Monday, July 24, 2017

Deion Jones and Keanu Neal Exceeded Expectations in 2016

The Falcons drafted safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones in the first two rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft. There were many critics to this draft class, especially these first two picks. Overall, this draft class received a C+ ranking from SB Nation. As of now, that sounds ridiculous. Both Neal and Jones became starters last season…and for good reason too.

Keanu Neal finished his rookie season with 106 tackles and 8 passes defended. However, his 5 forced fumbles are his most impressive stat. Pro Football Focus has Keanu Neal with the second lowest passer rating allowed from the slot—elite Broncos cornerback Chris Harris ranks first.

Deion Jones racked up a combined 108 tackles last year, including 5 for loss. He forced 1 fumble in the 2016 regular season, and 1 during the Super Bowl. Most impressively, Jones picked off 3 passes, with two resulting in touchdowns. He also had an exciting pick in the NFC divisional round, killing any chance of a Seattle comeback.

Accoridng to Pro Football Focus, Deion Jones had the 2nd-highest run stop percentage among rookie LBs, stopping 9% of run plays. Out of 9 rookie LBs in the NFL last season, he allowed the fewest yards /cov snap, allowing only 0.97 yards.

There was much negative criticism regarding the Falcons decision to draft Neal and Jones. Many people believed Head Coach Dan Quinn drafted these players too early, insisting that there were better players available. All those critics are quiet now, and it seems as if Dan Quinn has found the playmakers he needs to make the rest of his defense rise to any challenge. In Dan Quinn we trust.


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