Thought they didn’t always get a nice breach of shade coming in on Nissan Stadium, many of the 2019 NFL Draft’s expected first-round picks got their chance to field a few questions ahead of Thursday night’s big extravaganza.
The Atlanta Falcons sit squarely at Pick 14, though we all know that could change with GM Thomas Dimitroff’s track record.
It’s been surmised among the prognosticators the team will look to add to the trenches or secondary, though a surprise could always occur (linebacker, anyone?). As it always does, the pick could go in a number of directions, and any number of guys could be Atlanta-bound Thursday.
So what do a handful of prospects think about the possibility of joining the Falcons?
The Ed Oliver Question
One of the most popular draft targets for the Falcons, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, has met with the team and is garnering last-minute rumors to be an Atlanta target in a trade up scenario.
Right off the bat, Oliver describes the Falcons as “smooth.”
“I like the Falcons,” he said. “I like what they preached when they came in. I like what they showed me on the board. Smooth team.”
For Atlanta to secure Oliver, it will most certainly need to package picks to move up into the top 10.
Built Ford Tough
The team’s right tackle situation feels a bit in flux right now with Ty Sambrailo the penciled-in starter, but a first-round tackle could write his name in pen on the depth chart when the time comes.
Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford says he has spent a good bit of time with the team, which he says includes a private workout and a combine visit.
“Every interaction with them, any meeting, has been awesome,” Ford said of Atlanta. “Nothing but great feedback from them. It’s great getting to know them, and I feel like I put my best foot forward to let them get to know me.”
A report from The Athletic’s Jason Butt surfaced that suggested the team views Ford as a guard, which the Sooner alum feels will be doable at the next level.
“I’ve done it before, so it’s nothing I’d be new to, or have to get adjusted to,” he said. “I’ve been there before.”
Ford says he’d look forward to helping the team as they tinker with what offensive line schemes to run (zone vs. power, inside vs. outside zone).
“What better way than to figure it out with them?”
Another First-Round Gator?
Could the Falcons take another Gator in the first round?
In 2016, the team usurped expectations and drafted safety Keanu Neal, a home run of a pick who just had his fifth-year option picked up.
Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, to some the best tackle in the draft, says he’s talked with the Falcons at the combine and went through a private workout with them in Gainesville.
Though he says he’s not sure where he’s headed Thursday, he says he likes what Atlanta had to offer.
“I feel like it’s a great team; great fit,” he said. “I’m excited.”
Heading to Dillard’s?
Washington State tackle Andre Dillard could definitely help Atlanta keep franchise quarterback Matt Ryan upright, as he’s one of the more lauded pass protectors of recent memory.
Dillard says he’s visited with the team throughout the process.
“Yeah, it would be cool,” Dillard said of joining Atlanta. “It would be awesome.”
Though he’s primarily known for keeping pass rushers away from signal callers, Dillard feels confident in his ability against the run, too.
“I take pride in it because I like surprising people,” he said. “Going into the Senior Bowl, people were like, ‘Oh, he actually can do that. I’ve never seen him do that before.’ So it’s just kind of fun to have that surprise factor.”
Could the Tide Turn to Jonah?
Alabama guard/tackle Jonah Williams is regarded as one of the safest prospects in the entire draft, a plug-and-play talent who could have elite potential early in his career.
Williams says he’s met with Atlanta at the combine.
“I had good correspondence with them,” Williams said. “I’m familiar with their left tackle, Jake [Matthews]. He’s done a great job there, and I see a lot of myself in him. So I have a lot of respect for [the team], Coach Quinn, obviously a ton of respect.”
He also said he enjoyed meeting with offensive line coach Chris Morgan.
“It’d be an awesome opportunity; I grew up in Atlanta,” he said.
We’re still waiting to see exactly what kind of scheme Atlanta will employ with the offensive line this fall, and Williams feels that his experience at Alabama helps him fit them all.
“We hung our hat on inside and outside zone, which I feel like the NFL is moving toward, with the Shanahan offense and all that,” he said.
“But we ran a lot of power, and a lot of counter, so we hung our hat on those things, too. I know, in the NFL, they tend to specialize in one thing or the other, whereas in college we can run all of them, but I do feel comfortable in both those schemes. Both of them suit me in different ways.”
Feeling Greedy for Secondary Help?
The Falcons look to bolster their secondary in this draft, and the prototypical corner to do just that could be LSU corner Greedy Williams.
Williams, very much a Dan Quinn-type corner, says he’s met with the Falcons in the draft process.
“I had a great conversation with them,” he said. “I feel like, if I’m there, they’ve got me.
“They’ve already got the offense; they just need somebody to get them the ball back.”
Williams says he can fill that role in the Falcons’ secondary, but is also ready to go to work wherever he’s drafted.
He also said he understands the gravity of the position he plays and takes pride in being the kind of corner NFL teams need right now.
“[I’m] playing a position where, if you make one mistake, it’s a touchdown,” Williams said. “You’ve got to play with a lot of confidence and a great mindset. I’m coming out here to dominate...[those are] my moors of playing cornerback, as far as like man-to-man on anybody.”
Though, his LSU teammate Devin White, regarded as a lock to go in the first ten picks, wonders why Atlanta wouldn’t draft a linebacker, citing Dallas’ investments at the position.
Finally, a Bulldog?
Deandre Baker is another potential Atlanta target, though the former Georgia Bulldog says he’s not worked out for the team.
He did attend their Local Pro Day, though, so you’re telling us there’s a chance?
“It was good,” he said of his experience. “I didn’t work out, but I met the coaches and had good conversations with them.”