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Falcons Draft: in Evaluation Process, Tape Carries the Most Weight

Both Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn emphasized that a player's performance on the field carries the most weight in their draft prospect evaluation process.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After two very disappointing seasons in Atlanta, there are a number of factors one can point to as reasons for the team's decline since 2012. Thomas Dimitroff has been skewered, and continues to be in the comments on this board, for poor prospect evaluation and decision making in the draft and free agency processes. Mike Smith and his staff were criticized for poor talent development. There's no single answer that explains the Falcons' performance in 2013 and 2014, but it is expected that Dan Quinn and his staff will improve things from the talent development perspective. Quinn is also integrally involved in the prospect evaluation process leading up to the draft, and he's focused on helping Dimitroff find players who the coaching staff can feature effectively in their new schemes.

Both Quinn and Dimitroff said that while they do consider Pro Day and Combine performances and player interviews, as well as other factors, when assessing the fit of different prospects, both rely most heavily on a player's college tape to determine how well they actually play the game.

Quinn, for one, had a great time meeting with prospects this spring and connecting with guys who may be Falcons after next weekend, but despite those positive experiences, tape is still the biggest factor.

"It always, always comes back to the tape," Quinn said. "A lot of those guys did a perfect job for us this spring, both in interviews and in workouts, and it was one I really enjoyed, getting the chance to visit with all these guys."

Dimitroff said that while there are baseline performance metrics that serve as a guide, he, like Quinn, still sees the tape as the most important factor, and it allows the team to decide if Quinn and his staff will be able to coach the guys up to be good fits.

"It really comes back back to what Dan was saying - it comes back to how these guys perform on the field," Dimitroff said. "Of course you can't have a 5.2 (40-yard dash) running back or whatever the - there are certain requirements that we know are important. But the difference between a one and two-tenths of times, depending on the type of player they are and how they play, there's no question that you look at that, but it's not always the deciding factor. And I think in the end, it is about how these guys play football and how they're going to produce."

When looking at the tape on prospects, Quinn doesn't worry too much about the level of competition a player's facing or the strength of the program he's playing for, but rather tries to discern as much as he can about the player's physical traits and football tendencies.

"In terms of the level of competition, it's been more about the traits," Quinn said. "You feel the speed at which a player's playing. You feel - you feel the strain that the guy's going for. So the level of competition is a factor, but not the overriding one. You don't say, well, just because he played in this conference or this school, he automatically has all the things you're looking for. So when we go all the way through the process with the guys, it's more how can we best feature the guy based on what he's doing on the film, regardless of who he's playing against."

We can be certain of one thing - the players who look fast and physical on tape are the players to whom Quinn and Dimitroff will surely be drawn. Which players to you think fit the bill?