With the bulk of free agency behind us, the Falcons have continued to show interest in linebackers and offensive tackles as they prepare for this year's NFL Draft.
Added to the growing list of prospects linked to Atlanta and its scouts: LB Carl Bradford out of Arizona State and OT Charles Leno, a product of Boise State.
Carl Bradford told me he has a workout with the Atlanta #Falcons this week. Looks like today (photo by @ByronKline) pic.twitter.com/1Ezh1rwWoz— Brad Denny (@BDenny29) March 20, 2014
More Atlanta Falcons pro-day news: they worked out Charles Leno/OL/Boise State at pro-day on Monday...— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 18, 2014
Leno started at left tackle for the Broncos in each of the past two seasons. He doesn't possess world-beater size or strength, but he's athletic, displays sound footwork and has solid blocking technique. Most believe he'll wind up as an early Day Three draft pick. Suffice it to say, he would likely serve as a backup or swing tackle in Atlanta with the potential to work his way to starter status somewhere down the road. He's not unseating Sam Baker as a rookie.
Bradford is, of course, the more interesting of these two names, and I'll be sure to take a more in-depth look at his profile as the draft draws nearer.
For now, I'll stick with the basics. Bradford was an incredibly versatile college defender who spent a lot of time lining up in the 3-point stance but also saw snaps at outside linebacker and inside linebacker. He's that defensive swiss army knife, not unlike Khalil Mack. As a junior, he notched 8.5 sacks and 19.0 TFLs, but his size (6-foot-1 and 250 pounds) and lack of elite athleticism have led many to postulate that he'll end up at linebacker in the NFL.
I found an interesting piece written by Bradford himself for USA Today's "draft diary" series in which he talks about his experience at the NFL Combine and meeting with several teams. An excerpt worth reading:
I talked a lot more to 3-4 teams about playing on the outside at linebacker than being a true d-end. I got a lot of teams talking to me about playing middle 'backer as well, which I would love. I also got asked to play just a rush end. I had a team talk to me about playing three-technique on the line in some pass situations. I believe I could play almost every position in the seven-man front.
Personally, the idea of making inside linebacker Bradford's primary position while allowing him to occasionally line up as a pass rusher sounds intriguing. The Falcons, as we know, don't have the prototypical 3-4 personnel at inside backer, so it makes sense why Bradford would draw their interest. And, of course, Mike Nolan could use him in a number of other roles on defense. Most have projected him as a Day Two pick.
And in more draft news, per Pauline, the Falcons also worked out LB Justin Jackson and Delaware DT Zach Kerr.
Atlanta Falcons will be working out linebacker Justin Jackson at Wake Forest tomorrow.— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 19, 2014
Jackson worked mostly as a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Demon Deacons. He's quite athletic and excels in space but his instincts aren't exactly the best, which is why many expect him to go undrafted and take the college free agent route.
Dave linked to the Kerr news earlier, but I'll throw in a brief word: he is your classic big-bodied, 325-pound, 0-technique nose tackle. However, I was surprised to see on film how quick and athletic he was for a man of his size. He can push the pocket as a pass rusher and he's a heady defender that has a good sense of where the play is going.
He's being talked about as a 7th-round prospect, which frankly I'd consider a small steal. Defensive line is certainly not the greatest area of need for the Falcons, but Kerr would make a nice late-round draft pick. Bryan Cox clearly has a keen eye.
So that about wraps it up. Obviously the front seven and the offensive line remain two big areas of interest for Atlanta's front office, and we're sure to pick up more individual workout news in the coming weeks.
What are your thoughts on Bradford, Leno, Jackson and Kerr?