With the NFL Combine kicking into gear on Thursday and heading into the weekend's workouts, the Falcons brass are in Indianapolis continuing the preparation for April's NFL Draft.
For many players, the Combine is an opportunity to erase question marks about their game that may have shown up during the game film from their college careers. Others have exceptional film and are only looking to supplement their draft stock with their Combine performance. Regardless of what a player is trying to accomplish while in Indianapolis it's still considered one of the most important job interviews of the players' lives.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his staff are taking with them to Indianapolis the knowledge of their lack of a first-round pick this season, but with four drafts with much of the same staff in place under their belt, they're well-equipped to handle the potential extra pressure of nailing their first pick in the draft at No. 55 in the second round.
Dimitroff joined Atlanta's Archer and Bell on 790 The Zone on Wednesday to discuss how he approaches the Combine in terms of scouting players and the balance that the franchise will try to find this offseason between filling needs from the draft as well as free agency.
Many players make a name for themselves during the Combine week, using specific speed, agility or weight training to excel at workouts like the 40-yard dash. As a result of eye-popping numbers that may not tell the full tale of their playing ability, they rise up some teams' draft boards. Often in those cases teams are drafting a Combine riser based on potential instead of the hard facts regarding a player gleaned from the film.
Dimitroff doesn't follow that mentality. He sees the Combine as an opportunity to meet with players and get a feel for who they are as football minds, not just performers on the field. As a result of what happens in Indianapolis this week, he'll begin to determine the players he may truly target in the draft.
"There are some other very valuable aspects to the Combine, whether it's our medical information or the interview side of things," Dimitroff said. "It's a very beneficial exercise for us. We do not go into the Combine either raising a guy or dropping him drastically. We'll come out of the Combine with highlights on certain players that we need to revisit. I think it's very beneficial for us to do that."
Unlike last season, the Falcons will have the added benefit of a full offseason to evaluate both the draft and free agency, which begins in March. With 17 free agents on the books for the team this season, many tough decisions will have to be made regarding the current roster and free agency. As they head into the draft, some of those choices on players will have been made and they'll be able to truly focus on adding the players from the draft that will round out the roster.
With the high number of free agents Atlanta has and a lack of a first-round pick, some creativity may be necessary this offseason. While Dimitroff wouldn't share his targets or ideas on free agency, it's a fair statement to say the Falcons will need to be players in free agency to some degree since they currently have only five draft picks.
The GM said he and his staff have been finishing up free agency and draft meetings and those discussions revolved around the potential free agents that may be available from around the league in conjunction with the scouting of the draft they've completed thus far. The balance between current players available on the market, their own roster and the strengths of the draft will help determine roster decisions over the next two months.
He was quick to point out that despite any perceived needs the Falcons may have, there is not one particular area they will focus on in the draft and free agency. His business is one of the acquisition of talent and he'll take as much of it as he can get at any and all positions, but many of the decisions to come will begin to be made this week in Indianapolis.
"After the Combine we come back and truly decide where we're going to be aggressive within our team," Dimitroff said. "This is not just focused on one element of this team. We've talked from the very beginning we are always interested in upgrading our talent and our depth of this team."