Publishing weekly round-ups dealing with various Atlanta Falcons news was a regular event during the abyss known as 2011 NFL Lockout. Since then, I haven’t had much need for them but I figure that it is time to dust them off this offseason.
Partially because my day job has me traveling a lot during the week which limits the number of timely updates and posts I can have during the week involving Falcons-related items. So they will be partially house-cleaning for any stories I may not have written during the week.
I will also aggregate some articles, both Falcons-related and not, that I think are worthy of views that were posted during the past week.
The Falcons are actively working on retaining some of their own free agents including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, center Joe Hawley, and guard Mike Johnson according to reports.
Rounding up news involving Falcons free agents is that defensive tackle Peria Jerry is also unlikely to be retained, prompting some celebration.
North Carolina tight end prospect Eric Ebron joins the list of potential draft picks being openly in favor of playing for the Falcons. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney previously voiced his favor for Atlanta as a potential landing zone. Here’s what Ebron had to say:
I would love to play for the Falcons. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Matt Ryan – I would love to play with those guys. Those are big shoes to fill, which I’m not afraid of. I can’t walk into the league expecting to be Tony G. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can as myself.
Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews
Recapping all the latest from the Atlanta Falcons in regards to pro day visits and draft interest from this past week:
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was present at Texas A&M on Tuesday to mingle with old colleagues and check out offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Matthews was the main attraction since quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to work out, instead waiting for a later workout planned for March 27. Matthews stuck with positional drills, standing on his Combine numbers from last month.
Matthews is considered a potential target for the Falcons at the top of May’s draft.
Of those that did participate, running back Ben Malena measured in at 5-8, 194 pounds and did 27 bench reps of 225 pounds, ran a 4.54-second 40 time and jumped 33.5 inches on his vertical leap.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons sent two representatives to Clemson’s pro day on Friday, including new hire Billy Devaney, to check out that school’s top prospects.
While wide receiver Sammy Watkins drew a lot of praise from onlookers, Ledbetter touts quarterback Tajh Boyd’s performance. Boyd, who struggled during the Senior Bowl, was able to rebound by completing 66 of 67 scripted passes at his workout throwing to receivers like Watkins.
SB Nation’s Bull Run reports that Falcons area scout Mike Potts was expected to be on hand at the University at Buffalo’s pro day today among representatives from 19 other teams. There, Potts would get the chance to see outside linebacker Khalil Mack, one of the premier draft prospects this year.
After an impressive Combine performance last month where Mack clocked a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, today he was able to improve his time to somewhere between 4.53 and 4.55 seconds according to several stopwatches. Mack failed to improve upon his 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press from the Combine today. Also at Indianapolis, Mack lept 40 inches on the vertical jump as well as timed 7.08 seconds in the three-cone drill.
Mack finished his career as Buffalo’s all-time leader in sacks (28.5), tackles for loss (75) and forced fumbles (16).
Other Buffalo prospects trying to take advantage of the high attendance were running back Branden Oliver (26 bench reps, 4.63-second 40), safety Okoye Houston (4.56 40) and cornerback Najja Johnson (4.38 40).
Reports surfaced this morning that the Atlanta Falcons had sent representatives to Auburn University for that school’s pro day today. Most likely they were on hand to see Auburn’s bevy of draft prospects including Greg Robinson, widely considered this year’s most talented offensive tackle.
But it was outside linebacker Dee Ford who stole the show, working out for the first time due to sitting out at last month’s Combine in Indianapolis because of a back injury. Ford showed no ill effects, impressing with a 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds, 29 bench reps of 225 pounds, a broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches and vertical jump of 35.5 inches. He also weighed in at 244 pounds, eight pounds lighter than his weight at Indianapolis.
Robinson also dropped weight since the Combine, down five pounds at 327 pounds. He mostly stood on his Combine numbers, as he wowed observers in Indianapolis with a 4.92-second 40 time, 9 foot-5 inch broad jump and 32 bench reps. Robinson is already beginning to line up private workouts with one scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers later this week.
