Falcons trade down, still get speedy LB Deion Jones in second round

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons and coach Dan Quinn entered the draft with a mission to improve speed at linebacker. They accomplished that goal in the second round on Friday by picking Deion Jones, the LSU linebacker who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at his pro day.

"He adds speed," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a video interview following the pick. "He adds tenacity to our defense. You see the theme that we’re going for here. Obviously that’s what Dan Quinn is about. That’s what this defense is about. Ability to cover, that’s going to be an important part of it; ability to have range. He scrapes very well. He has a really nice feel to scrape inside and step up and make plays. So all in all, we just think he’s just another versatile, well-rounded defensive player."

Dimitroff said he envisions the Falcons using Jones' speed and aggressiveness to their advantage on special teams as well.

My take: The Falcons obviously had an interest in Jones from the start based on how closely they monitored him at the Senior Bowl. Then Jones had a private workout with the team, just another indication of the interest level the Falcons had. Although Jones didn't have a lot of starting experience at LSU, his speed is such an asset and something the Falcons sorely need at inside linebacker. In the Cover 3 scheme, Jones' speed can be utilized as he drops in coverage and closes on the ball. What might hurt Jones is he's not the most instinctive player. But again, a team needing improved speed at linebacker just took a significant step. Jones expects to step into a role at weakside linebacker, where the Falcons are unsettled after cutting veteran starter Justin Durant. You wonder if the Falcons had maybe just a little hesitation after taking another LSU player, cornerback Jalen Collins, in the second round last season then seeing Collins struggle as a rookie. They hope Jones doesn't have the same type of rookie experience.

In the middle of the rivalry: Jones, who is from New Orleans, told ESPN.com during the draft process that his father is a die-hard Saints fan. So it should make matters much more interesting that Jones now plays for the bitter-rival Falcons. "He'll get over it," Jones said of his father. "He won't have a choice." Jones gets to return home in Week 3 of the regular season, when the Falcons and Saints square off on ESPN's Monday Night Football in the 10-year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.

High praise: Here's what LSU coach Les Miles told ESPN.com's Mike Triplett about Jones after he ran that 4.38 at the pro day: "Not a lot of linebackers in history will run like that. That guy may be the fastest linebacker that I personally have been around that had any size to him at all. He’s absolutely the first. That fits into the NFL game as a guy that can move and make plays and has ball skills. He’s going to fit right into the NFL game." Jones was upset about running a 4.59 at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

What's next: The Falcons traded down with Houston in the second round, moving from the 50th overall pick to the 52nd, while getting the Texans' sixth-round pick (195th overall) in return. Remember, the Falcons entered the draft with just five picks and none in the fifth or sixth rounds. Now, they can maybe address another need area on Day 3. Quinn is always looking for pass-rushers and cornerbacks.