Atlanta Spends Its Top Pick on Vic Beasley: How Can He Help the Falcons?
The Atlanta Falcons' decision to bolster their defense was a good one based on how the unit performed in 2014, and Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley was a prime candidate.
Beasley led the ACC in both sacks (13) and tackles for loss (21.5) in 2014.
In case you’re wondering whether he was a one-year wonder, he actually had one more sack and tackle for loss during his junior season. He’s also smart, never gets into trouble, and always says the right thing.
After being named a Consensus All-American after his junior season, he chose to stay at Clemson another year to finish his degree. Beasley has an extraordinary burst off the line and uses his speed to beat blockers around the edge.
In nine games last year, he racked up at least one sack, and he had three games with at least two sacks. He made a tackle in every game his senior season but never more than five in one game.
He needs to improve his lower body strength in order to improve against the run, an area in which Atlanta needs a lot of help. According to our Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, the Falcons allowed 0.08 more points to opponents than a league-average team would have. That ranked 31st in the NFL.
There are no questions about his speed, but he will need to develop power moves to better get out of blocks.
He is 6’3” and played his senior season weighing 235 pounds, which is far too small for an NFL defensive lineman. Even at outside linebacker in the NFL, that this still too light, and it is fair to wonder whether adding weight will take away from his speed.
He showed up at the combine 11 pounds heavier and ran the fastest 40 time of all the linebackers in attendance, however. Among all linebackers at the combine, he ranked in the top five of every event he participated in. His 35 bench press reps of 225 pounds was good enough for first among linebackers and third among all players.
He will need to continue to add muscle to his lower body, and develop power moves in order to better get out of blocks. He also needs to prove that he can stop the run and drop into pass coverage, or else he may be limited to a situational pass rusher in the NFL.
How He Fits With the Falcons
He grew up a Falcons fan and said it would be a dream to play for them. Now that dream has come true and it's time to prove he belongs.
The Falcons' Adjusted Defensive NEP per play of 0.10 ranked 29th in the league, and their Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play of 0.16 ranked 28th. Simply put: Atlanta needs any defensive help it can get.
As a pass rusher, Beasley is an immediate upgrade to the league's second worst team in terms of sacks in 2014. In a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and now Jameis Winston, it is essential for the Falcons to get after the quarterback.
And in last year's meeting with Florida State, Beasley sacked Winston twice.
He compares closely to Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, whom the Falcons have been rumored to be interested in. Coach Dan Quinn, who coached Irvin in Seattle, is a great fit for Beasley.
He will need to prove he can do more than just rush the passer to help the Falcons fully, but considering how much they struggled in every facet on defense, the addition should be a welcome one.
He certainly has the speed to keep up with NFL running backs and tight ends but will have to prove he has the ability to cover them.