The Falcons at the NFL combine

Kevin Wandra's picture

The NFL scouting combine recently concluded, and the hometown Atlanta Falcons got to learn a lot about prospects they might consider drafting in April.

Here are three things the Falcons, including two of their newest hires, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith, might have learned at the combine, with a focus on the offensive side of the ball, where the Falcons have a few needs.

1) Patience must be required with Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, a player many pundits feel the Falcons are seriously considering drafting with their first-round draft pick.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and with Michael Vick currently sitting in the crowbar hotel, the Falcons desperately could use a franchise quarterback to turn their misfortunes around. There isn’t a consensus top-rated quarterback in the draft, but Ryan is viewed by many scouts as the best quarterback among a group that includes Louisville’s Brian Brohm, Kentucky’s Andre’ Woodson, Michigan’s Chad Henne, Hawaii’s Colt Brennan and fast-rising prospect Joe Flacco of Delaware.

The Falcons will have to wait until Boston College’s pro day to watch potential franchise quarterback Ryan throw before their scouts. An impressive workout could be exactly what the Falcons need to finalize their decision to draft Ryan. If Ryan fails to excel in his workout, the Falcons could look to draft one of the other aforementioned quarterbacks in, say, the second round.

2) The running back class is talented and fast. The Falcons don’t need to draft one in the first round.

Another player the Falcons are rumored to be interested in with their first-round pick is Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, who ran a blazing fast time of 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. McFadden is a potential Pro Bowl running back — he’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball — but he has gotten into trouble off the field, plus there are some concerns that he runs too high, which could lead to him absorbing too many hits and having a potential injury-shortened career.

The Falcons could use a full-time running back; Warrick Dunn is on the downside of his career, and Jerious Norwood is more of a change-of-pace back, not a player who could consistently tote the ball 20-plus times per game. McFadden is exactly the type of back who could instantly upgrade Atlanta’s offense, but there are a number of talented running backs the Falcons could draft later, which would allow them to focus on their two biggest needs, quarterback and offensive line.

Running backs who could be available after the opening round are McFadden’s teammate at Arkansas, Felix Jones, Rutgers’ Ray Rice, Texas’ Jamaal Charles and West Virginia’s Steve Slaton, all of whom ran a 4.47 40 or lower at the combine.

3) Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long might make the most sense with Atlanta's first-round pick.

The Falcons’ porous offensive line could sorely use a player as talented as Long. He committed only two penalties and allowed only two sacks during his four seasons at Michigan. Moreover, he is big (6-7, 313), swift for his size (he ran a 5.17 40 at the combine) and strong (his 37 reps of 225 pounds were the most among linemen at the combine).

Long has the potential to be the Falcons’ best offensive lineman since Mike Kenn. Long has the pass-blocking skills to keep Atlanta’s quarterback — whoever it is next year — from consistently eating the turf, and he has the size and tenacity to be a force in the running game. Long wouldn’t be a flashy pick, but he would be a solid pick who would fill a major hole.

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rock78's picture
Submitted by rock78 on Fri, 02/29/2008 - 8:54pm.

The Falcons need to get one of the following from the 3rd pick:

1 - Jake Long (Can someone name the last time our beloved Falcons took an OL in the first round?) If not, here’s your answer: 1993 – Lincoln Kennedy, 1992 – Bob Whitfield, 1985 – Bill Fralic, 1978 – Mike Kenn, 1977 – Warren Bryant (I’ll end it there since he was drafted two years before I was born.) It’s really sad that we haven’t drafted an OL in the first round since my freshman year of high school….

2a - Glenn Dorsey - Some say he is injury prone - I'll simply call him the best DT in CFB last year.

2b - Sedrick Ellis - I didn't watch many USC games last year, but this kid is the real deal - a close second behind Dorsey.

I understand your point on the QBs, but please don’t forget that it all starts at the line of scrimmage – The Falcons MUST get better on the OL – I think Long is a 10 year starter at tackle. If the Rams end up taking him, then we need either Dorsey or Ellis. I feel we can get Henne or Flacco with a second round pick (or a second 1st round pick if we can trade Meangelo Hall). There is no doubt that DMac is the sexy pic, but how well will he do behind a porous OL? AD (Peterson) was amazing last year, but he played behind a top 5 OL, the Falcons need to build both lines of scrimmage this year, and then target Beanie Wells next year….

Any who, that’s just MHO, as a long suffering falcons fan...

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