Falcons

Combine standouts the Falcons could consider in the first round

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Don’t check your calendar, but the draft is less than two months away now that it has been moved to late April. The Falcons will be picking 14th thanks to their winning ways at the end of last season. However, it remains their highest draft pick since 2015 when they selected Vic Beasley 8th overall. With the combine complete, most of all the information is now out there on this draft class.

The Falcons are in a fantastic position with a high draft pick and more than their full allotment of draft picks at their disposal. A few names on this list probably won’t be available at #14, but while Dimitroff has rarely been active in the free agent market, draft day trades are a specialty of his. If the Falcons have their eye on a player who may be taken in the top ten, expect them to do everything in their reasonable power to move up the draft board.

Montez Sweat

Sweat has become a draft day crush of mine. Rumblings from the Reese’s Senior Bowl suggested that Sweat was a player who stood out, not just because of his play, but because of his outstanding athleticism for a player who his 6’6″, 260 pounds. He was beating out all of the linemen in sprints with ease and most of DBs as well. I was giddy to see him run at the combine, and of course, he blessed us all with a 4.41 40-time, easily the fastest among edge rushers.

The Mississipi State product burst onto the scene as a Junior with 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. He decided to return for his senior season to be apart of one of the most dominating defensive fronts in college football (seriously go watch tape of Mississipi State’s defensive line it’s absolutely filthy). The extra year isn’t going to hurt his draft stock as he upped his sack total to 12. The Falcons desperately need another edge rusher to pair with Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley, but after Sweat’s combine showing, it’s hard to see him sliding all the way to the 14th pick. Thomas Dimitroff – get to work.

Rashan Gary

As shocking as watching Sweat run a 4.41 was, Gary’s 4.58 and 38-inch vertical at 6’4″, 277 pounds wasn’t far off. The Michigan product doesn’t have the eye-popping body of work at the collegiate level that most of the top prospects have, but the athletic traits to become a star in the NFL are apparent.

Gary came into Michigan a 5-star recruit because of his incredible features for a man his size. The difficult part in evaluating him is how – with those traits – was he not able to become more of a threat rushing the passer. In three years at Michigan, he only had 9.5 sacks. With that said, his size, strength, and athleticism make him a player that can rotate inside and outside, creating matchup problems across the board. He just needs to be coached up a bit. There aren’t many defensive line coaches better than Dan Quinn out there, so perhaps Atlanta would be the perfect fit for Gary.

Although, the Falcons may be looking for a more polished product that can have a significant impact in year one. I’m not sure if that is the player Gary is. Nonetheless, like Sweat, it is no guarantee he is even around when the Falcons select.

Ed Oliver

Oliver is another freakishly athletic former five-star recruit that chose not to go to a Power 5 school. Instead, he went to Houston, which may encourage other high school stars to choose smaller programs based on Oliver’s success. In three years and only 32 games, Oliver racked up 53 tackles for loss becoming perhaps the most dominant interior force in all of college football.

Unfortunately, he chose not to run at the combine, but he did measure in at a healthy 6’2″, 287 pounds and showed bullish strength with 32 reps on the bench press, tied for second among defensive lineman. He also put up a pretty ridiculous 36-inch vertical leap for a nearly 300-pound man. Oliver plans to run his 40 at Houston’s Pro Day, where I imagine numerous Falcons scouts will be in attendance. His quickness and agility are indisputable on his tape, which has me looking forward to seeing what time he churns out at his Pro Day.

Devin White

Ok, this is a total homer pick on my part and there is a 99.9% chance this never happens, but Devin White went out to Indianapolis and did what he did best – balled out. The LSU product ran a blazing 4.42 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of nearly 40 inches while weighing in at 6’0″, 237 pounds.

The Butkus Award winner became the best linebacker in college football by doing a little bit of everything. More than anything he was a tackling machine, recording 256 tackles in his final two seasons at LSU, but he was also an underrated blitzer and elite at forcing fumbles. He is a sideline to sideline physical player with the attitude that would fit perfectly on a Dan Quinn coached team. Not to mention, White also has that LSU connection with Deion Jones. The two together would solidify the Falcons linebacking core for the foreseeable future.

His weaknesses are in his instincts. He can be easily fooled by misdirection and doesn’t have much experience in pass coverage. Neither of those is ideal for an NFL prospect, but his athleticism makes up for a lot of it and he is a player who is constantly in the film room working on his game. Linebacker isn’t at the top of the Falcons list of needs, but White is the type of player worth taking as the best player available, which he will be if he is still around at pick fourteen.

 

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