1. Teamwork Personified: The 2015 NFL Draft is less than one week away, held April 30 - May 2 in Chicago. During Friday's pre-draft press conference, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn emphasized the teamwork approach each has embraced to maximize the results of their first draft class together with the club. Quinn described the process as "everything I had hoped it would be," while Dimitroff detailed their busy and productive schedules.
"Dan and I have been working very hard the last three months together," Dimitroff said. "Along with our respective staffs, (Falcons assistant general manager) Scott Pioli, (Falcons director of player personnel) Lionel Vital, the coordinators, (Falcons director of college scouting) Steve Sabo, and if we haven't been traveling all over the country, looking at players, we've been in offices looking at unbelievable amounts of video together and talking about scheme together; it's been a learning experience to grow together in this whole process."
2. Utilizing the No. 8 Pick:Having a top-10 pick in the draft usually means your team didn't perform up to expectations in the previous season. The privilege of owning such a high draft pick, however, provides the Falcons with an opportunity to get a player who can make an immediate impact, or they can utilize the pick in a trade to move up or back in the draft, possibly gaining more picks.
"There's a lot of discussion already about movement both ways with a lot of our peers in the league," Dimitroff said. "It will be interesting to see how that all works out. A lot of it, I believe, has to do with what goes down in the top-three picks. I think that's going to set the tone for how much movement there is into the top 10 or even into the top five."
The Falcons' 2016 roster is constantly evolving and we've amassed all the players in one gallery that will be updated throughout the year
3. Quinn's Draft Approach: While there are clear differences between being an NFL head coach and a general manager, Quinn shared his specific role, leading up to the draft, as a first-time head coach, ensuring Dimitroff knows exactly the types of players he needs for success on the field in 2015 and beyond.
"My sole job is to try and help Thomas understand how we would feature some of the guys as we'd play them," Quinn said. "We have discussions, so it's really clear how we'd use (each) player, and that's probably what I've tried to establish and help with most in my role."
4. The Falcon Filter: Every draft includes players who may be the most talented at their individual position, or even overall, yet have off-the-field issues, possibly affecting their draft stock. The 2015 draft is no different, meaning the Falcons' brass will have discussions about players and the pros and cons each brings to the table. Arriving as the Falcons' general manager in 2008, Dimitroff's philosophy about handling such scenarios hasn't changed.
"I know there's been a lot of discussion about the Falcon filter and how it may change, now that Dan and I are pairing together," Dimitroff said. "We're always going to be very mindful of the type of people we bring in here that fit not only into the scheme but the personality and the team-type players and the passion and the positivity in approach. I believe in that; he (Quinn) believes in that, and I think that's a very important part of this team growing together into the future."
Quinn echoed Dimitroff's thoughts.
"For us to be really good, this team has to be tight," Quinn said. "Everybody has their own philosophy on how to handle a players' off-the-field issues, (and) for us, how tight and close the team can get and bringing great teammates into our locker room is really important to me."
5. The Gurley Factor: This year's draft class is filled with elite athletes, some plagued by injury at no fault of their own. Georgia running back Todd Gurley is one of those guys, viewed by many as the top running back in the draft. Gurley's 2014 season started remarkably, yet was shortened due to a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Gurley's efforts to return to full health haven't gone unnoticed.
"I'm not a physician," Dimitroff said. "I'm led to believe that he's going to be ready to go at some time during the early parts. He's another guy that's going to have an interesting influence on this draft, given his talent along with the concerns of if he will in fact be back early or not. He runs with all that passion and all that anger and urgency that teams are looking for these days."
Quinn has watched Gurley for the last three seasons and like the majority, he believes in the star running back's talent.
"Man is he tough," Quinn said. "The attitude and the style he plays with, there are certain guys that jump off to you on tape, and he has certainly been one for me over the last few years."
Footnote: Dimitroff and Quinn were also asked about Missouri's pass-rush specialist, Shane Ray, who is battling a foot injury that could cost him some time away from the field. Quinn said Ray looked "terrific" during previous on-field workouts, and Dimitroff described the draft-approach mindset involving players who are battling injury.
"In our opinion, right now, a guy like Shane, and a guy like other people who have issues like that, it's our belief that they will be ready to play at the beginning of the season," Dimitroff said. "It is a concern when you're talking about injuries, but if you're talking about certain injuries, and you deal with your medical people to try to discern whether it's a legitimate concern, where they may not be back until the middle of the season or the beginning of the season, that's what we're basing our approach on as far as how high we might draft someone at times."