With the NFL Combine ready to kick off next week, you’re about to see the floodgates open on who the Atlanta Falcons are actively scouting and meeting with leading up to the 2018 draft. Hold on to your butts, etc.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter has identified five players who will be on the Falcons’ radar come combine time, and it’s a list of usual suspects, well, mostly usual.
Georgia G Isaiah Wynn, Ohio State G/C Billy Price, Michigan DT Maurice Hurst, Washington DT Vita Vea and Auburn G Braden Smith all get mentions here.
Wynn, Price, Hurst and Vea are all familiar names around this conversation — the first two of them versatile interior linemen, the other two monstrous presences at defensive tackle, but Smith’s a new one, or at least not one we see a lot of thrown around the Falcons’ campfire.
He played at Auburn for four years (Thomas Dimitroff’s senior bells go off) and was compared to Ivan Drago from Rocky IV as a freshman, which on its own is enough to get my interests piqued.
NFL.com has him projected to go within rounds three and four of the draft, with analyst Lance Zierlein prognosticating on his fate.
Braden Smith has an NFL-ready frame and will impress evaluators with the eyeball test. When the eyeballs are focused on the tape, they will see a player who is more than capable of matching power with power, but can be too regimented in his movement and overall play. Smith is a grinder whose play could vary greatly based upon the matchup across from him. He has size and power, but the holes in his game are unlikely to be patched up with coaching. He can become an average to solid starter.
Though, CBS’s draft board has him as their 43rd best player, and the draft’s third-best guard behind Quenton Nelson and Will Hernandez (curiously, they have Wynn listed as a tackle). (This ain’t an exact science, folks.)
As a matter of fact, The Falcoholic’s draft guru Eric Robinson mocked Smith to the birds in the second round of his latest scenario.
The Falcons will have a decision to make this offseason with veteran guard Andy Levitre. The chances of him being back in 2018 are good given his skill, although they will have to restructure his contract if they want to keep him around and free up money for other signings.
The other starter, Wes Schweitzer, was decent in his first year as a starter but much was left to be desired. In Smith, the Falcons get a 6’6 blocker who is NFL strong already and adds some toughness that Schweitzer may not necessarily be equipped with.
Smith might not sound quite like a round one guy right now, but he could be a good second or third rounder for the team to take a chance on. And, who knows, maybe he’s the next workout warrior to test his way up the draft board. If he rises, he rises.
So, meet Braden Smith. You might be hearing more about him down the road.
In general, it’s pretty common sense to think the team likes all of those guys, and I’m sure you can throw names like Taven Bryan, Da’Ron Payne and Hernandez into the conversation as well. And many others. This process is just beginning, and there are going to be a lot of names...well, named.
But, D-Led told us to watch out for these guys specifically, so, we’re watching for them.