Other notes from workouts on Tuesday for Auburn were:
- Defensive back Blake Poole was timed a 4.38 seconds in his 40-yard dash.
- Fullback Jay Prosch ran a 4.72-second 40 and did 27 bench reps.
- Cornerback Chris Davis ran a 40 in 4.51 seconds and jumped 40.5 inches on his vertical.
- Running back Tre Mason stood on most of his Combine results but did run a 6.7-second three-cone.
Thomas Dimitroff addresses the media at the Combine
After hearing general manager Thomas Dimitroff on the Rich Eisen Podcast this past week, I’m thinking that the Atlanta Falcons may not be as intent on upgrading the pass rush as much as they are with other areas of their roster, including their offensive line. Most of their conversation centered on the value of the Combine and how teams assess the things they see or don’t see in Indianapolis in the final evaluations of things.
Here are some interesting excerpts with my commentary. Editor’s Note: Dimitroff’s initial excerpted comments were taken from the middle of his conversation with Eisen, while the latter one was taken from the end. But since they are related, I feel they work together in context.
Eisen: Let’s talk about your Falcons right now. For the lack of a better way to put it, what in the world happened with the Falcons last year?
Dimitroff: Oh wow. 4-12. You think about that, going from 13-3 to 4-12, what an incredible decline. We know that. Someone mentioned that it was an historical decline. I believe there were a number of things that were going on with our season and no one wants to complain about the injuries. Everyone’s dealt with injuries. Interestingly enough we were handling the injuries to a spot and then when Julio went down, we dropped into a pit that we weren’t able to pull ourselves out of. That was unfortunate, that was something that was disheartening to me because I thought our resiliency and our ability to do something like that was much stronger given the five, six, and seven-year talent that we had versus the earlier years when we had first and second-year guys. So that was tough. I’ve also said and I’ve said this publicly, I really believe that it was a mis-assessment and a misevaluation of the readiness of that offensive line to come together for Matt. Because in the end we still have stuff to do on our D-line. But if we’re not protecting the guy spinning the ball, to our point earlier, we’re not going to be a prolific offense and we’re not going to be an elite football team. So we didn’t protect him properly and Matt was not able to step up in the pocket and throw. I thought he did an admirable job dealing with what he had to. He was waylaid many, many times as you know. But he is such a fantastic leader. I’m happy with how he responded.
Eisen: So in reading into your comments about the Falcons…offensive line? I know I don’t want you to show your cards here, because obviously there are many weeks to go before this May draft. Offensive line? Would that be an easy concept to target what you’re looking at in the draft this year?
Dimitroff: You know I looked at many and we have looked at many positions and many opportunities to look at free agency. I’ve always said this, you know that: free agency, look at the draft, see where we can get the best value and the best football player. Again, no mystery that we need to fortify both fronts. That’s going to be important for us. So, you look at O-line, you look at D-line, you look at our linebackers. You can rush the passer as a linebacker as well. You can do certain things that can protect our offensive threat, i.e. Matt Ryan in many ways. But we know as well as anyone if you don’t have stoutness in front of a quarterback and you don’t provide the pocket, you have little chance of being successful in this league.
It’s comments like these that make me think the Falcons using their top draft selection on a pass rusher is anything but a forgone conclusion. It’s very interesting that besides injuries, the first thing that Dimitroff mentioned in response to what went wrong with the Falcons in 2013 was offensive line play.
What that says is that the Falcons may see their pass protection as the bigger priority in regards to upgrading this offseason versus the pass rush. Now, that could manifest in a number of ways. But more than likely, it would appear that the team won’t simply settle on Gabe Carimi as the lone upgrade to the unit this offseason.
Jadeveon Clowney speaks at the Combine on Saturday
Discussion of the possibility of the Atlanta Falcons trading up made headlines this past weekend following general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s press conference on Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. And of course the dots are being connected to the possibility that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the primary target.
