The Atlanta Falcons went a long way toward addressing their undermanned pass rush Thursday night, selecting Clemson OLB Vic Beasley with the No. 8 pick. Beasley recorded a combined 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss over his final two college seasons, and he was thought to be an option as early as the Jaguars' pick at No. 3. There will be some concerns about Beasley's playing weight until he proves that he can stay where he was at the combine: 246 pounds. He checked in much lighter than that while at Clemson, reportedly shy of 230 for much of the 2014 season. As such, Beasley could struggle initially to set the edge vs. the run, although he did put up 35 combine bench-press reps. He also should make up for any shortcomings with the work he does chasing the quarterback. Beasley is arguably the top pass-rusher in this draft class, filling a massive need in Atlanta.
Strengths: Usually starts with an advantage because he plays as if he knows every single quarterback's count. Shoots out of a cannon at the snap. Coupled with his speed, that early quickness allows him to get offensive linemen back on their heels. Not a one-trick pony as a pass-rusher—will drop inside with a spin move when an OT creeps to his outside shoulder and can bull rush despite his 246-pound frame. Versatile beyond attacking the quarterback, both as an adequate coverage defender and speedy chase-and-tackle linebacker. Uses his hands about as well as any edge rusher in this draft. Keeps blockers from locking their arms into his chest by swatting them. Wastes minimal effort getting into his pass rush. Bulked up for the combine without losing any speed.
Weaknesses: May be hard-pressed to establish himself as a three-down linebacker early in his NFL career, unless he becomes more of a reliable force vs. the run. Desire to disrupt offenses in the backfield will hang him out to dry when teams come right after him. He's not yet strong enough to set the edge opposite 300-pound tackles. As with just about any pass-rusher jumping from college to the pros, Beasley's challenge will be in developing his bag of tricks so he's not overly reliant on speed and a quick first step. Size is less of a concern now than it was pre-combine, but he is still on the small side, with short arms.
Player comparison: Von Miller
GALLERY: SCENES FROM THE NFL DRAFT