Image Credit: Original: AP
Junior safety Keanu Neal became the second Florida Gators player to have his name called Thursday when he was selected 17th overall in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
Neal becomes the first Gators player drafted by the Falcons since Elijah Williams in 1998. His selection is obviously tied to former Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who became Atlanta’s head coach last season.
“I’ve kind of wanted that to be the team I went to,” Neal said on a post-draft call. “I think I fit perfectly. They want a guy who’s interchangeable, a guy who can do more than one thing, and I fit that.”
The only UF player on the Falcons’ roster, Neal’s selection was heralded by most analysts, though many agreed that he likely could have been taken later in the draft. He will likely begin his career playing safety and gunner on special teams, but Neal could develop into an outside linebacker due to his size, tackling ability and coverage skills.
Of course, Quinn’s familiarity with Neal, combined with Atlanta’s need at the position, made the selection a no-brainer. “We certainly respected his game for a long time and had a clear vision of how to feature him here,” Quinn said.
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) April 29, 2016
"I wonder where they'll play him?"
— NFL (@NFL) April 29, 2016
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) April 29, 2016