Atlanta has always needed a true boom-or-bust pass-rushing prospect, and Tyler Starr from South Dakota is the perfect one for them to try out. He's got great physical attributes that suggest his natural ability as a pass-rusher.
He's a very raw player and may not make the roster as a rookie. However, with a switch to a base 3-4 defense and running 4-3 as hybrid looks, he should stand a much better chance than expected. His major competition will be guys like Prince Shembo, Stansly Maponga, Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann.
On the Field
Starr is the ideal when it comes to an outside linebacker's build, speed and length for the 3-4 defense. He's great in space and uses his hands extremely well for a guy coming out of college. He understands how to convert speed to power and has a nasty bull rush.
His first step is one of the best in the draft, and he's got multiple moves, including a nasty spin move. He's also a high-motor player and doesn't give up if blocked out of a play on initial move. Add in a nastiness that he plays with once he puts on his helmet, and he's exactly what Atlanta needs.
Unfortunately, he's not ready to be an NFL starter and comes in as a project. He's pretty poor technically and looks slow in the open field. He also has trouble fighting blockers in the run game.
If he can correct most of his problems, Starr has the potential to be a Cameron Wake-level steal.
Off the Field
Starr hasn't always been an ideal Falcon off the field. It's not that he wasn't a good guy or that he was a trouble-maker. It was that he had academic issues and felt like he was lacking direction in life.
Instead of just quitting or moving down to a community college level, the new Falcon decided he was going to persevere and become a great player. He's such a hard worker and has such a high motor that his head coach, Joe Glenn, had this to say about him (h/t Sioux City Journal's Barry Poe):
“I’ve coached some kids who have a hot button, but I’ve never coached a guy this good that has that burn to play every down as hard as he possibly can, with as much effort and as much toughness and as much speed and quickness and desire to win every play. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re an All-American or a third-teamer going against him, you better be ready. He’s not out to hurt anybody but he wants to win and he wants to make everybody around him better. He flat out gets after it every play.”
That's the kind of guy Atlanta has needed off the edge for years. A high-motor player who has toughness and aggression. A guy who isn't afraid to throw the other guy around like a rag doll and get to the quarterback. And yet, a guy who will be perfect for them in the locker room.
Why Tyler Starr Instead of Morgan Breslin or Shaquil Barrett?
While Starr matches up well with what the Falcons like in an outside linebacker, it's questionable why the Falcons didn't go with more proven guys at a higher level in Morgan Breslin or Shaquil Barrett. Starr may have been a multi-year starter at the FCS level, but these guys were FBS level guys.
Barrett had 12 sacks at Colorado State in the Mountain West this past year. He showed good hand usage and quick twitch off the line. However, he is much smaller than Starr, and without the length Starr has, he was likely going to go undrafted.
Breslin is unique because his junior film showed a guy who could have gone in the top three rounds had he stuck with it at defensive end. Unfortunately, he switched positions to linebacker late in his career.
The Falcons wound up picking the best fit for them, and that's Starr.
For more information on Tyler Starr, check out Darren Page's scouting report on him.
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.