The dust has settled and it is official: Keanu Neal will be playing football for the Atlanta Falcons next season.
The Falcons grabbed the hard-hitting Safety out of the University of Florida with the 17th pick and despite plenty of great players on the board at the time, Neal may be the perfect fit for Dan Quinn’s team.
Neal's Athleticism Pays Off
While many believe the Falcons may have reached to grab Neal at 17, it fills a void that cost them so many games last season. Likely to start immediately, Neal gives the Falcons a huge hitter in the secondary and someone that can cover tight ends in coverage.
Neal’s combine performance and athleticism helped him shoot up draft boards everywhere, posting an outrageous 38 inch vertical jump and a 132 inch broad jump, both of which were the combine’s top performances.
In his final year as a Florida Gator, Neal tallied 96 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for losses. He also forced two turnovers and notched two sacks in 12 games. His final season was his junior year, declaring to leave school early alongside Florida teammate and now division rival, Vernon Hargreaves III (drafted 11th by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Take a look at some of Keanu Neal’s best moments from his career at Florida:
Quinn Keen On Keanu
Dan Quinn spoke about Neal’s ability, saying, “We added a terrific competitor and a great hitter.” Neal has drawn comparisons to Kam Chancellor, the big hitting safety that Dan Quinn coached while in Seattle, and also Deone Buccanon, the talented safety/linebacker hybrid from the Arizona Cardinals.
Some Falcons fans were critical of the pick, especially with the likes of Darron Lee, Myles Jack and Shaq Lawson still available but Quinn highlighted that the “strong safety position is critical.”
Neal’s mixture of toughness and character compliment his tackling ability, meaning the Falcons made a good decision taking the former Florida Gator at number 17. It’s clear that Dan Quinn and Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff love their pick and with good reason. Don’t worry Falcons fans, Atlanta will have plenty of options in later rounds, especially with it being a deep draft for linebackers and pass rushers.
Be prepared to see a lot of punishing hits being dished out by Keanu Neal in the red and black of Atlanta next season.