The combine's coming right up. Hu-freaking-zah.
It's legit one of my favorite spots on the NFL calendar. I can't say that without caring for one second how fast anyone runs 40 yards or around three cones or to even to the bench press. The numbers don't matter to me. The interactions do. It's a chance to get a pulse of the league and its teams, to get familiar with draft prospects beyond what you see on the field.
- Former Bears GM Ryan Pace joins Falcons scouting staff
- NFL Mock Draft: Kayvon Thibodeaux falls to Falcons at No. 8 overall
- Rhim's roundup: Gardner or Stingley, trading the Julio Jones pick, Cordarrelle Patterson
- Question of the week: What do the Falcons do with Matt Ryan?; Impact of Tom Brady, Sean Payton departures; Will the Falcons re-sign Cordarrelle Patterson?; Biggest roster need
- 'We need more rings': Arthur Blank reflects on 20 years of ownership, Falcons future
You come out of it with a deeper knowledge of what teams think of certain prospects and how things might play out. It's a fascinating stretch that we're bringing the full squad to, so keep an eye out for extensive coverage from me, Tori and Kris next week and throughout the pre-draft process. It's also a free agency primer, with so much talk of what'll happen in coming weeks and where markets might land for important prospects.
A wealth of insight and information will come from it, but that's next week. Right now we've got more discussion about what the Falcons might do heading into this important time, so let's get right to it in Friday's Bair Mail:
Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.
Bair, Bair, Bair. Even after a few days I'm still sitting here trying to contemplate how you could possibly think drafting Treylon Burks/Drake London at 8. Neither are better then Julio when we traded up for him and I hesitate to believe they're the BPA at 8 even if we trade Ridley. That falls more into desperation then anything else. This class is loaded with WR. Given the likes of Diggs, Lockett, AB, Deebo, and others you don't have to reach for receivers unless they're unicorns. We need a game changing defender more than an offensive one especially since we took Pitts last year.
Bair: I'm glad you brought this up Chris. I've heard this quite a bit this week after Falcons Final Whistle dropped. Here's one thing I'd like to highlight from the last question of the week: I, too, think edge rusher's the biggest need. And it would be a pretty boring podcast if we all agreed. Like Tori, I have been screaming about edge rusher need for months. That doesn't change. The question about which receiver to take at No. 8 was following the line of dialogue highlighting the position.
While I'm taking Kayvon Thibodeaux, Kyle Hamilton or Derek Stingley over anyone, I do think there’s a scenario where receiver could be a possibility. Drake London is going to test off the charts at the combine. Book it. That'll generate some buzz, for sure. Do I think it's likely they go receiver that early? No. Is it possible? Sure, and it's higher in a trade down.
I still think there are better uses of the No. 8 overall pick than receiver, but I do think it's as pressing a need as any on this team.
Charlie Ward from London, U.K.
Welcome back from your break. Broad question I guess but what likely free agents do you think we will target? I also saw a Browns rumor that Austin Hooper could be a potential cut there? I loved him when he was here and its not really worked out for him... likely we will hit a large number of vets for those 1 year deals again; anyone to keep an eye on?
Bair: We talk so much about prioritizing NFL draft needs and not enough about free agency in that light, despite the fact free agency is all about needs. The Falcons have several of them to fill, likely on shorter-term contracts, as Charlie points out.
Before we get to the list, let's point out that free agent activity will hinge on whether they re-sign some of their own, especially Foye Oluokun, Cordarrelle Patterson, Younghoe Koo (restricted free agent) and Russell Gage. Isaiah Oliver, too.
We could list several affordable options, but here are positions I think they should address with veteran help:
1. Receivers (plus draft additions)
2. Edge rusher (plus draft additions)
3. Left guard
5. Backup QB
6. Nose tackle
7. Tight end
I didn't include offensive tackle or running back because I think that's a better draft option. The Falcons will sign free agents in high volume and need to be smart finding great value throughout this process. That's a tough thing competitive open market, but that's the task at hand.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Welcome back, Scott...The piece about Claude Humphrey (sidebar, I was at the preseason game when he blew out his knee) got me to thinking about the Falcons history of drafting pass rushers, and it ain't very good. With the exception of Humphrey and Beasley's fluke year, I can't think of any pick from any front office that wasn't a bust. Takk, anyone? Is this just bad luck or is there an underlying reason, or hidden philosophy that keep us drafting busts? It's kind of like the Jets and QB's.
Bair: I would caution against applying tradition to a new regime, Will, and, to borrow a sentiment from Joe Burrow, this year's Bengals didn't care about previous playoff futility. In that light, Terry Fontenot didn't draft any of the edge rushers you're referencing. You're right that it has been a while since the Falcons took an effective one and that has to change. Like, in a hurry.
I don't think there's a tie that binds those draft misses. The key to hitting here is finding the exact talent and character that’ll fit Dean Pees system. That also means adding bigger bodies on the interior to plug gaps and take blockers off the new edge rusher.
We take a look back at our favorite travel snaps from this season.
Bill Witten from Killen, Ga.
Welcome back Scott. You didn't tell us what you did on vacation. Given the many needs the Falcons have and the value of the 2 second round picks do you think there's any thought of the Falcons trading one of those picks to swap positions for anyone in the first round and if so who would it be?
Bair: We talk a ton about trading down in the first round, giving up No. 8 overall for more swings at the plate. I like the thought of doing the opposite. Taking your shot at No. 8 and then using two second-round picks to get back into the first round.
One question you have to ask: Is getting a player wherever you could get back into the first round – realistically, in the mid to late 20s – significantly better than the player you could get at No. 43? The answer has to be an unqualified yes. If not, take two players instead of one. That Falcons need as many talented players as they can get. More picks equals more chances to do so.
Trading back into the first makes some some sense if a player you covet falls farther than expected and you have a chance to go grab him. Two second round picks can help you move around the board. If you're going to do something like that, you'd better be right with the player you get.
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