The Falcons have, over the last couple of seasons, very slightly relaxed their standards when it comes to character. They took a big chance on Prince Shembo, which worked our poorly, and a smaller chance on Jalen Collins, and the jury is still out on that pick. Those are guys with troubled histories who would not have been on the team in 2008 or 2010, more than likely, and Arthur Blank spoke last summer of the filter not keeping out anyone who has made a mistake.
If you don't understand why that's significant, you have to understand that the Falcons simply weren't in the risk-taking business for years, likely as a result of the post Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino fallout. When you're able to say with confidence that a talented player like Justin Houston or Tyrann Mathieu wont' be coming to Atlanta, chiefly because of marijuana, you're both predictable and a little sad.
Per Vaughn McClure at ESPN, Dan Quinn made it sound like that infamous filter may relax a little more this year:
"With all players, you look at 'Did somebody have a setback that happened to them?' In those setbacks, you look at if it's something that's long-term or is it short-term," Quinn said. "Sometimes, those experiences also develop a lot of grit, and it shows the perseverance to come back through it. And I think you can actually gain some things from people like, 'Man, this dude had to overcome some things.' I think I'd rather take that approach to some circumstances.
"There are certain guys that have continual problems where this guy is really going to potentially really struggle in the NFL based on past history. And there are other guys where they might have had an issue, but you look where he's come from since then."
This is an important distinction, because the Falcons have again been notorious for being gunshy about players who have made one major mistake (or in some cases, a couple of minor ones). This is not avoiding Greg Hardy because he's a headcase who was convicted of battering a woman, mind you, but being frightened off by a couple of arrests for marijuana use. If the Falcons are vetting these players well and see them growing as human beings in the wake of an arrest or incident, they appear willing to take a chance.
That's all really of us are looking for, I suspect—except those of you who want Hardy, and please, let's not open that can of worms again—and it means players who have character concerns are not automatic outs for Atlanta. We'll see if they actually wind up drafting any.