(Photo: The Associated Press)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons continued to bolster their defense by selecting Minnesota linebacker DeVondre Campbell in the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
Campbell (6-4, 232) adds good size, versatility and potential pass-rush skills to the Atlanta defense. He led Minnesota with four sacks in 2015.
Campbell is the third defensive player and second linebacker taken in Atlanta’s first four picks.
The Falcons drafted Florida safety Keanu Neal in the first round and LSU linebacker Deion Jones in the second. They met a need by drafting Stanford tight end Austin Hooper in the third round.
Coach Dan Quinn said Friday Atlanta needs more speed and toughness to help with depth and special teams. Campbell, who was timed at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash, fills both needs.
Campbell said his biggest strength is his versatility to play all three linebacker positions. He said he expects to be used primarily at will linebacker. Justin Durant, the 2015 starter, was released.
Campbell has trained with former Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith in the offseason. Campbell said the focus was on taking advantage of his speed on his pass rush.
“That was one of the things I knew I needed to work on because I have the skillset to be a dominant pass rusher,” Campbell said in a telephone interview.
A demonstration of pass-rush skills could help Campbell earn immediate playing time. The Falcons finished last in the league in sacks in 2015 and have ranked no higher than 28th since 2012.
Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys said Campbell “can cover a lot of field and make plays. You cannot teach height and speed and he has plenty of both.”
The Falcons may look for help on the offensive line later in the draft. They have picks in the sixth and seventh rounds.
The team was stripped of its fifth-round pick as part of it penalties for pumping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The Falcons traded their sixth-round pick to Tennessee last year as part of a package for left guard Andy Levitre. They added a sixth-round pick by moving down two spots in the second round in a trade with Houston on Friday.
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