The 2015 Combine is in the books, and as usual, there's plenty of impressive performances to discuss. What's less clear is how those performances will impact draft stocks, and specifically how the Falcons are viewing those prospects who just ran, jumped and lifted their way through the week in Indianapolis.
Ultimately, the Falcons have a fair number of holes to fill in the draft, and what matters to all of us is who they might be looking at. In some cases, a poor Combine showing might actually cause a player to drop into the Falcons' ideal range, so I'm certainly not out to just talk about risers.
Let's take a look at some key positions the Falcons might target, and players who by virtue of their combine may rise or fall into the Falcons' plans for the 2015 NFL Draft.
The biggest, flashiest names in this class are Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, but neither seems particularly likely to wind up in Atlanta. The Falcons genuinely like Devonta Freeman and have the opportunity to use Jerome Smith, re-sign Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith and dive into the free agent bargain bin, meaning a draft pick is likely to be a complementary piece.
Keep an eye on mid-round options like David Cobb of Minnesota, a classic power and goal line back who would be a nice complement for Freeman and didn't blow the doors off the combine, ensuring his stock will stay in the Falcons' comfort zone. Also monitor Ameer Abdullah, a complete back who doesn't have terrific size and ran a fairly pedestrian 4.6 40 yard dash, which could hurt his stock.
The Falcons have a decision to make on Harry Douglas, and even if they retain him, their receiver corps is aging at a rapid rate. This is a reasonably deep class of wideouts with a few standouts, and the Falcons have utterly ignored the receiving corps in the draft for years.
I could see the Falcons targeting a receiver as soon as the second round, as Andrew Parsons projected recently. Nelson Algohor is a player I like a great deal as a crisp route runner and potentially impactful slot receiver in the NFL, but there's little question that Phillip Dorsett is the guy fans will drool over thanks to an effective college career and blazing straight line speed. Dorial Green-Beckham's stock is uncertain thanks to off-the-field transgressions and his functional strength, but he's got the measurables and he was a productive college receiver.
This isn't the strongest receiver class of the last decade—unfortunately, that was probably 2014—but there's opportunities for the Falcons to find an upgrade, if they'd like one.
Honestly, this is a position that would be best addressed by a productive veteran. Tight end was a black hole last year with Levine Toilolo and Bear Pascoe, and the Falcons really don't want to head into 2015 with question marks at the position again.
That said, there are some intriguing options here. Both Maxx Williams and Clive Walford offer an intriguing blend of size and athleticism, even if neither quite blew the doors off the Combine in the way Williams, in particular, was expected to do. Nick O'Leary lacks great athleticism, but does bring soft hands and fairly refined blocking skills to the table. You'll likely be able to snag a decent tight end in the second or third, but the class thins out quickly after that.
If the Falcons want to give themselves a high-upside project, they can take a look at Oklahoma's Blake Bell, an athletic convert who needs development time but has legitimate ability as a pass catcher. I don't have a great feel for his stock at this point, to be fair.
This remains the most likely first round pick for the Falcons, who will be looking for a pass rusher and capable defender to bolster one of the NFL's worst front sevens.
Vic Beasley blew the doors off the combine and projects to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL, while Dante Fowler put together a solid effort and has an existing Dan Quinn connection. Randy Gregory's lack of bulk could drop him slightly, Shane Ray has intriguing athleticism and explosiveness and Bud Dupree has some of the best athleticism in the class. The Falcons could wind up with at least two of these guys available at #8, which is a nice situation to be in. I can't imagine they'll pass up a pass rusher unless they nab two in free agency.
If the Falcons are looking to further bolster their linebacking corps, they could look at Denzel Perryman out of Miami in the second or third round, or the supremely versatile Shaq Thompson at a draft position to be determined. This is a relatively thin class, however, which might explain the team's reported interest in veteran middle linebackers.
I can't see the secondary being a huge focus for the Falcons in this draft class, given that they're loaded with young players (Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Ricardo Allen, Kemal Ishmael and Dezmen Southward) and there's a decent number of veteran options at both cornerback and safety.
If the team wants to dip in and find some high-upside defensive backs, however, they will have options. Byron Jones blew away the broad jump record and is a heady, athletic cornerback who could be excellent with some development time. If the Falcons want to majorly upgrade at safety and there's a run on pass rushers in the first round, the great Alabama safety Landon Collins is an option, and he showed us enough at the Combine to virtually ensure he'll be the first one off the board in this class.
Post-combine, who do you have your eye on?