Everyone knows that the Falcons are trying to upgrade the defensive line this offseason, and the 2017 NFL Draft has a tremendous amount of interior and exterior defensive line talent. The front seven players ran through the combine drills on Sunday, and based on Atlanta's recent draft history, there's an opportunity to get a look at who might be rocking the red and black come September.
Dan Quinn has repeated the phrase "fast and physical" throughout his first two years in Atlanta. That mindset has translated directly to the draft as Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff, and Scott Pioli have stocked the roster with athletes all over the place.
Using Mockdraftable.com's prospect comparison charts the Falcons seem to heavily favor the broad jump and the three cone drill. On a basic technical level, the three cone measures a player's ability to sharply turn corners and the broad jump helps get an idea of how explosive a player can be through contact.
Let's start at the top. The Falcons have one player who tested in the 90th percentile for the broad jump and three cone for their respective position: Vic Beasley.
Remove the 90th percentile threshold for the three cone while keeping the same threshold for the broad jump and another draft pick shows up: Keanu Neal.
The Falcons have one draftee to hit the 90th percentile in the three cone, but didn't hit the same mark for the broad jump: Justin Hardy.
Obviously it's not realistic to only draft players who hit the 90th percentile for these two workouts, so let's lower the thresholds to the 80th percentile for both workouts. A wild Grady Jarrett appears who posted ridiculous numbers when adjusted for his density.
Jalen Collins hit the 80th percentile for the three cone drill, but "only" the 70th percentile for the broad jump.
Again, holding prospects to the standard of at least the 80th percentile in one of these drills is wildly unrealistic. However, almost every Falcons draft prospect has hit the 70th percentile for either broad jump or the three cone.
Wes Schweitzer, Jake Rodgers, Akeem King, Devin Fuller, and Deion Jones all hit at least the 70th percentile for the broad jump. Austin Hooper tested in the 77th percentile for the three cone drill and hit the 68th percentile for the broad jumps.
That covers every draft pick over the past two years except for Tevin Coleman and De'Vondre Campbell. Tevin Coleman only ran the 40 at his pro day where he recorded a 4.39 or a 4.40 depending on the source. Campbell hit the 44th percentile on the broad jump and the 65th percentile for the three cone (at his pro day), but ran a 4.58 40 yard dash.
Both Campbell and Coleman landed in at least the 82nd percentile for the the 40 yard dash so they may have favored the speed in this scenario.
Keeping this background knowledge in mind, what defensive linemen could the Falcons be targeting based on the combine? The approximate filters can be used to eliminate players based on their performance this weekend.
Missouri edge rusher Charles Harris can safely be removed from the list. He ranked in the 14th percentile for the three cone and the 20th percentile in the broad jump. Avery Moss from Youngstown State can also be removed, he hit the 44th percentile for the three cone and the 49th percentile for the broad jump.
Both of these players were listed in Vaughn McClure's article on defensive line prospects to keep an eye on this weekend. Derek Barnett, Takk McKinley, and Tanoh Kpassagnon were listed with Harris and Moss.
Barnett hit the 88th percentile in the three cone drill and the 64th percentile in the broad jump. His forty is a bit slow, but he was apparently battling an illness during his workout. If he can improve that time at his pro day he'll be a prime target for the Falcons at 31.
Takkarist McKinley from UCLA didn't post the numbers that most people were expecting. He blazed in the 40 yard dash, but really struggled in the three cone drill. However, his broad jump percentile (86th) will keep on the potential Falcon watch.
Tanoh Kpassagnon is an under the radar prospect from Villanova, but he has some ridiculous measurements for a 6'7", 289 pound defensive lineman. He had an absurd 128 inch broad jump which puts him in the 97th percentile for all defensive linemen. In Atlanta's scheme he'd be a hybrid player that works inside and out; that explosive ability would be a huge asset on the interior.
Based on the approximate thresholds set, we can get a sense of the players who will be on the Falcons radar come April. Here are some other names to keep in mind:
We have tangible evidence that the Falcons highly covet players who perform well in the three cone and the broad jump. Obviously the film is more important than these two tests, but filtering players out of your draft board makes the draft day experience much easier.
If I was a betting man (I am) I would (will) put money on at least one of the defensive linemen listed here being a Falcons draft pick. The players they bring in for individual workouts in the coming weeks should be players that showed out at the combine.
It's draft season, folks. Keep this as a reference as we march towards the draft.