSU
NFL.com combine grade: 5.5
Grade rank: 6th (tied)

The Atlanta Falcons for the second year in a row has dipped into the LSU talent pool for the speed they want to flush the defense with. After plucking the underrated linebacker Deion Jones from LSU in last years draft they decided to do the same this year by adding Riley. LSU is famous for having talented players and Atlanta has seemingly camped out at their doorstep with arms wide open.

Head Coach Dan Quinn was the former defensive coordinator of Seattle before being hired by Atlanta. He was a highly sought after because of his defensive mind and success, Atlanta made the right choice in hiring him.

Quinn started his head coaching gig in Atlanta off with a bang when they drafted linebacker Vic Beasley in the first round of the 2015 draft. Only then to add the 2016 Super Bowl first half standout defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth. Keep in mind here Jarrett was barely on any team’s radar at the time. Quinn then followed it up in 2016 with selecting strong safety Keanu Neal in the first and at the same time another fairly underrated linebacker with Deion Jones in the second. I’ll also mention they added a little known De’Vondre Campbell who has speed to burn in the fourth. All of these mentioned players helped lead the Atlanta defense to a 2016 Super Bowl appearance.

We all know the offensive stars, but let’s keep the old saying in mind; “Defense Wins Championships”. As we all know it didn’t work out well in the Super Bowl for them, but Quinn has assembled one hell of a group of players to give it another go moving forward. And he clearly wasn’t done by “tweaking” it again in this years draft by adding Duke Riley. Let’s take a look at the 2016 PFF grades:

PFF added this take “take”:

Biggest weakness: There is not much to dislike for the defending NFC champions, but outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell needs to take a significant step forward in his second NFL season. As a rookie last season, he played 548 regular-season snaps but recorded only 15 defensive stops, less than a quarter of league leader Chris Kirksey’s 63. Three different players topped 60 defensive stops in 2016.

2016 stats for Quinn’s recent draft picks on defense:

Point of showing the stats is to point out exactly (other than De’Vondre Campbell) what kind of production each position is capable of getting when Quinn drafts a player to fill the team needs. Campbell did miss 5 games. But on a weekly bases when he did start and play he averaged about 4.4 tackles and as for impact plays there isn’t anything “special” to point out. Keep in mind this should have been as an every down player in those games. And way below what a starting WLB should show on the field.

Campbell was considered a “reach” as was Jones in last years draft. Unfortunately for Atlanta it would seem that “call” was right in Campbell’s case. It might seem that Quinn is great at locating talent in the draft, but everyone misses from time to time no matter how good they are. Campbell’s best asset going into the draft was his speed. But was reported that his tangibles were lacking for the pro level. He struggled in many different ways the entire off-season and all thru the regular season. While never actually improving in any given area or stay consistent in any he may have shown signs of doing so in. His NFL.com draft profile included:

*Note: Campbell’s NFL.com grade was 5.2.

“Linebacker instincts missing badly. Too many snaps where he does the offensive lineman’s job for him by running himself out of position and becoming an easily blockable target. Is slow to diagnose what is happening and is consistently behind on the play relying on athleticism too often. Needs technique work and additional coaching. Doesn’’t keep pads square consistently when scraping down the line. Sits and waits on the second level rather than using natural burst to play downhill. Below average at leveraging his run fits. When dropping into coverage, looks like he’s occupying space rather than looking to squeeze top or routes. Needs to read quarterback’s eyes more and drift into passing windows.”

“Campbell has an Academic All-­Big Ten under his belt, but the classroom smarts don’t always translate into on-­field instincts for the linebacker. While Campbell has terrific size and NFL-­caliber athleticism, his inability to consistently perform his assignments as a second level linebacker could make him a project.”

It would seem this should be where Duke Riley steps in. We have multiple reports this off season indicating so from many sources. The idea is that Riley can win the WLB position from Campbell with his skill-set alone. Here is a direct recent quote from Campbell himself that can be found here.

De’Vondre Campbell said he “thinks rookie LB @1Goal1Dream is further along at this point then he and @debo were last year”
— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) June 6, 2017

Other recent reports:




So, now that we have covered why we should think that Riley can be in the “Perfect Situation” to unseed Campbell for the WLB, let’s cover why he has the skillset to do so.
(*) top performer

*40 time 4.58 (2nd) ———–(Campbell 4.53 pro day)
*3 cone time 6.89 (5th)——–(Campbell 7.07 pro day)
*20 yard shuttle 4.21 ( 4th)—(Campbell 4.50 pro day)

Now, those numbers aren’t as telling as it may seem. But Riley has the edge in short area quickness and also bolstered a posted top-three SPARQ results among off-ball linebackers. He may have only been a one year starter (so was Jones at LSU) but he lead the team in tackles with 90 tackles including 9 for a loss. He was the signal caller after Jones left LSU and did it well. He gained momentum thru is last season as a starter and improved in all aspects on the field. Riley can be a proper tackler and holds his own in coverage.

NFL.com profile:

Got better as senior season progressed. Instincts and angles improved with more game experience. Had one of his better games against Alabama. Scouts impressed with improved play and consistency. Shows willingness to dart downhill and into the gaps to try and make a play in the backfield. Squares ball carrier in center of his strike zone and fires from hips into the tackle with good wrap up. Shows decent acceleration in his pursuit after diagnosing. Able to open hips and run with long, loose strides in open field. Has clear eyes and processes mesh-point quickly against zone-read and play-action. Gives early response to crossing routes in his area.

One-year wonder who produced at a consistent level despite his average athleticism and lack of starting experience. While he’s mindful of his responsibilities, he’s not overly physical and his limitations could tie him to roles as either a WILB in a 3-4 or WILL in a 4-3. Could improve stock in pre-draft workouts, but would be surprising to see him taken inside of the first three rounds.

The only knock on him is:

Undersized and could have limited position flexibility. Questionable play strength to take on blockers and constrict his gap. Only one season as a starter. Gets in trouble when he sits and waits in the hole. Has to trigger downhill early to overcome limited size and athleticism. Gets caught in the second-level trash in his pursuit. Needs to take better paths to the ball. Not a quick-twitch linebacker. Has build-up speed but lacks short-area quickness to finish from challenging tackle angles. Foot quickness is not good enough to match up against running backs coming out of backfield.

The “bottom line” and “weaknesses” are mirror images on “takes” Deion Jones received. Not to mention a lot of credits didn’t like Quinn taking Neal in the first round last year. PFF being one of them, along with a few other major “gurus”.

In summary, I believe there are more positives about Duke Riley than Campbell by a large margin coming out of college. All indications are that the “buzz” about him in OTAs and minicamp are positive. And also the overall performance of Campbell and the fact he didn’t become any better as the season went on. It is pretty clear Coach Quinn has it in mind to make the adjustment necessary, if at all possible. We should think that Riley opens the season as the WLB as an every down player next to his old teammate Deion Jones. We also should reflect on trusting Quinn and his judgement to select his players and insert them into a “Perfect Situation” to succeed.

Predicted Production Level for 2017 : Solid LB2

* At his current ADP on MyFantasyleague.com of an average of the 71st pick (5th rd) in 16 team or larger leagues I would not hesitate to pick him at the least a full round ahead of that. And in the standard 12 team league where he could be undrafted all, I’d consider selecting him in the last couple of rounds anyhow. At the least a waiver wire claim ASAP if possible.

*I personally don’t think Campell will end up with a starting role at all. If rookie DE Takk gets healthy in time to make a difference, he’ll be a back up. Vic Beasley should make another jump in his growth as a SLB. This is only my “take” on the situation.