Falcons Travel to Work Out Several Miami Hurricane Prospects

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Johnson (left) and Phillip Dorsett

The Atlanta Falcons sent a contingent of team officials and coaches to conduct an on-campus workout of several University of Miami 2015 NFL draft prospects today. According to Christy Chirinos of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli is among them and the team is looking at wide receiver Philip Dorsett, offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, running back Duke Johnson and quarterback Ryan Williams. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constituion adds cornerback Ladarius Gunter and tight end Clive Walford to the list of prospects. Per Ledbetter, linebacker Denzel Perryman, who previously reports suggested would have a private meeting with the Falcons tomorrow, is not working out but meeting with the team.

Miami sports a deep crop of prospects this year with Flowers being projected as a first-round pick. Dorsett, Johnson, Perryman and Walford by most accounts might hear their names called on the second day of the draft when rounds two and three are selected. Gunter and Williams figure to be potential late-round selections on the third day of the draft, if not undrafted free agents.

Flowers spent the last two years as the Hurricanes’ starting left tackle. As a true freshman in 2012, he started four games at right tackle. Flowers is not projected to be a top 10 selection, meaning he’s not likely on the Falcons’ radar for their top selection: the eighth overall pick. But if he were to slide in the draft to the second round, the Falcons might look at him. The Falcons’ need at tackle isn’t much, but they could tinker with the notion of playing him inside at guard. Also, several mock drafts project NFC South division rival Carolina Panthers might select Flowers with their top selection, pick No. 25. The Falcons might be doing some due diligence in case their defenders will be facing Flowers in 2015. Flowers measured in at 6’6″ 329 pounds at the Combine and clocked a 5.31-second 40-yard dash time. He also lifted 225 pounds on the bench press 37 times, the most of any player at this past year’s Combine.

Dorsett might be the most intriguing Hurricanes prospect for the Falcons, as he is one of the fastest players in this draft class. The 5’10” 185-pound receiver clocked a 4.33-second 40 time in February at the Combine, but managed to improve that time to an unofficial 4.25 seconds at his pro day on April 1. Dorsett showed big play potential this past year for Miami, scoring 10 touchdowns on just 36 receptions and also averaged 24.2 yards per reception. Dorsett could add the sort of big-play element to the Falcons offense that they need on the outside at wide receiver.

Johnson was Miami’s leading rusher all three years he was at the school. He finished ninth in the nation this past year with 1,652 rushing yards, a career-high for him. He also carried the ball 242 times, averaging 6.8 yards per carry and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He added 421 yards and three more scores on 38 catches as a receiver. For his career, Johnson averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 526 career attempts and scored 32 combine touchdowns, including two as a kickoff returner his freshman year when he averaged 33.0 yards on 27 returns. Standing 5’9″ and weighing 207 pounds, Johnson is known for his speed. However, he managed to only clock a 4.54-second 40 at the Combine and only slightly improved it at his pro day. He potentially is in the mix for the Falcons as they look to continue to build their running back depth, although it’s likelier that the Falcons will look for a more physical runner to team with Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith.

Perryman is one of the premier linebacker prospects in this year’s draft and was a Butkus Award finalist, given to the nation’s top linebacker. He was barely edged out by UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks in the voting. He put up several career-highs as a senior including 110 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles and five pass breakups. He also garnered his second career interception in 2014. He clocked a 4.78-second 40 at the Combine and also had an impressive 27 reps on the bench press. Perryman has a hard-nosed, physical disposition that the Falcons have been missing at middle linebacker since Curtis Lofton last manned the spot in 2011. Perryman measures in at 5’11” 236 pounds, similar to Lofton.

Walford is considered one of the top tight ends in this year’s class. The 6’4″ 251-pound pass-catcher clocked a 4.79-second 40 time, 35-inch vertical and 20 bench reps at the Combine. He became a regular starter as a redshirt freshman in 2011, finishing his career with 36 career starts. He led the Hurricanes this past year with 44 receptions, and also had career-highs of 676 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

Gunter is a big corner, measuring in at 6’1″ and 202 pounds. Gunter played predominantly at cornerback at Miami, but due to his size and lack of ideal speed (he ran a 4.69-second 40 at the Combine), he might be moved to safety in the NFL. The Falcons have needs at both positions. Gunter was able to improve his 40 time to 4.56 seconds at his pro day. Gunter was a two-year starter that finished his career with six interceptions, 18 pass breakups and 111 tackles.

Williams spent much of his career as a reserve at Miami. He did garner 10 starts as a freshman while playing at Memphis. That season, he completed 56.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,075 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He transferred to Miami the following year and spent the next two years playing behind Stephen Morris and Brad Kaaya as a reserve. He was expected to be the Hurricanes’ starter this past year, but tore his ACL in April. At Miami, Williams appeared in 10 games, completing 37 of 53 passes (70 percent completion) for 456 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Williams got back onto draft radar’s with an impressive performance in January’s Medal of Honor Bowl, throwing for 115 yards and a touchdown as he led his all-star team to victory. Williams measured in at 6’4″ 215 pounds at Miami’s pro day earlier this month per the Palm Beach Post. He clocked a 4.84-second 40 time also. He’ll likely be considered a priority free agent given his lack of college experience, but if he can impress in workouts, some NFL team including the Falcons might take a flyer on him in the latter portion of the draft in the hopes he’s the next Matt Cassel.

It’s unknown if the Falcons will be speaking with other notable Miami draft prospects, namely defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Chickillo is projected to be a mid-round pick that might sneak into the second day of the draft. Chickillo impressed at both the Senior Bowl and Combine. The 6″3″ 267-pound pass-rusher ran a 4.79-second 40 and did 27 bench reps in Indianapolis in February. Chickillo finished his career with 15.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss as a four-year starter.

Falcons officials might be heading back to Flowery Branch tomorrow, as they are expected to be conducting a private meeting with Florida defensive end Dante Fowler.

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Aaron Freeman
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