Now that the list of players the Falcons have met with privately has grown to over a hundred players I thought it might be interesting to take a look at it and see if any trends or patterns appear. Let's start with how many players we've brought in at each position. Let's start on the offensive side of the ball.
- QB - 5 players
- RB - 12 players
- FB - 3 players
- TE - 7 players
- WR - 10 players
- OT - 8 players
- OG - 2 players
- C - 1 player
Based on that raw numbers it looks like running back and wide receiver are the Falcons top priority on offense but don't let that fool you. Most of the wide receivers they have looked at are late round/undrafted guys. I have more to say on that a bit later but for now let's move to the defensive side of the ball.
Since the Falcons employ a hybrid defensive scheme it can be difficult to define a prospect's position consistently. For our purposes here I have divided the players into defensive tackles (DT), defensive ends (DE), edge rushers (ER), outside linebackers (OLB) and inside linebackers (ILB). I define tackles as 1 or 3 technique players that may kick out to a 5 technique on occasion. Defensive ends are defined as 3-4 type defensive ends (Crichton, Mauro). Edge rushers is a catch-all term for DE/OLB hybrids and I reserved the label OLB for players who fit the mold of a 4-3 weakside linebacker. All of the ILB prospects we've brought in fit the mold of a 3-4 ILB. I'll be editing my prospect visit list to reflect these definitions in the near future so check refer back to that post to see how I labeled each individual player. Ok, now that our terms are defined here's how the list breaks down.
- DT- 3 players
- DE - 4 players
- ER - 15 players
- OLB - 6 players
- ILB - 5 players
- CB - 12 players
- S - 11 players
The fact that Atlanta has brought in more edge rushers than any other position (on either side of the ball) should come as no surprise. The same can be said about the number of safeties but bringing in a dozen cornerback prospects surprises me. There are a few candidates for a switch to safety in that group (Walt Aikens, Chris Davis) but there are a few early and mid-round pure corner prospects scattered in there as well. Is it due diligence on the Falcons part or could we be in for a surprise on draft day?
I've also taken the time to figure the average draft projections (ADP) of all the players at each position. This is a crude tool at best but it can give an idea of where the Falcons are focusing their attention from round to round. To get this number I added the projected draft position of each player and divided by the number of players Atlanta has visited with. If it's a player at the fringe of a round (ie 1-2 round pick) I used .5 increments to signify that position and I lump all the UDFA's together as "8th round picks".
QB - ADP - 7.7
Only two of the players Atlanta has brought in are projected to be drafted (Connor Shaw, Garrett Gilbert) and they are projected as seventh round picks. The rest are likely UDFA's. Chances are Atlanta won't spend a pick here.
RB - ADP - 5.88
The highest rated prospects the Falcons have brought in are Carlos Hyde and Terrance West. They've met with West twice now so it's reasonable to say there is a significant amount of interest there. The rest of the prospects are scattered through the middle rounds with several UDFA prospects dragging down the average.
FB - ADP - 6.5
Atlanta has brought in three fullbacks so far with JC Copeland and Jay Prosch being the marquee players. Both are projected to come off the board somewhere around the sixth round.
WR - ADP - 7.25
As I mentioned earlier the Falcons have brought in several wide receiver prospects. Don't mistake that as a sign that it's a priority position though. There is only one prospect they have visited with that is rated higher than a seventh round pick (Bruce Ellington) and the majority are small school UDFA prospects. If you want a couple of names to watch in that regard I'd look at Shaq Evans from UCLA and Ryan Culbreath from Furman. Evans was on the Senior Bowl squad the Falcons coached and they've met with him again since then. Both players are have good size and adequate speed.
TE - ADP - 5.79
Jace Amaro leads the group of players as a borderline first to second round pick. Arthur Lynch and Fiedorowicz are middle round prospects and the rest are UDFA prospects.
OT - ADP - 3.69
It's obvious the Falcons are making sure all their bases are covered when it comes to the sixth overall pick. They have brought in the top three tackle prospects and have met multiple times with Greg Robinson. Cameron Fleming and Jack Mewhort represent the middle round options they've looked at while the rest are late round/UDFA prospects. I do think it's interesting to note that the Falcons have only brought in eight offensive tackles out of the 105 players they've met with so far. I'm beginning to think this is a sign they are targeting a tackle in the first, especially considering how many second to fourth round edge rushers they've looked at so far compared to the two middle round tackles they have met with.
