For the final two days of the NFL Combine, defensive Lineman, Linebackers, and cornerbacks, took the field on Saturday and Sunday for on-field workouts. Edge rusher and cornerback have been most linked to the Falcons in preliminary mock drafts. The Falcons' defensive line was the worst in the NFL in 2021, ranking dead last in the league in sacks.
As for the secondary, the Falcons are not in dire need of another cornerback, as they have a budding superstar in A.J. Terrell. Having one lockdown cornerback with formidable players around him is often enough, like the Rams secondary with superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams also had a dominant defensive line, which the Falcons don't have.
A defense with two elite cornerbacks can make up for a struggling defensive line and make having success throwing the ball nearly impossible for offenses. Teams have had success with two elite cornerbacks before, like the New York Jets with Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie or the Denver Broncos with Aquib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.
With Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith's approach of selecting the best player available, and the talented cornerbacks at the top of this draft, it would be hard for the Falcons to pass up on a corner that may be available at eight.
Here's how some potential falcons targets performed in Indy:
We take a look at the action in Indy at the 2022 NFL Combine.
Ahamad "Sauce" Gardner, CB
Sauce Gardner proved that he had the speed to match his lengthy but slim 6-foot-3 190-pound frame at the combine. Gardner galloped to a 4.41 40-yard dash on Saturday and showed his excellent footwork and hands in other drills. In 598 coverage snaps over three years, Gardner allowed zero touchdowns and a 35.3 passer rating when targeted, per Pro Football Focus.
Gardner has the size and speed for the position, but the questions surrounding him are mainly around his talent competition. Gardner and Stingley Jr. are the two cornerbacks vying for the No.1 spot, and Stingley played in the future NFL-talent-laden SEC, where he led the league in interceptions as a freshman. In contrast, Gardner played in the AAC, which isn't exactly a hotbed for future NFL receivers.
Still, Gardner dominated his conference and has the ideal size, though he will likely need to gain weight and speed to become an elite cornerback.
Jordan Davis, DT
Jordan Davis is a massive football player, and that's saying something because football players are typically taller and stronger than the average person, and Davis even makes them look small. He's 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, and dominated on the University of Georgia's defensive line in 2021 en route to a national title. After a loss to Georgia in September, South Carolina coach Shane Beamer described Davis best: "They have a defensive lineman that weighs 340 pounds and runs better than anyone on this call," a frustrated Beamer told reporters on a zoom call.
While Davis certainly looked quick for his size during games, his 40-yard dash time shocked everyone. Davis sprinted to a 4.78-yard finish in the 40, only second to his teammate Devonte Wyatt. The time was quicker than quarterbacks he'll be chasing on Sundays like Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield, and Patrick Mahomes.
Davis added a 32-inch vertical, and a 10-foot-3-inch broad jump, proving to be the most athletic defensive tackle in the draft.
Travon Walker, EDGE
Travon Walker's stock was already rising closer to the draft as he began moving up the first round in different mock drafts. And On Saturday, Walker solidified himself as a top ten pick. First, his verified measurements came in at that of a created player in the Madden NFL video game: 6-foot-5, 272 pounds with a seven-foot wingspan.
Walker then ran a 4.51 40-yard-dash, the fastest ever for a player over 270 pounds, and added a 35 1/2-inch vertical, a 10-foot-3 broad jump, and a 6.89-second three-cone drill. After his performance at the combine, Walker might be gone before the Falcons pick at eight, but he would be an instant upgrade to the Falcons' struggling pass rush if he is available.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB
Stingley sat out of the on-field workouts but received full clearance from Dr. Robert Anderson on his foot injury and will be doing everything at his Pro Day. Some were surprised to see Stingley's measurements, specifically his 30 ⅝ inch arm-length and 74 1/8 inch wing-span, both lower than the league average.
Even with those measurements, Stingley still had buzz surrounding him this weekend because of a video of him matching up with Ja'Marr Chase as a freshman at LSU that circulated on social media. Stanley's upside is likely higher than any cornerback in this draft, and there's proof of who he can be when 100 percent healthy; look at his freshman year or that Ja'Marr Chase footage.
Still, Stingley has not been the player he was as a freshman and battled injury over his final two seasons, making many believe that Gardner may be the safer pick as the No. 1 cornerback.