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2021 Senior Bowl Preview: Players to watch for the Falcons

Here are some prospects that may be on Atlanta’s radar.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Penn State at Northwestern Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since 1950, the Senior Bowl has been a constant hub of talent for collegiate seniors looking to take that next step and ascend into the professional levels. For many teams across the NFL, the Senior Bowl has the perception of being a reliable platform for distinctive talent hoping to make their way in the NFL,

This year will be no different, delivering prospects worth evaluating even for an Atlanta Falcons team that is introducing a new regime at head coach and general manager. This upcoming Saturday, January 30th, the Senior Bowl game will take place in Mobile, Alabama on the University of South Alabama campus. But before then, three days worth of practices will occur, which I will get to directly observe. Here are a few prospects for you to be on the lookout for that could be on the Falcons draft radar.

Offense

Alabama RB Najee Harris - If you haven’t heard by now, Harris is a unique prospect that a bunch of NFL organizations will have their eye on during the draft process. At 6’2” and 230 pounds, Harris is a wrecking ball as a running back that displays great contact balance and tremendous run after contact ability. He is the closest thing to Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry in this upcoming draft, which is music to the ears of Falcons fans wanting to replicate the Titans run game in Atlanta.

Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt - There is a likelihood that Falcons receiver Julio Jones will be part of the future plans for new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith. However, that does not mean that the Falcons regime will not look to stockpile receiving talent for the future. Surratt is a big presence at 6’2” and 215 pounds and has a knack for winning jump balls and contested catches. Surratt is a late Day 2 or early Day 3 prospect the could be used to elevate the Falcons receiving corps, both now and in the future.

Tennessee G Trey Smith - The left guard position will likely need some attention this offseason, but it remains to be seen if the Falcons want to go the veteran route to replenish or get younger talent. Smith is a Day 2 projected prospect who fits the athletic mold that the Falcons may covet. Smith can be a bull with his functional strength and ability to excel in a gap scheme, and could be a long-term starter if all goes well.

Alabama G Deonte Brown - I truly believe a certain emphasis will be placed on the run game this offseason for the Falcons. Brown provides an interior presence that possesses a very large frame and a constant habit of being physical at the point of attack. Pound for pound, Brown is one of the best run blockers in the entire draft and worthy of being focused on during Senior Bowl week. The Falcons can always use more help.

Georgia TE Tre McKitty - If there is one aspect that McKitty needs to improve on considerably, it is his run blocking. Senior Bowl weeks presents a solid opportunity. Changes could be made with a little reshuffling at the tight end position and with McKitty’s solid work as a pass catcher, showing good signs in run blocking improvement could allow him to be a late-round target for the Falcons to possibly upgrade the TE2 spot. They need that now and they’ll need it long-term.

Tennessee v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Defense

Penn State EDGE Shaka Toney - With the hiring of veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Falcons are headed for permanent 3-4 alignment up front. One of the top components of the 3-4 defense is at edge rusher and minus Dante Fowler Jr., the Falcons may not have an edge rusher able to handle 3-4 rushing duties, with most of their players up front looking like they may struggle to rush standing up in that alignment. Toney will be well recognized during the Senior Bowl because of his solid Penn State career. Be cognizant of his quickness off the edge and his infectious motor.

Wake Forest DL Carlos Basham Jr. - The Falcons will likely stash some pass rushing help this offseason and one of the top pass rushers in the entire draft will be on display. Basham is intriguing because of his blend of size (6’5, 270 pounds) and versatility. In the scheme to be implemented in Atlanta, Basham can insert a ceiling similar to Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones.

UCF S Richie Grant - Free safety is also likely to receive some attention this offseason and the Falcons roster may find it is down a couple of veteran free safeties on the back end in free agency. Throw on Grant’s tape and the instincts stand out on their own. Often, Grant was seen making plays at critical moments for the UCF defense.

Florida State NT Marvin Wilson - Remember when I mentioned important components in a 3-4 scheme? Well, the nose tackle spot has plenty of importance. What is needed is a large cog to man the 0-technique on the defensive line, tie up blockers, and occasionally collapse the pocket while clogging the A- and B-gaps. Meet Mr. Wilson.

Michigan CB Ambry Thomas - Thomas carries plenty of intrigue as a mid-round prospect because of his size and speed but Senior Bowl week will provide a platform for Thomas to improve his stock considerably. What stands out is his ability to be aggressive in press coverage while also showing signs of being more than capable in zone coverage.