The 2017 Scouting Combine wrapped up on Monday, as hundreds of draft hopefuls put their skills to the test in front of every NFL club at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are five takeaways from Indianapolis.
Edge Rushers Impressed: Prior to the combine, experts lauded this year's collection of edge rushers as one of the best in recent memory. The last week only solidified that notion. Garrett, of course, shined at the 40 and may have convinced the Browns to select him first overall. As far as players who could be on the board when the Falcons are on the clock – either in the first round or later on – Michigan's Taco Charlton, Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon UCLA's Takkarist McKinley, Tennessee's Derek Barnett and Kansas' Jordan Willis were among those who fared well.
Speed was on Display: The most popular event at the combine is the 40-yard dash, and thanks to John Ross, it created even more excitement than normal. Ross, a wide receiver out of Washington, completed the drill in 4.22 seconds – 0.5 seconds faster than the previous record, held by Chris Johnson. Plenty of others earned good times, as well. DB Jalen Myrick (Minnesota) and WR Curtis Samuel (Ohio State) clocked in at 4.29 and 4.31, respectively. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, ran a 4.64.
In total, seven prospects finished in less than 4.4 seconds. Head coach Dan Quinn was impressed, to say the least.
"There are eight guys that I have potential first-round grades on the edge," NFL.com's Mike Mayock said. "So anybody looking for an edge in the first round is going to find them."
Depth Exhibited at Tight End:The Falcons used one of their draft picks on a tight end last year, selecting Stanford's Austin Hooper in the third round, but that doesn't mean they'll avoid that position in April. Regardless of one's depth chart, it's easy to get excited about these tight ends. Alabama star O.J. Howard leads the pack, followed by, in no particular order, David Njoku (Miami), Evan Engram (Mississippi), Gerald Everett (South Alabama) and Jake Butt (Michigan).
It's worth noting how much speed is present in this group. According to NFL Research, the 2017 tight end class averaged the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of any tight end group at the combine since 2003. Many of those quick-footed athletes also excelled at on-field drills and various strength exercises.
Lamp Shined:Compared to other years, there isn't an abundance of high-end offensive linemen in this draft class. There are, however, a number of guards and tackles that could fit in Atlanta. At or near the top of that list is Forrest Lamp. A guard out of Western Kentucky who met with the Falcons last Thursday, Lamp completed 34 reps in the bench press, more than all but one other O-lineman; soared 111 inches during the broad jump, good for third at his position; and ran a 7.55-second three-cone, the fifth-best mark in his group.
"Teams are always looking for versatile front-line players with size, athleticism, and strong technical skills. That's why Lamp will certainly see his stock surge after a strong showing at the combine," NFL.com's Bucky Brooks wrote. "He posted a 4.99-second 40 and displayed outstanding movement skills in positional drills. Lamp easily changes directions in space and plays with the kind of balance that scouts covet in premier players. With a strong resume on tape, he is a near lock to come off the board in the first round."
Defensive Backs Lit it Up:Per Mayock, this is the best class of safeties and cornerbacks that he's seen in the last decade, and many of them looked NFL-ready in Indianapolis. Myrick and UCLA's Fabian Moreau and Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore wowed scouts with their 40 times. S/LB hybrid Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) turned heads, too, as did Malik Hooker (Ohio State) and Jamal Adams (LSU), who, according to one scouting director, checked all the boxes.
Another prospect who made headlines is safety Obi Melifonwu. A UConn product, he notched a 44-inch vertical, the third-best jump at a combine since 2006, and leapt 11 feet, nine inches during the broad jump – the second-best distance at a combine since 2003.
Defensive back isn't Atlanta's biggest need at the moment, but as we saw when Jalen Collins filled in for an injured Desmond Trufant, it's important to have a lot of bodies in the secondary. If the Falcons want to beef up that area during the draft, there will be no shortage of options available.