The Atlanta Falcons finished off their 2014 NFL Draft class by selecting a pair of linebackers in Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood and South Dakota Tyler Starr at the tail-end of the seventh round. Both were compensatory picks, as Smallwood was taken with the 253rd overall selection and Starr went two picks later, the penultimate selection in the entire draft.
Smallwood declared as a junior this past year after spending three years as a starting middle linebacker at UConn. He was highly productive leading the team in tackles all three years, combining for 332 career tackles. He also added 27 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Smallwood added a pair of interceptions, 13 pass breakups, five forced fumbles and two touchdown returns (one interception and one fumble).
At the Combine, Smallwood measured in at 6’2″ and 246 pounds with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and lifting 225 pounds 18 times on the bench press. He was clocked at 5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but strained his hamstring during the run. He was unable to run at his pro day in March because of the injury.
Starr was a three-year starter at South Dakota and finishied his career as the school’s all-time in sacks (27) and forced fumbles (13). As a redshirt freshman, he sat out the season due to academics before earning the starting defensive end spot as a sophomore. That season, he had a career-high 14 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. He was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given the best defensive player in the FCS the following year and placed ninth in voting this past season with 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. For his career, Starr had 41 tackles for loss, one interception, seven pass breakups, and one blocked kick.
At the Combine, Starr led linebackers with a 6.64-second three-cone time, while posting a 4.95-second 40-yard dash, 24 bench reps, and 32-inch vertical jump. Starr measured in at 6’4″ and 250 pounds.
Smallwood is more of a thumper in the middle than Falcons fifth-round pick Marquis Spruill and will add depth behind Paul Worrilow and Akeem Dent at middle linebacker. Starr adds more depth at outside linebacker and will likely compete as a reserve at strong-side linebacker behind Kroy Biermann and Joplo Bartu.