But I’m going to pump the brakes on getting too “icky-balooky” over Dimitroff’s revelation. Because frankly, it wasn’t much of one. Dimitroff said nothing in his presser that he hasn’t said leading up to the past two drafts. The only real difference is that Dimitroff made these comments not in April but in February at the Combine, a place where a record number of media members have gathered. Of course it’s going to create headlines and generate buzz when you have such a magnified media presence.
It’s no different than the revelation that Clowney is interested in being a Falcon. Of course he is as Clowney should be interested in any team that is going to take him very high in the draft.
Does this mean that a Clowney-Atlanta marriage is one made in heaven? Perhaps, but there is still a long way to go in the draft process before we reach that fateful evening on May 8.
I indeed hope the Falcons find a way to get Clowney, as he is a once in a generation sort of prospect. I can recall three times in the past where I have been exuberant about a Falcons draft selection. The first was in 2001 when the team’s move to trade up for Michael Vick was first announced. The second came when the team selected Matt Ryan in 2008. And the third was when the team traded up for Julio Jones in 2011. While I didn’t initially approve of that trade, Jones’ talent was to a degree that had me excited about the potential he could bring to the team.
But it is that Jones trade that has me currently hesitant about another move to climb the boards to get Clowney. Unfortunately, when revisiting the Jones trade, there is a tendency to draw a line in the sand with people on either side suggesting that it was all good or alternatively all bad for the Falcons. It’s much more complicated than that, with both costs and benefits to the trade.
I have little doubt that the Falcons would not have achieved the highs of 2012 without making the move to acquire Jones. But at the same time, I don’t think the lows of 2013 would have been quite as bad in the absence of the trade either.
With my first mock draft done roughly two weeks ago, it was carefully thought out but utterly pointless. As I’ve noted before, mock drafts done before free agency are nothing more than a shot in the dark because free agency is a big part of the process. A team like Kansas City, that I predict takes a safety with their first-round pick could easily go out and sign a free agent like Jairus Byrd, thus nixing that notion.
This time I won’t say that I didn’t give it careful consideration, but I made a concerted effort to mix things up. I didn’t want to just shuffle a handful of picks and act like I had given you something new to consider. So I made a significant effort to not have any of the teams select the same player that I projected in my first mock draft. However, I didn’t fully succeed, as four teams wound up picking the same player again.
But here’s my second mock with a second-round projection added on to give you something even more to consider.
I also wanted to post this before this weekend’s Scouting Combine because it probably will help illustrate my point later on how many moving parts there are to the draft process. I’m not sure if I’ll do another mock before free agency or wait until after, but it’s going to be interesting to see how much shakeup in draft prognostication occurs from now until then.
1. Houston Texans – QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida*
New Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was beat by Bortles and UCF in State College this past year, which is one link many are drawing to why they believe the team will prefer Bortles over the other quarterbacks in this draft. In that game, Bortles did play very well. I simply don’t see the Johnny Manziel links given O’Brien’s system since he needs a pocket passer to run his system, not a scrambler like Manziel. And I could understand why somebody might look at Bortles and favor his upside due to his mobility and size over Teddy Bridgewater, who is by all accounts more polished.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson*
It would have been easy for me to switch up this pick from Greg Robinson to Jake Matthews, but I went with a bit more of a left-field selection. Ultimately because the Rams really need a player like Watkins. GM Les Snead has said the team doesn’t need a No. 1 receiver, but they really do, if they have any hope of salvaging Sam Bradford’s career. He has shown himself to be the sort of quarterback that won’t elevate average receivers, but needs at least one dynamic weapon like Watkins that can help elevate him.
I was joined by long-time Atlanta Falcons fan and season ticket holder Danny Lanier to discuss whether quarterback Matt Ryan is elite and if he’s not, then what he and/or the team need to do in order for him to take that next step. We discuss the lack of signature moments for Ryan as a pro and Danny questions whether the team needs to refocus its identity around improving the defense by acquiring a trascendent star. I wonder if Ryan is too cerebral and compare the Falcons’ 2013 season to their playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2011. Danny weighs in on his thoughts on the Falcons planned personal seat licenses (PSLs) at the new stadium, as well as whether Ryan could benefit from the departure of Tony Gonzalez. We both give our expectations for the upcoming season at the end of the episode.
