We've finally reached the week of the 2015 NFL Draft, and speculation is as rampant as ever. While we're unsure about much of what the Atlanta Falcons are going to do with their picks, one thing seems certain: they're planning on drafting a wide receiver.
The Falcons have done their homework on quite a few wide receivers entering this year's draft. I can declare I have a definite number, but I've counted at least 14 wide receivers that have either worked out for or met with Atlanta. Aaron Freeman from FalcFans put together a great prospect tracker showing all the players with ties to the Falcons.
After looking over the list of wide receivers, one question came to mind: Should the Falcons draft a slot receiver or a receiver who can stretch the field? I posed that question to Twitter and received a variety of responses.
@alexmwelch Field stretcher! Field stretcher! FIELD STRETCHER! We already have a "great slot" in Roddy White.— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) April 26, 2015
@alexmwelch slot. Basically replacing Harry. We have Julio to stretch the field. (Yes I'm short sided)— Gregory Lane Nichols (@lanenichols) April 26, 2015
@alexmwelch Stretch guy! Slot guys are a dime a dozen and if a vertical guy doesn't work he can be moved to slot. Can't flip slot to outside— Patrick Ollinger (@PatrickOllinger) April 26, 2015
@alexmwelch I think Tamme will quietly be good in the passing game,but not ideal. I say get a deep threat WR to compensate.Force things open— Alaaddin Baskurt (@Dyinglobster) April 26, 2015
@alexmwelch Mariota.— Matt (@FalconsM5) April 26, 2015
@alexmwelch I want a WR who is so good in the slot that he becomes a WR1 in 2-3 years, a la Antonio Brown or TY Hilton.— The Gentleman Masher (@GentlemanMashr) April 26, 2015
As you can see, there wasn't much of a consensus. That one guy even responded with a quarterback.
Look at some of the players on the Falcons interest list from both ends of the spectrum.
The slot guys: Jamison Crowder, Mario Alford, Chandler Worthy. All three are 5-foot-8. If the Falcons choose to go this route, they wouldn't need to use a higher draft pick and they'd be getting a receiver who would almost always man the slot.
The deep threats: Phillip Dorsett, Sammie Coates. Both of these guys will be in higher demand. Dorsett is a borderline first-round pick. His 4.33 time in the 40 at the NFL Combine turned plenty of heads. Coates is raw but he has the upside with his measurables to end up paying off for the team that wants to invest in him.
Some of the players I have my eye on (without any links to the Falcons so far)
1) Devin Smith, Ohio State: He was deadly downfield for the Buckeyes. If you watch the tape, you'll see what a weapon he is on deep passes. Here's a good breakdown of his college career.
2) Kenny Bell, Nebraska: While his thin frame causes some concern, Bell possesses big-play potential with an extra gear downfield. He might still be around on Day 3 of the draft.
3) Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: I've seen some call him a "poor man's T.Y. Hilton." Lockett brings impressive speed and quickness to the table, making up for his 5-foot-9 frame. Could be a third or fourth-rounder.
Which direction should they go with wide receiver? Here are a couple stats that lead me to believe the Falcons need someone to stretch the field.
- In 2014, Matt Ryan was the most accurate quarterback on passes that traveled 20-plus yards downfield. He completed 31-of-69 passes in this range for 840 yards.
- Despite completing 31 passes of 20-plus yards, Ryan finished with only five touchdowns on these throws. Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger finished with the same number of completions while each recording nine touchdowns on deep passes. Phillip Rivers completed 29 deep passes for 10 touchdowns.
- Roddy White finished No. 13 among wide receivers in Yards Per Route Run, according to Pro Football Focus. YPPR takes into account every route instead of only looking at targets. This is a better tool to find efficiency for receivers.