INDIANAPOLIS – The Atlanta Falcons are doing their due diligence at this year's NFL combine, meeting with many of the top prospects, across a wide array of positions, ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said earlier in the week that he believes there is "really good value at the running back position" in this year's draft, and the team has met with many of the players in that group at the combine. Dimitroff has also stated that he likes the running backs that are currently on the Falcons' roster and the various strengths that the group possesses.
However, improving the run game is something the Falcons are focused on achieving in 2020. Atlanta averaged 85.1 rushing yards and 22.6 attempts per game, both of which were third-fewest in the league. The Falcons have added a running back in the mid rounds of recent drafts, and this one has the kind of depth that could result in a quality player being available if they again choose to go that route.
During their media availability, the following running backs said they had met with the Falcons and whether their meeting was formal or informal. One player, Florida's La'Michael Perine said he had not met with Atlanta at the combine but did have a conversation with the Falcons at the Senior Bowl and expected to meet with them again later this week.
- AJ Dillon, Boston College – Informal
- Anthony McFarland Jr., Maryland – Informal
- Cam Akers, Florida State - Informal
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU – Informal
- Darius Anderson, TCU – Informal
- Eno Benjamin, Arizona State – Informal
- J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State - Informal
- Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin – Informal
- Joshua Kelley, UCLA – Informal
- Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt – Informal
- La'Michael Perine, Florida – Senior Bowl
- Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis – Informal
- Zack Moss, Utah – Informal
Notably, Georgia running back D'Andre Swift, considered among the very best players at his position in the draft, said he had not met with the Falcons and did not have a meeting planned with them this week.
WHAT THE PROSPECTS HAD TO SAY
AJ Dillon: It's always a great opportunity to be able to talk to coaches, talk to teams. It's a blessing to have the opportunity. I just keep telling coaches and players that they are going to get someone who gives it their all if I'm drafted."
Anthony McFarland Jr.: "I didn't have a formal interview with them, but I met the running back coach. Not too much, I met him yesterday for a little bit. It was a good conversation. Just talking about the game, seeing what I know about ball."
Cam Akers: "I haven't had a formal yet, but I think I have a formal set up on Thursday. They're very interested in me and want to see me perform well on the field."
Darius Anderson: "They told me that they liked my game. They love watching me play, I'm a fun player to watch. Also, they loved that I could play on kickoff return."
Eno Benjamin: "I thought [the conversation] was really good. I sat down with the running back coach; he reminded me of my running back coach, just the way we talked ball. It was more about the little details of things, being a true student of the game. I felt like we shared the same kind of values. Also, we were about to talk about Ito Smith. He was a running back that my running back coach coached as well. We spent a lot time together when the Atlanta Falcons came to play the Arizona Cardinals. We were able to meet up and talk, and we still text to this day."
Jonathan Taylor: "It was a great conversation. I really enjoy these meetings just because when you're getting challenged by offensive coordinators, when you're getting challenged by running back coaches; when you're in a program for three years you kind of understand the scheme, you understand the playbook, the ins and outs. And then when a coach here presents you with something new, maybe from their playbook or their scheme and they're trying to teach you, it's just the learning process all over again."
Joshua Kelley: "Just informal meetings, nothing formal. [The conversation] was great. Every team here wants to know if you know football or not. They have you draw plays, they have you do a lot of little things, talk to you like, 'What do you see here?' Protections are super important. Every single running back coach I've met here is all about protection."
Ke'Shawn Vaughn: "I talked with them yesterday, informally. We just talked football, pass protection, run concepts. I'm kind of catching on to all of it just due to the fact that our college playbook was kind of similar. So, I may be able to adjust to their terminology faster."
La'Michael Perine: "I met with them at the Senior Bowl. I didn't get a chance with them yet here. I'm pretty sure they'll end up meeting with me. I have a formal [meeting] tonight, I don't know who it's with though. Just like every other team, they're interested in me. I'm just looking forward to see how it goes, honestly."
Patrick Taylor Jr.: "I met the Atlanta Falcons' running backs coach on the first night. Really, he just told me to enjoy the process. I drew up a play for him, he wanted to see if I could draw my favorite play. I also drew up a protection, things like that. My favorite play is a pin-and-pull scheme, it's 'G-Lead.' I've had a lot of big runs off of that play. It's been my favorite play since I walked through the door in 2016."
Zack Moss: "I talked to the Atlanta Falcons last night, the running back coach there and it was a good talk, for sure. He really liked my game, the way I push the game and the way I was able to articulate the game to him. I was just drawing up plays, talking over offenses and pass protections and things like that."