Falcons: Senior Bowl prospects to watch

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The Reese’s Senior Bowl is this upcoming Saturday, and with no combine, private workouts, or facility visits, it will be the last chance Falcons fans have to see their favorite prospects. Many will be clamoring for someone like Najee Harris, but the Senior Bowl will shed light on where prospects’ values actually lie. The Falcons’ positional needs are defensive line/edge, safety, cornerback, running back, and offensive line. These are my Senior Bowl prospects for Atlanta fans to look for on January 30th.

Defensive Line/EDGE

Quincy Roche, Miami: Roche is one of the best pure pass-rushers in this class; this is from thedraftnetwork:

Roche is listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds per the University of Miami’s website. He has a tremendous burst and has one of the best first steps of all the draft-eligible edge rushers. Roche is your classic speed rusher who wins by beating the tackle out of the blocks and getting to the edges. Roche has a unique ability to turn the corner when he does get the edge, and his ability to dip his shoulder while also having the ankle flexibility to turn the corner is special. He has above-average use of hands and has a relentless motor both rushing the passer and playing the run.

Payton Turner, Houston: Turner spent most of his career for the Cougars as an interior defender. He slimmed down to 270 pounds before the 2020 season, and it was his most productive year. Turner is explosive off the line, quick as a lateral mover, and flexible with his change of direction. He has a ton of first-step quickness and closing burst in the pocket, and also has the ankle flexion to stop and switch directions at a sweltering pace.

Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest: Although he is listed as a defensive lineman on the Senior Bowl’s roster, he is an edge. Basham is a mammoth 285-pound end who can push the pocket while still possessing the anchor to set a hard edge. If he has as good of a Senior Bowl as I think he will, he could find himself drafted in the first round.

Chauncey Golston, Iowa: Golston is more valuable defending against the run than the pass, but he is great at it. He has a high motor and the ability to move along the defensive front. Kicking him inside to a three-technique on passing downs would be valuable to Dean Pees.

Marvin Wilson, Florida State: Wilson is long and athletic with powerful hands to get in the backfield and the strength and balance to hold up against double teams. Given his gap versatility, Pees would be able to line him up in multiple alignments.

Defensive Backs

Aaron Robinson, UCF: Robinson was a swiss army knife for the Knights’ defense. He experienced working from the slot where his game translates best at the next level. His ability to play multiple positions is what’s so intriguing. Aligning Robinson in the slot to have him blitz, help in run-support, or drop deep are all things he can do.

Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State: If Keanu Neal is not given a second contract, look no further than Nasirildeen. He is a carbon copy of Neal and Kam Chancellor. Watch for what he can do against running backs and tight ends in man coverage, as the 6-foot-4, 220-pound safety has tight end eraser traits. Florida State has produced Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James, who are both large-bodied defensive backs that sacrifice no agility or speed for their sizes at corner and safety.


Richie Grant, Central Florida: Grant is fluid and explosive in short areas. He possesses the long speed to play between the numbers in a one-high scheme. But he also possesses the flexibility to play cover-2, two-high quarters, or cover-3. Grant is as productive as any player, regardless of position. He’s notched 10 interceptions, 17 passes breakups, four fumble recoveries, and four forced fumbles.

Richard LeCounte, Georgia: LeCounte is basically a value-menu Richie Grant. Depending on where he is taken, he could provide some great value.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse: The best thing about Melifonwu is Dean Pees can use him in whichever capacity he sees fit — corner or safety. For a guy who is 6’3″, he has shockingly great fluidity in his hips. He combines a brand of physicality and sure tackling with impressive decision making. The universal scheme he offers might result in the Falcons missing out on him, though.


Running Backs

Michael Carter, North Carolina: Carter was the lightning to Javonte Williams‘ thunder at UNC this year. This from profootballnetwork:

Carter possesses elite footwork, processing, and a second home run gear. Carter is an outstanding blend of explosiveness, quickness, speed, toughness, and patience to create every yard he possibly can on any given play. Add that Carter projects as a top-flight receiving back, and we have an excellent player here. Carter can fill a Nyheim Hines role at worst, and at his best, he can be Austin Ekeler.

Trey Sermon, Ohio State: Sermon really burst on the scene in the final three games of the 2020 season. This from the same article as Carter.

The first is an incredible change of direction. Sermon can move laterally and cut as well as anyone in this class. On top of that, Sermon has marvelous vision and processing ability. Those movement skills and ability to create yards and elite contact balance give Sermon significant upside as an NFL running back.

Offensive line

Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater: Meinerz looked like a man among boys at the D III level.

Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa: Brown has been compared to Lane Johnson, but I think he is even more athletic. He is a converted tight end, and it shows. At a whopping 6’9″ and 321 pounds, Brown has rare athleticism seen from FCS tackles.

Alex Leatherwood; Landon Dickerson; Deonte Brown, Alabama: Alabama earned the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in college football this season. These three were a massive reason why. You couldn’t go wrong with any of these guys, but the decision comes down to value and where each will be taken. Dickerson isn’t playing due to an injury, but I figured I’d include him anyway.

If you caught the trend on defense, it is versatility. Whether the Falcons address the first or third levels of the defense, look for those prospects to be able to play multiple positions. On offense, the running backs class is deep, and I don’t think you can go wrong with five or seven of these prospects. The offensive line isn’t as big of a need as the other three, but if the Falcons don’t take Penei Sewell, they could find themselves looking for one in the later rounds, i.e., either of the Browns.

Photo: John Korduner/Icon Sportswire

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