The Atlanta Falcons added yet another linebacker with the selection of Marquis Spruill out of Syracuse. While some could take this as commentary on the Falcons being forced to play a pair of college free agents in 2013, it looks to be more like the Falcons not wanting to spend money on retreads.
Falcons inside linebacker depth looks much better than it did just a year ago with the emergence of Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow. Add in Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent, and the Falcons could be log-jammed at the spot this year.
On the Field
Spruill is an intelligent thumper in the middle of a defense. He compares favorably to Akeem Dent as a pounder against the run game and solid blitzer. He uses good technique when shedding blocks, and he could be the best fit for strong-side inside linebacker depth on the roster.
The real questions come in when looking at his size, speed and athleticism. He's got great straight-line speed, but his hips are stiff, and he isn't very quick laterally. He's undersized at just 6'1" and 231 pounds and is just average with his upper body strength. He projects best to outside linebacker in the 4-3.
However, the Falcons are getting a good special teams player here. He should provide a ton of talent as a gunner and blocker for the Falcons on any of the four primary sets. That will be his best shot at making the roster over Akeem Dent or Joplo Bartu if it came down to it.
Off the Field
The Falcons take yet another player with an off-field question here. They are starting to take chances on guys they like with minor off-field transgressions. Spruill was arrested for a disorderly conduct situation when he was at Syracuse in 2012.
When reading about it, it sounds like a moment of immaturity for a college student. He was also suspended part of a game for it. If he has grown and learned from his mistake, the Falcons should have no issues with him there.
Spruill looks to have grown up a lot since the incident and was the Orange's captain in 2013. As a senior and starter for all four years, Spruill is one of the ideal fits for the Falcons off the field, outside of that incident. The Falcons add another cog to the machine here.
Why Marquis Spruill instead of Shayne Skov or Jared Abbrederis?
Shayne Skov is arguably the best 3-4 inside linebacker in the entire draft. He has the size, strength and blitz anticipation to be a great fit in a Mike Nolan defensive scheme. However, Skov had questions about his motor both on and off the field.
Jared Abbrederis was one of the best wide receivers in the entire draft and profiles similar to current Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson. But the Falcons decided that they wanted some more depth on their defense after losing quite a few players to injury on defense in 2013.
Marquis Spruill is a unique fit in Atlanta and may never be anything more than a depth guy and special teams player. Nonetheless, Atlanta needed the depth and when looking into contract situations, could end up being a multi-year reserve for the Falcons.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro day info is courtesy NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.