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Falcons Confirmed Interviews With Four Prospects At Combine

This is old news, in a way. I'm sure you've read elsewhere by now that the Falcons spent time with a pair of defensive end prospects and a pair of soon-to-be rookie running backs over the weekend. So don't brace yourself for anything new.

I would like to say that I believe this indicates the direction of the Falcons' draft, however, and the prospects are all extremely intriguing ones. With that in mind, I believe it's worth our while to take a quick look at the threads that connect these guys and find out how they might fit into the Falcons' plans. As Jason Kirk notes in the link above, we can't know everyone the team is looking at, but this is a good start.

After the jump, let's check it out.

DE Sam Acho, Texas: Widely linked to the Falcons by everyone from scouts to readers here at The Falcoholic, Acho seems like a logical choice. He's a pass rushing defensive end with a fantastic motor and a lot of acumen, a smart guy with no character concerns who seems like he'd be right in the team's wheelhouse.

More than that, Acho's thought to be a natural defensive leader and a very bright guy who can quickly digest an NFL playbook. He may not be the second coming of John Abraham—very few ends do turn out to be borderline Hall of Famers—but I think Acho would be an excellent long-term replacement for Abe.

DE Allen Bailey, Miami: We briefly profiled Bailey last month, but it's worth taking another look. Where Acho is a smaller defensive end with wheels and smarts, Bailey is a physical specimen whose question marks revolve around whether he's NFL-ready or not.

Personally, I think he'd be an absolute steal if he somehow fell into the team's lap in the second round, but that's fairly unlikely. Bailey was a productive college player and his work ethic really isn't in doubt, so despite the stigma of being a Miami defender, he may well sneak into the first round. Acho might be the safer choice in a lot of ways, which fits the team's M.O. to a T, but Bailey might have as much upside as anybody in this draft.

RB Noel Devine, West Virginia: Devine's a quick, deadly back who basically would serve as a change-of-pace guy for the Falcons. He can catch a few passes, averaged over five yards a carry in college and generally would be a great player to have around for 75 carries and 40 catches a season.

The chief drawback for Devine is that he's tiny, but he's put on some weight in anticipation of taking a pounding at the NFL level. He was also healthy enough in college that I think that's not a concern.

WR Ricardo Lockette, Fort Valley State: Lockette is a classic Thomas Dimitroff late-round pick, a guy with a ton of promise from a small school who offers something the Falcons currently lack. That something is elite speed.

We've spilled a few drops of ink on this guy already, but Lockette is basically a project. He has the size, speed and hands to become something truly special, but it will take a patient team to cultivate that. Don't be surprised if he's wearing red and black in 2011.

The Takeaway: So what are the Falcons looking at? When the team talked earnestly about improving the pass rush and adding offensive weapons, a lot of us believed that would dictate the draft direction. Given that they're looking at two early round defensive ends and two late round projects on offense, there's good reason to think they're sticking with that philosophy.

This also indicates that a pass rushing defensive end is a huge priority this off-season. I won't be shocked if we see Acho or Bailey going at the end of the first round, myself.

Your thoughts?