FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff went on the team’s flagship radio and aggressively defended the selection of safety Keanu Neal in the first-round of the NFL draft on Tuesday.
While taking questions from Rick Kamala and John Michaels, Dimitroff took a shot at Scouts, Inc., which had Neal rated in the second-round. Neal said he received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee. But Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn have repeated that they had Neal rated as a first-rounder.
He dodged a medical question about Clemson defensive Shaq Lawson’s shoulder and contended that the Falcons “know what we are doing with our pass rush.”
The Falcons, who were last in the league with 19 sacks last season, took Neal over Lawson, who was one of the nation's top pass rushers.
Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss with 25.5 last season. He also had 12.5 sacks to help the Tigers reach the national championship game.
But he had his critics, too.
“As many good splash plays as he has had, he has had too many, for me, plays where Shaq looks slow, sluggish and not very competitive,” ESPN front-office insider Louis Riddick said. “Quite honestly, in scouting terms, he looks like just a guy. That concerns me.”
Lawson went two picks after Neal to the Buffalo.