OG - ADP - 7.25
The Falcons have only worked out two guards and both are fringe seventh round players so it doesn't seem like this is a priority for them at the moment.
C ADP - 6.5
I could have just as easily wrote Corey Linsley name and draft projection because he is the only center Atlanta has worked out so far.
DT - ADP - 5.66
There is not a great sample size here as the Falcons have only brought in three DT prospects. Hageman carries a borderline first round grade while Kerr and Woodard have late round/undrafted grades.
DE - ADP - 5.5
This is another small grouping of players. Scott Crichton and Josh Mauro are 2nd and 4th round projections respectively and are the only players projected to get drafted that the Falcons have visited with.
Edge Rushers - ADP - 2.43
This is the largest group of players and they still carry the highest ADP. Clowney, Mack, and Barr represent the three clear first round choices. Behind them the Falcons have worked out almost every single pass rusher projected as second and third round pick. Ryan Shazier is the only linebacker I can come up with off the top of my head that is missing and that's probably because he doesn't project as a great edge rusher. There is a glaring need at the position and the Falcons are leaving no stones unturned when it comes to early-to-mid-round picks.
OLB - ADP - 5.5
I am not really sure what to make of these prospects. They are all on the smaller side so they aren't clear fits in a 3-4. Telvin Smith is the highest rated of the bunch but at 218lbs I can't see where he fits in Atlanta's system unless they move him to safety. Kevin Pierre-Louis is another player I love on film but he's probably maxed out at 6'0 232lbs and I can't see a spot for him in a 3-4 look. There have been some rumblings of teams looking at him as a safety prospect too. Jordan Zumwalt is a high motor guy that could potentially put on weight and slide inside but in the bits of film I've seen on him he doesn't look like much of a pass rusher. For the most part the players the Falcons have met with in this category are mid-to-late round picks.
ILB - ADP - 6
The Falcons haven't brought in many ILB prospects but the ones they have seen are projected to go from the fourth to sixth rounds. I'm a huge fan of Preston Brown and Christian Jones but Yawin Smallwood looks promising too.
CB - ADP - 5.63
As I alluded to earlier this one is a bit a surprise for me. About half of the corners the Falcons have met with are projected to go undrafted but guys like Kyle Fuller and Jason Verrett are borderline first round picks. There are four other middle round players corners to add to the mix. Kyle Fuller (borderline first round), Walt Aikens (fourth-to-fifth round), and Chris Davis (fourth round) could be candidates for a move to safety which could explain the attention we've given them. I understand the need for due diligence but with the team investing their first two picks in corners last year I don't entirely understand all the large number of cornerback visits.
S - ADP - 5.77
The Falcons have brought in both top safety prospects which helped to drive down the ADP for this group. What is most interesting to me is how the Falcons have ignored most of the middle round safeties. With the glaring hole at free safety you'd think they'd have Joyner, Bucannon, Brooks and all the rest lined up out the door. The truth is they've only brought in Kenny Ladler and Ed Reynolds (both fourth round projections) out of the middle round safeties. The rest of the group are late round or undrafted projections. I'll be looking to see this group grow in the coming days.
The draft is still nearly two weeks away so there is plenty of time for additional player visits so we'll have to revise our observations as we go but based on the players Atlanta has met with so far I think it's fairly simple to start drawing some conclusions. If I had to place a wager I'd say they take Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson (if they luck out) first and potentially load up on two pass rushers in the second to fourth rounds while hoping to snag a safety, running back, and tight end starting in the bottom of the fourth round. Personally I'd like to see a safety brought in a little earlier but as of now they will have to either reach for Reynolds or Ladler or draft a player they have not met with. There is always the darkhorse option of drafting a corner and moving them to safety.
On a side note I'm putting together a spreadsheet containing all the pertinent information on all of the players the Falcons have met with. I was building it to use myself on draft day and figured a few others may want to have a crack at it too so keep an eye out. I can't say exactly when I'll have it completed but I'm shooting for the middle of next week at the latest.
So what do you guys and gals think? Can you glean any insight from our player visits? Do you have any differences of opinion on how to interpret this data? Does this confirm or dispel any hopes or fears leading up to the draft?