The Atlanta Falcons are going to draft defensive linemen, plural, in this draft. There’s little doubt of that.
That’s why Sunday was one of the most important days of the Combine, because it helped create a little more striation between options on the table for the Falcons, and created just a tiny bit more clarity in what looks like a class crowded with a lot of quality players. That’s especially true at defensive tackle, which is loaded with mid-round options that should be intriguing to needy teams like Atlanta.
Let’s look at the stock up, stock down for defensive linemen from yesterday.
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
It’s probably no secret that I think Payne should be the pick for Atlanta if he makes it anywhere near them. He’s a tremendous athlete for his size, and he showcased that athleticism (and real ability) throughout his career at Alabama.
Predictably, Payne shone in Combine drills. He ran fast, sure, but he also displayed unreal footwork, the kind you wouldn’t expect from a man who weighs more than 300 pounds . There’s a very real chance he won’t make it to Atlanta’s pick, in which case I will have a mild sad.
Josh Sweat, Florida State
If Sweat wasn’t on Atlanta’s radar before, the Combine probably put him there. He put a blazing fast 4.53 unofficial 40, a day after measuring with the kind of length that makes Dan Quinn drool. He’s a plus athlete who could be a menace off the edge in the NFL with some time and coaching, and depending on where he goes, the Falcons could very well add him to their burgeoning stable of ridiculously athletic defensive linemen. His stock just went way up, though.
B.J. Hill, North Carolina State
Considering the Falcons have been linked to Hill since the Senior Bowl, it’s not actually a great thing that his stock is up. But the high motor defensive tackle did well at the Combine, and probably improved his stock just a bit even in a crowded field at the position. Chances are good he’ll be gone by the third or fourth round, and I would not mind at all if Atlanta was the team to scoop him up in the fourth.
Good time B.J. Hill! 1.74 10, 4.99 40— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) March 4, 2018
Tim Settle, Virginia Tech
On a very good day for this defensive line class, Settle didn’t have the finest day. He looked a bit sluggish in all his drills, and for teams that increasingly want quality athletes at defensive tackle, that’s likely to be at least mildly concerning. He’s probably a late second round/early third round player at this point.
Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Hurst has done absolutely nothing to torpedo his stock. He’s arguably the best defensive tackle in this entire class, and a player who undoubtedly would’ve done enough in drills to cement that status. Unfortunately, he couldn’t participate, and therein lies the rub.
Hurst reportedly has an enlarged heart, which prevented him from participating in any drills, and raises some questions about his NFL future. Unfortunately, there are few things that will drop your stock faster than questions about your ability to play football, which means Hurst and his team will be working to get this resolved as quickly as possible and figure out if this is something that might legitimately impact his future or not.
If contenders are lucky, he’ll fall out of the top 20 picks because of that concern, but they’ll need to be assured he’s okay and cleared to play football. I feel for Hurst and I hope he’ll wind up having much the same luck as Star Lotulelei, who dealt with a concerning heart issue and still went top 15 a few years back.