Atlanta Falcons Pass on Todd Gurley, and it was the Right Call


The Atlanta Falcons had an opportunity to draft in-state player and the best running back in the draft, Todd Gurley. Their pick of Clemson’s Vic Beasley was absolutely the right call.

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  • Would it have been nice to see Todd Gurley in an Atlanta Falcons uniform, playing alongside Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White? Of course it would have, but that doesn’t mean the Falcons made a mistake by not drafting Gurley.

    Many in the Bulldog Nation were up in arms Thursday night when Atlanta’s pick was announced. This visceral reaction may be understandable, as the feelings for Gurley run deep and many wanted to see him stay “home”, but the football side of the pick had to point to Atlanta going defense in the first round no matter what.

    You can’t be myopic and you have to remove emotion from your reasoning when evaluating draft picks. It’s emotional fan-driven picks such as the Browns going with Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel that can put a franchise years behind schedule and keep a team muddling along instead of progressing.

    New Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive mind…and not just any defensive mind, quite possibly one of the best in the league. One of the reasons he was brought in as head coach was to help fix a defense that had become an embarrassment to a franchise that didn’t need any help being embarrassed. The Falcons were dead last in sacks and QB pressures in 2014, and no team has had less shots at the quarterback than the Falcons in the last four seasons.

    Dan Quinn‘s first order of business? Fix that pass rush.

    The Falcons had four possible targets in the first round: Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, Shane Ray and Randy Gregory. All defensive linemen or linebackers, and all touted as guys who could get to the quarterback. Atlanta expected to have to choose between possibly two of them at most. In their wildest dreams the Falcons’ war room never expected all four of those players to be sitting there when their eighth overall pick came around.

    Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff smartly looked past both Ray and Gregory, who had concerns with both injuries and off-field behavior, and boiled it down to Beasley and Dupree. If you watched Beasley’s Pro Day and saw him at the NFL Combine, you know exactly why they went with the Clemson sack leader.

    Gurley was never going to be in play for Atlanta, and that’s not a poor reflection on him or the team. Vic Beasley was the best player available in the draft at that time regardless.

    The Falcons offensive ranks were nothing to be ashamed of in 2014 — 5th in pass offense, 8th in total yards, and 12th in points. 24th in rush offense — and that rushing rank had much more to do with former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s system than it did Atlanta’s personnel.

    Dec 8, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 43-37. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Koetter was never going to be a guy who leaned on the running game, as his schemes depended on screen plays and tricky receiver routes. The Falcons only rushed the ball 372 times in 2014, only Jacksonville, Tennessee, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Oakland ran the ball less. Atlanta’s backs were never given the chance to shine.

    If I were a GM or head coach, and I had the worst defense in the league and Devonta Freeman in my backfield, the last thing I would do would be to draft a running back in the first round. Had Gurley fallen to the second round, then it would have made more sense.

    Both Atlanta and St. Louis got exactly what they needed, and both teams will be improved this year because of their picks in round one.

    Next: Fan Poll: Who Will Be Next Dawg Drafted After Gurley?