Falcons rookie minicamp gets underway Friday on the fields of Flowery Branch and the 2015 Rookie Club reported Thursday to get fitted for equipment
1. Time for the Vic Beasley, Jr. show:All eyes will be focused on Beasley, Atlanta's first round selection last week. Projected to assume the LEO role — essentially a designated edge-rusher — it'll be interesting to see how the eighth overall pick is used from the start.
As DJ Shockley mentioned in the latest FalconCast, coaches like to throw a lot of information at rookies during minicamp. How will Beasley respond to a new staff teaching him a new position?
2. UDFAs have potential:Among the many undrafted free agent signings are several with intriguing upside — including New Mexico State alumnus Valerian Ume-Ezeoke. According to Pro Football Focus, Ume-Ezeoke graded as the third best FBS center in 2014, in large part because he allowed only three QB disruptions throughout the year.
Another UDFA acquisition to monitor is Kevin White out of TCU. The 5-foot-10 cornerback was praised for his work at the Senior Bowl, where he drew comparisons to Jason Verrett, a first round choice (No. 25 overall, San Diego) in 2013. If White performs well enough to make the 53-man roster, he could be an option at nickelback.
At linebacker, Derek Akunne might be able to turn some heads. Paul Worrilow — who has a similar frame as the 6-foot, 242-pound North Texas product — joined the Falcons as an undrafted LB in 2013 and promptly earned a starting job. It'd be unfair to bestow similar expectations on Akunne, but there are reasons for optimism. He secured all-conference honors last season by registering 65 solo tackles and 108 in total — good for first and third in Conference USA, respectively.
3. Grady Jarrett coping with loss of house:The son of Falcons legend Jessie Tuggle, Jarrett had a draft experience that was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster: His family home, located in Conyers, Ga., was severely damaged by a fire Friday evening; the next day, Atlanta selected him in the fifth round.
The Falcons have been commended for choosing the interior D-lineman at No. 137 overall, as many expected him to go far sooner. Some evaluators believe he deserved to be taken as high as the second round. Perhaps one of the draft's biggest bargains, Jarrett will have to make an impact while processing a difficult situation off the field.
4. Justin Hardy vying for big responsibilities: It wouldn't be surprising if Hardy, who broke the record for most receptions in FBS history (387), assumed Harry Douglas' old assignment as Atlanta's No. 3 receiver. The former East Carolina Pirate is aggressive, intelligent and productive between the hashes — making him a possible fit in the slot. Receivers coach Terry Robiskie has successfully molded plenty of young athletes in his career and will begin his mentorship of Hardy this weekend.
5. How polished is Jalen Collins?Collins, another rookie who could start in 2015, has the makeup Quinn likes from his corners: tall, physical, stout in man-to-man coverage. However, with only 10 collegiate starts under his belt, the 6-foot-1 defensive back is somewhat inexperienced. A raw prospect with a high ceiling, Collins stands to gain a lot from minicamp, where he'll absorb important guidance from Quinn and assistant head coach Raheem Morris.