1. Don't Settle on One Player: Everyone will have their favorites as the NFL Draft draws closer and closer for who the Falcons will select at No. 8. While the prevailing opinion now seems to be that edge rusher, which the 2015 draft class looks to be rich in, will be the Falcons' top choice there, one media member doesn't think you should fall in love with the obvious choice.
What that obvious choice is, however, has yet to be determined, but right now it would appear Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. fits the mold. He has a history with new Falcons head coach Dan Quinn from when Quinn was the defensive coordinator at Florida, and that may lead you to believe Fowler becomes the top guy.
"Pass rusher seems be the obvious need, but there's a lot of different ways that can happen," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said at the Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday. "It's not just about getting after the quarterback, which you can do in a lot of different ways. One of the things about (selecting at) 8 is, you really have no control over who's going to fall to you. In my mind, it'll be the best available player.
"My guess is, just knowing where Dan Quinn comes from, if it's a pass rusher, it'll be someone you don't necessarily — he's not the obvious pick, would be my guess. It'll be someone he sees and identifies someone that can be successful in his system and make everyone else more successful."
2. Stickin' With Ficken Pays Off: One of the more compelling stories Wednesday at the Combine was that of Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, who overcame some mighty, mighty struggles early in his college career to become a draft-worthy talent. One game in particular defines just how much Ficken struggled in the early years. Against Virginia in 2012, Ficken missed four field goals and a PAT in a 17-16 loss to Virginia.
He was a goat the likes of which he couldn't have imagined at the time, but set about to correct the issues, leaning on the expertise of veteran NFL kicker Robbie Gould. The next two seasons would be big turnaround campaigns for Ficken, who went on to break the Penn State record for consecutive field goals made in 2013 and lifted Penn State with a game-winning kick over UCF in the 2014 Croke Park Classic to start 2014.
The troubles of that Virginia game haunted him at the time (as you can read more about that by clicking the link above), but Ficken turned it into motivation.
"It kind of put me in the spotlight, so I tried to deal with it as best I could," Ficken said Wednesday. "I got a lot of help from Robbie Gould and he worked with me three times a week that whole season and I ended that season making 10 in a row. ... It was a motivating factor, for sure."
3. Foot Focus: The medical exams players go through during the NFL Scouting Combine might be the most important phase that no one gets to see. It's the first opportunity for team doctors to get their hands on players and really kick the tires, so to speak, on issues they may have coming into the draft.
The perfect example might be Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza, who was born with a club foot that happens to be the same foot he kicks with. He said he received a lot of questions about that during his medicals Wednesday and had to re-assure teams it wasn't something that affects the way he plays.
"I've been cleared since sixth grade and I've never had a problem with it," Brindza said. "Growing up with a clubbed foot, I was oblivious to it. I was another kid out there and my dreams and aspirations were to play in the NFL or to play soccer. I never looked back on it."
4. Schrager High on Shanahan: FoxSports.com's Pete Schrager (check out his latest mock draft here) glowed about new Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on Wednesday and likes the prospects of him working with quarterback Matt Ryan.
"If you look at what Kyle Shanahan did with Matt Schaub in 2009 and 2010, there might have been no — obviously (Drew) Brees, (Aaron) Rodgers, those guys — but Schaub was in the conversation," Schrager said. "Matt Ryan is a much better quarterback than Schaub."
5. Prepare for the Deep Ball: Shanahan said during his introductory press conference last week that he wants opposing defenses to fear the Falcons' deep ball. With the wide receiving corps Shanahan will have to work with, along with an accomplished quarterback, the deep ball might be set up to strike fear in the hearts of defenders.
"For Kyle, he hasn't really had a deep threat," Schraeger said. "Pierre Garcon had 105 catches in Kyle's offense and Pierre Garcon, to me, is not a No. 1 receiver. If you give him Julio (Jones) and Roddy (White) and Harry Douglas, those are three legitimate NFL wide receivers. I'm excited to see what Kyle can do. Matt Ryan's put up huge numbers, but he might put up even bigger numbers (under Shanahan)."
Extra Note: Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn will address the media Thursday afternoon, and we'll have complete coverage on AtlantaFalcons.com.