The past few years I’ve posted some scouting reports of past Atlanta Falcons draft picks just for fun and would like to do so again this year.
I’ve only updated or modified these scouting reports for grammar and syntax. I also adjusted the final ratings at the end to a 10-point scale rather than the five-point scale I used back in 2010. Otherwise, they are unchanged from how they were written years ago when first completed.
Let’s kick things off with the last good early-round defensive tackle the Falcons selected in Corey Peters. After you read the report, continue reading for a post-script to revisit now eight years later.
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 300
40 Time: 5.07
Pros: Has a nice first step, with a developing swim move and shows decent hand use. Has a good motor and will chase down a scrambling quarterback. Works down the line laterally and can make plays in pursuit. Shows ability to make the stop at the point of attack.
Cons: Needs to improve his run defense at the point of attack. Gets pushed off the ball too often and struggles against double teams.
Overview: Peters has starting potential because of his effort and quickness. Worked mostly out of three-technique. A three-year starter that was most productive his last two years, combining for eight sacks and 22 tackles for loss.
NFL Forecast: Peters has a chance to be a starter at the next level, although I’m not sure as an impact starter. He’d probably get the most out of his ability playing in a 4-3 scheme where he plays beside a big nose tackle that draws double teams. In that way, I think you’re looking at a guy that can be a similar player to Tony Brown, although Brown began his career as a much quicker D-end.
But you like Peters’ effort and if he can improve his hand technique, then he’ll definitely stick in the pros. At the very least, he should make a solid No. 3 tackle although he may never be a good enough run stopper to be trusted with a starting job. But I forsee him being a starter by his third or fourth year. He won’t be great and is the type of guy that may only get two to four sacks in a given year. But he’ll be valuable to his team more than his production merits.
He could also make a decent rotational option for a 3-4 team, although his upside is more limited in that scheme.
ATL Forecast: Peters could definitely add depth to the Falcons defensive interior. And while he doesn’t show the great versatility the Falcons tend to prefer in their interior linemen to play multiple techniques, his effort alone should allow him to stick. He’s not going to be anything more than a No. 4 off the bat but should beat Vance Walker for that job, and be ready to beat Thomas Johnson for the No. 3 role by his second season.
Long-term, he’d be a nice option to have coming off the bench to spell Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry, although not sure he is going to be as good as either.
Value: Peters is a solid middle-round pick and should be targeted in the fourth or fifth-round range.
Key: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Point of Attack: 6.0
Pass Rush: 6.0
Postscript: Looking Back Eight Years Later…
I feel pretty good about this assessment of Peters in hindsight. I think I probably undersold his versatility, as he wound up carving out a nice NFL career as a one-technique defensive tackle.
But I was never bullish on Peters’ ability to impact right away, and feel in retrospect I was right in that regard. While Peters did manage to start right away with the Falcons, I feel watching him over the course of the five seasons he played in Atlanta (2010-14), that he wasn’t particularly good in a starting role until his fourth season in 2013.
Peters, of course, landed the starting spot right away because Peria Jerry was not poised to be the starter. Jerry suffered a much more serious knee injury during his 2009 rookie season than I had realized at the time of writing this report in the spring of 2010.
Then, my expectation was that Jerry would start beside Babineaux and Peters would be a solid rotational piece behind them. I also wrongly expected Thomas Johnson (who was cut at the end of training camp in 2010) and Vance Walker would serve bigger roles during the earlier portion of Peters’ career.
As I said, I think Peters was an underwhelming starter his first three years in Atlanta. He did flash from time to time, leading to him tallying four sacks during his first two seasons. But the lack of consistency was my main issue with Peters early in his career, which is common for young, developing players.
Also, a foot injury limited him at the outset of 2012. But he responded with a very strong 2013 when he seemingly put everything together and became the more consistent force that he had teased for three seasons, tallying a career-high five sacks. Unfortunately, the train got off the tracks late in the season with a torn Achilles suffered against the San Francisco 49ers.
Unfortunately for Peters, 2013 was also a contract year. And so the following offseason the potential to land a long-term extension from the Falcons never came. Instead, they gave him a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
Adding further insult to injury, the Falcons went out and paid for free agents Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson, ponying up a combined $57 million with $23.5 million in guaranteed money for both. Some of that money should’ve gone to Peters and from my perspective soured his relationship with the team.
Had it been me running the Falcons at the time, I would have signed a cheap veteran defensive tackle to be a bridge until Peters was better recovered from his Achilles injury instead of paying big money to two free agents in Soliai and Jackson, who frankly were not nearly as good as Peters was prior to his injury. That’s not hindsight by the way.
Peters had a solid year in 2014 as a rotational piece on the Falcons defensive line but left to go to Arizona the following offseason. He has since turned into a very good player for the Cardinals over the past three seasons.
He grew into a good run-stopper at nose tackle in their 3-4 defense. Once again showing my short-sightedness in this scouting report. When mentioning him as a possible fit in the 3-4 scheme, I was thinking more along the lines of an undersized defensive end (akin to the role he played at Kentucky), not a nose tackle.
But Peters is a good example of a player that can be developed into a good run plugger. Peters had a very good frame for it. His bulk was in his lower half, allowing him to anchor well. And while he didn’t have the classic build of a bulky 3-4 nose tackle, that ability to anchor, while also being disruptive is much more a fit in the modern version of the position that often plays in hybrid schemes rather than the traditional “two-gapping” role.
In the end, Peters is arguably the most successful third-round selection of the Falcons during the Mike Smith/Thomas Dimitroff Era thanks to a much stronger second half of his career. Unfortunately, the bulk of that back half has been spent elsewhere besides Atlanta and thus the Falcons won’t reap the benefits.
The Falcons probably hope to reap much greater rewards from any defensive tackle they potentially select in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Yet if they choose to “double dip” and pick up a second defensive tackle in the middle rounds, that player having a career comparable to Peters lines up very well.