Prepping for the Falcons at the 2018 Combine
The annual “Underwear Olympics” could help us get a clearer picture of who the Atlanta Falcons could be looking at in the NFL Draft.
We obviously still have to see what the Atlanta Falcons do in free agency before we can really concentrate on where they might go in the draft.
If the Alex Smith deal and other big trades in recent years are any indication, Atlanta’s plans for Draft weekend might also be impacted by a blockbuster of their own.
However, the Scouting Combine is upon us, and I do have the NFL Network, so I will be focusing on the following position groups March 2-5:
Offensive linemen that project to guard in the NFL:
It’s no secret that this position is likely one the Falcons place a high priority on.
Once again right guard was the weak link in the O-line this season, as Wes Schweitzer struggled in his first year as a starter.
Furthermore, a late-season injury to Andy Levitre exposed Ben Garland as just a stopgap measure, and not a player you want to rely on over an extended period of time.
Like Schweitzer in his rookie year, fourth-rounder Sean Harlow was a healthy scratch for every game last season, so we don’t know what we have in him.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they used the 26th overall selection on Will Hernandez from UTEP, Billy Price from Ohio State, or Isiah Wynn from Georgia.
Should Quenten Nelson somehow miraculously slide all the way to the Falcons’ pick, they should jump all over him.
I’ll be looking at the prospects’ times in the 40, the 3-cone drill, and the shuttles, as those numbers would indicate to me whether or not they have the athleticism required for the zone-blocking scheme the offense will continue to run.
As far as the drills themselves are concerned, I’m actually not that worried about the bench press reps. Weight room strength doesn’t necessarily translate to functional football strength.
The 10-yard splits at the beginning of the 40-yard dashes will also be key, as I see them as clues to how well offensive linemen fire off the snap and how well they can get to the second level.
The vertical leap and broad jump will also be indicators of lower body explosion.
Obviously, I also want to see how they perform in the position-specific drills.
Big running backs:
Yes, I’m still harping on this position, and if last year’s selection of Brian Hill is any indication, I think the Falcons are specifically looking for one, too.
Devonta Freeman lists at 206 pounds. Tevin Coleman lists at 212. Terron Ward at 201.
I’d like to see Atlanta get a back in the 225-pound or more range just to be a short-yardage and goal-line specialist.
Somebody like Darrien Williams from LSU or Kallen Ballage from Arizona State or Jordan Chunn from Troy.
I want to see the 10-yard splits within the 40-yard to get an indication of acceleration to the hole.
I also want to see the vertical leaps and broad jumps to give me an idea of lower body strength.
I wasn’t impressed with Derrick Coleman as a FB this year, though I did admire his special teams acumen.
I’d rather have somebody more like Patrick DiMarco, although I understand Steve Sarkisian prefers a more athletic type of fullback in his offense.
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Names like Jaylen Samuels, Dimitri Flowers, Nick Bawden, and Marcus Martin from Slippery Rock intrigue me.
I think positional drills will be more important to me for this group. Show me you can run-block, pass protect, and catch the ball.
I’m not expecting to be wowed by a FB in any of the athletic drills, though I’ll certainly appreciate it if I am.
While Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu are about as potent a 1-2 punch as you’ll find in the league, free agency threatens to hurt Atlanta’s depth here.
Taylor Gabriel, Andre Roberts, and nick Williams could all leave the team.
Roberts and Williams wouldn’t necessarily be huge losses, in my opinion, but Gabriel’s potential is immense, if he’s utilized correctly.
A receiver with kick and/or punt return skills is of particular interest to me.
As far as drills go, show the 40 times and the 10-yard splits, as well as the vertical leaps. Cones and shuttles will be important, too, as will the position-specific workouts.
The potential is there to have only Grady Jarrett under contract at this position when free agency starts on March 14.
Dontari Poe, Ahtyba Rubin, and Courtney Upshaw could all leave in free agency, as could Adrian Clayborn (who played more defensive end for us in 2017, but has lined up inside in the past).
If the Falcons first-rounder isn’t used on an OG this year, I believe it will be used on a defensive tackle.
This draft class is loaded with them – Da’Ron PAyne, Vita Vea, Tim Settle, Taven Bryan, Harrison Phillips, Maurice Hurst, and Derrick Nnadi have all been considered first-round-caliber prospects at one point or another by various draft-related websites.
I want to see the bench press numbers with this group, as well as the vertical leap and broad jump.
With the release of Jalen Collins earlier in the season, this spot needs to be addressed.
Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are a fine pairs of starters, but Brian Poole and Damontae Kazee look like CB/FS hybrids, and the quality of depth falls off in a hurry after that.
A bigger corner more typically associated with a Seattle-style defense would be nice, although I’m keeping my eye on Darius Phillips from Central Michigan because of return skills.
The 40 will be the big drill here.
Change-of-direction drills like the cones and the shuttles will also be important. The vertical leap will also figure prominently.
By the way, I highly recommend this set of videos by the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock for a better understanding of the drills performed at the Combine.
Next: Devonta Freeman makes a Bold Prediction before 2018 Season
Who are you looking forward to watching during the Combine?