When Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff drafted Kendall Sheffield in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, virtually no one thought Sheffield would be a starter in his first season.
This wasn’t a knock against Sheffield by any means. The Falcons plan heading into last season was set with Isaiah Oliver and Desmond Trufant expected to be Atlanta’s starting cornerbacks and Damontae Kazee to fill the nickel cornerback role.
But when Keanu Neal suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during the third week of the season, Falcons coach Dan Quinn was forced to reevaluate what his secondary would look like.
Quinn eventually decided to move Kazee back to safety and put Sheffield at nickel. Not only did Sheffield succeed in his new role, over the last half of the 2019 season he became one of the Falcons’ starting cornerbacks in their base package.
Sheffield’s first start came during Atlanta’s 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in mid-October. Despite the outcome, the speedy cornerback impressed his head coach playing every snap and recording four tackles.
“I was pleased with Sheffield playing outside,” Quinn said. “We’ve featured him more at nickel, so to see him work outside, I thought he really responded to the challenge.”
From that moment on, Sheffield solidified his role in the Falcons’ defense. Sheffield recorded 46 tackles, three pass deflections and one forced fumble in 11 starts.
With a wealth of experience now under his belt, Sheffield is ready to take his game to another level. In fact, Sheffield was picked as the No. 5 breakout player when the AtlantaFalcons.com editorial staff released their top-10 breakout players for the 2020 season.