Name: Duke Riley
Pro Team: Atlanta Falcons
College Team: LSU
Draft Status: Round Three, Pick 11 (75th overall)
- Height: 6’0
- Weight: 232lbs.
- Hands: 9.25”
- Arm Length: 32”
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.58s
- Vertical: 34.5”
- Broad: 122”
Dan Quinn. Awareness. Consistent. Speed. Pursuit.
A great deal of any rookie’s ability to get on the field in year one is tied to the coaching philosophy of the organization that drafted him. Look no further than the Atlanta Falcons if searching for such a prime rookie opportunity. As evidenced by last season, Falcons rookies are given the opportunity to win a role regardless of years of service, so this is a very plus situation for the other “Bayou Brother” to find himself in.
While Riley will not wow you with his size nor physicality, he does stack up as an above average NFL linebacker in aggregate athletic traits because of his speed. His spatial awareness allows him to take quick angles in pursuit, and he could be a mild upgrade for Atlanta at weak-side linebacker.
Strength. Production. Bad hair.
When a player does not get on the field much until his senior season, you have to wonder why. Riley got his chance to start as a senior at LSU, so we have to ask ourselves if his ability was more or less tied to his age. Duke obviously will not wow anyone with his play strength. He is not a hammer at the second level. He will need help around him to thrive as a chase-and-tackle specialist.
Atlanta appears ready to move on from De’Vondre Campbell as their weak-side specialist. Riley has been seeing starter snaps in camp in this role. If he can translate the weekly consistency that he showed as a senior at LSU, this could prove to be a favorable IDP role for his owners if it is truly an every-down role.
Third down. Currently, the coaching staff is weighing Duke vs De’Vondre as the third-down ‘backer next to Deion Jones. Campbell is much taller and could easily win this role with his experience at the NFL level. Duke has his work cut out over the next three weeks to beat out the incumbent Campbell for this pivotal role.
A rookie season of 600ish snaps is likely. Riley will have to continue his development and acclimation to achieve this floor. If you are planning on using him as a starter this season, he may disappoint in that slot. I would like him as an LB5 or LB6, but I tend to aim higher for my LB4 starting slot.
The Falcons used a third round pick to build upon a young defense. Riley will get plenty of run and should have a two-year leash as the Falcons WLB. He must get stronger/better to keep this role beyond his useful rookie contract years. It is very likely that this coaching staff does not value high-priced veteran linebackers (as they should not.)
Rookie Draft Advice
At the time of this writing, Raekwon McMillan has torn his ACL. Raekwon was being selected in the 35-45 range of most IDP rookie drafts, while Riley has seen an uptick in ADP to about the 60-70 range. I would suggest using Jalen Reeves-Maybin (ADP 51) as a barometer here and try to grab Duke somewhere in the 50-60 range if you believe he is a ‘must have’. For the record: I am not a big Reeves-Maybin fan, so adjust accordingly.