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Prospects to Keep an Eye on During the NFL Combine

Your cheat sheet for the days ahead.

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Based on the words of Dan Quinn and the team's actions through the offseason so far (cutting William Moore, Justin Durant, and Paul Soliai), the Falcons have a clear goal of getting much more athletic on both sides of the ball. While combine doesn't tell the whole story of a prospect, it's a nice tool to begin whittling down the potential players they'll bring in come draft.

Here a few guys to keep an eye on based on the Falcons' current positional needs.

Defensive End/Edge Rusher

Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

The interview process is going to be key for Noah Spence. He's struggled with drug issues in the past, but those problems appear to be behind him. According to, Spence is expected to run a 4.68 40 yard dash at 254 pounds. That type of explosion that would pair nicely with Vic Beasley.

Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Lawson is of a different make up than Noah Spence, but he's a devastating edge defender in his own right. Lawson is a very good athlete in his own right as he's currently projected to run a 4.67 40 yard dash at 270 pounds. He should perform well in the 3 cone and short shuttle drills as he shows short area quickness and burst on tape.

Defensive Tackle

Vernon Butler, Lousiana Tech

Vernon Butler may not be a common name to the casual fan, but he's one of the better defensive linemen in this year's class. He has ridiculous length (36 inch arms) to pair with elite size (6'4", 325). Butler can play 1, 3, and 4 technique in the Falcons' scheme.

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

The interviews are going to be more important for Nkemdiche than the workouts, but it should still be fun to watch him put up freakish numbers in the drills. He would fit in at three technique with the Falcons.

Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

Rankins really helped himself with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl practices. He has great burst and shows off a rare ability to bend around guards for a squatty defensive tackle.


Darian Thompson, Boise State

Thompson is a smooth player who should continue to see his stock rise after the Combine. He's quick and explosive coming in and out of his cuts and has great range playing deep on the backend of the defense.

Keanu Neal, Florida

Neal is a missile who's violent style of play should correlate to combine success. He's very fast coming downhill and explosive through contact with ballcarriers and receivers. Expect good showings from him in the 40 yard dash, broad jump, and vertical.

Jeremy Cash, Duke

Cash is a fun, collegiate football player who wins with pure instincts. He has a lot to prove at the combine. On tape he looks like a limited athlete that struggles covering receivers and quicker tight ends. The issues that Cash has will only get magnified at the NFL level, he needs to quiet some of those concerns with a solid showing in Indianapolis.


Darron Lee, Ohio State

Darron Lee is one of the most athletic linebackers in this draft class. There's a very real chance that he could crack a sub-4.5 40 yard dash, which would be insane for a 235 pound linebacker.

Deion Jones, LSU

The weigh in is going to be crucial for Deion Jones. He only weighed 219 pounds at the Senior Bowl, so hopefully he's put on healthy, effective weight since then. However, he's as fluid as any linebacker in the draft and can run like a defensive back.

Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Floyd is an enigma. He had a productive career at Georgia with 26.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. Floyd is a tweener moving forward. He split time between playing on the edge and playing off the ball, with more time spent off the ball. The weigh in is going to be crucial. If he matches a solid weigh in with above average scores in the drills, he may convince a team to spend an early round pick on him.

Wide Receiver

Will Fuller, Notre Dame

Fuller is a blazer on the football field and it's reasonable to expect that he'll have one of the fastest 40 times this weekend at the combine. Atlanta needs speed from their number two receiving option and Will Fuller brings plenty of that.

Corey Coleman, Baylor

It remains to be seen if Coleman will work out at the combine as he recovers from hernia surgery. Coleman is one of the most athletic players in the entire draft and would bring an element of speed and playmaking ability that would perfectly complement Julio Jones.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Braxton Miller is another player that had a strong week at the Senior Bowl. He only had 25 catches in his first season at wide receiver for the Buckeyes, but he's been an electrifying player throughout his collegiate career. Miller is a raw athlete who will dominate the testing drills and interview well with teams.

Interior Offensive Line

Ryan Kelly, Center, Alabama

Ryan Kelly is the ideal fit for the zone blocking scheme that Kyle Shanahan likes to run. He moves well laterally on his reach and seal blocks which should translate directly to the combine drills.

Cody Whitehair, Guard, Kansas State

Whitehair is likely making the transition from offensive tackle to guard. At the Senior Bowl he flashed the ability to be an effective starter in a zone blocking scheme. He's really going to need to show out at the combine due to his older age (24 in July).