1 hour, 18 minutes
Danny wrote a pair of articles for the Falcholic which can be found here:
Feb. 4: Has the Super Bowl Window Already Closed on Matt Ryan and the Falcons?
Feb. 10: So…What Does Matt Ryan Need To Do To Become an “Elite” QB?
And don’t forget Allen Strk writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.
If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Auburn’s Greg Robinson is becoming more popular as a potential Falcons target
The offseason is here and it is time to look at the many mock drafts that have been published around the internet’s top draft websites focusing on what the so-called draft experts are projecting the Atlanta Falcons to do with the sixth overall pick.
This is the third update with a total of 93 mocks munched from the beginning of January through mid-February. Anthony Barr still holds the lead, appearing in 27 total mocks. But Greg Robinson is starting to close the gap by appearing in 21 total, 12 of which have come in February. That latter figure is tied for the lead for the month with Jake Matthews, who has appeared in 24 total mocks thus far. Robinson is also tied for the lead in “unique” mocks with Barr with a total of 16. There’s more on what constitutes a unique mock after the jump.
2.17 – NFL.com (Pat Kirwan): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.17 - Walter Football (Charlie Campbell): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.17 – NFL Draft Geek: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.17 – FF Toolbox (Users): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.13 – Draft Daddy (Glenn Bernardi): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.12 – Walter Football: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.12 – Draft King: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
2.12 – Ourlads: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.12 - Draft Tek: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.12 – Draft Season (Lomas): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.12 – FF Toolbox (Rob Warner): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.11 – NFL.com (Daniel Jeremiah): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.11 – CBS Sports (Rob Rang): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.11 – CBS Sports (Dane Brugler): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.11 – CBS Sports (Pete Prisco): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.11 – TFY Draft Insider: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.11 – FF Toolbox (Matt De Lima): DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.10 – NFL.com (Charles Davis): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.10 – Blogging Dirty: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.10 - Draft Season (Onebar): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.09 – Draft Ace: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.07 – FOX Sports (Joel Klatt): OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.07 – Draft Season (Ultimate): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.06 – ESPN Insider (Todd McShay): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (subscription required)
2.06 – ESPN Insider (Mel Kiper): OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA (subscription required)
2.06 – Football’s Future: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.06 – SI.com (Doug Farrar): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Eric Fisher’s strong Combine workout benefited him greatly in 2013
This week, the NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in Indianapolis. Next to draft weekend and the first week of free agency, this week represents one of the more pivotal points of the NFL’s offseason.
It’s the first time that all 32 NFL teams are going to be in one place. Sure, all NFL teams sent representatives to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl in January, but that is primarily for scouts. Not to mention, two teams were busy with their Super Bowl preparations, limiting their ability to have a large presence in Mobile. That is not the case for Indianapolis, where the Combine signals that the beginning of free agency is right around the corner (March 11).
This is where teams can really start to talk shop about potential moves that are forthcoming in the offseason. While trades won’t become official until March 11, teams can start to sniff around about possible moves at the Combine. I’m sure that with the trades that sent Alex Smith to Kansas City last March and the rights to Robert Griffin III to Washington the year before, talks began in earnest or picked up steam during the week of the Combine.
Agents are also putting out feelers for their respective clients that are on the verge of hitting free agency. It’s that sort of furtive tampering that resulted in the NFL adopting the three-day window before the start of the league year that allows teams to openly negotiate with prospective free agents.
It’s also during this period that NFL teams can begin to designate certain free agents as franchise or transition players. That also means that negotiations for players and teams that want to avoid using the franchise or transition tag really pick up in earnest during the week of the Combine.
All in all, it’s a big week for NFL teams with a lot of things that go on behind closed doors that fans like you and me aren’t privy to and can only guess at. But that doesn’t mean that the Combine doesn’t have value to the everyday fan like ourselves.