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NFL combine: 5 defensive linemen on the rise who could fit in with Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The on-field portion of the NFL combine wraps up Monday, but the defensive linemen have already had their opportunity to compete in a variety of drills.


The Falcons are expected to add to their defensive line this offseason, something they have done every year under head coach Dan Quinn. There are several intriguing prospects who could be in play for Atlanta at the No. 26 spot in the draft, and the Falcons could also address the position in the latter rounds.

While there is still a long way to go in the evaluation process for the draft, there were several defensive linemen who may have improved their stock with their test results at the NFL combine.

A quick note: Top prospects like Bradley Chubb weren't included on this list, because there's not much room for their stock to improve and will likely be off the board by the time the Falcons pick at No. 26. Instead, I'm focusing on the players who could be available for the Falcons at some point in the draft who also competed in a majority of the drills. Here they are, listed in alphabetical order:


Taven Bryan, DT, Florida:A popular pick for the Falcons in several mock drafts, including our own Matt Tabeek’s, Bryan had a very good combine performance. His athleticism was apparent in drills like the 3-cone and broad jump, two drills the Falcons value highly. Bryan had the second-best time in the 3-cone drill (7.12 seconds) and was fourth in the broad jump (9 feet, 11 inches).

  • Comparable: Cam Jordan
  • Why he's a good fit for the Falcons: Bryan's athleticism on the interior of the defensive line makes him an intriguing prospect. Pairing him with Grady Jarrett would give the Falcons an athletic pair of defensive tackles who could generate quite a pass rush.

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA:Although it seems unlikely the Falcons opt for a defensive end in the first round, Davenport is a superb athlete and could be available at No. 26. The 6-foot-6, 264-pound defensive end ran the best 40-yard dash time among all defensive linemen at 4.58 seconds, finished second in the broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches), third in the 3-cone drill (7.20) and sixth in the vertical jump (33.5 inches).

  • Comparable: Danielle Hunter
  • Why he's a good fit for the Falcons: Again, it's much more likely the Falcons address the defensive tackle spot, but Davenport certainly fits the bill of the type of athlete they would want coming off the edge.

B.J. Hill, DT, N.C. State:Hill is a player who won't come off the board until Day 2 or Day 3, but he is a player who the Falcons could target in the later rounds, depending on how the draft unfolds. Hill performed well pretty much across the board at the combine, his 35 reps on the bench press were the third-most by a defensive linemen, he was tied for fifth in the 3-cone drill (7.28 seconds) and had the 15th-best 40-yard dash time (4.99).

  • Comparable: Not available
  • Why he's a good fit for the Falcons: An athletic defensive tackle, who has upside and could certainly improve under the tutelage of Quinn and defensive line coach Bryant Young.

Breeland Speaks, DT, Ole Miss:Like Hill, Speaks isn't expected to be taken until the later rounds, making him someone who brings good value for the Falcons. Speaks is another athletic defensive tackle who tested well at the combine. Speaks finished tied for the eight-best performance in both the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump at 4.87 seconds and 32.5 inches, respectively.  

  • Comparable: Ricky Jean-Francois
  • Why he's a good fit for the Falcons: Speaks has enticing upside, and he played multiple positions on the defensive line in college. He would give the Falcons some athletic value in the later rounds.

Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State:If questions and concerns about his durability cause Sweat to tumble late into Day 2 of the draft, he could become an interesting option for the Falcons, despite playing defensive end. Athletically, Sweat is a standout. His vertical jump of 39.5 inches was the best among all defensive linemen and edge defenders at the combine, and he had the third-best 40-yard dash time (4.53 seconds) and was tied for the third-best broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches).

  • Comparable: Barkevious Mingo
  • Why he's a good fit for the Falcons: Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have said they are always looking to improve at every position, and Sweat has such athletic upside that he could be worth a flier on Day 2, despite questions about his knee.
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