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Editor's Note: This feature profile on Falcons vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith is the first story in an extended scouting series providing insight into key members of Terry Fontenot's staff and how they operate, constantly searching for the players required to establish a period of sustained success. We'll also tell untold stories about how the Falcons found some top players in later rounds.

We focus first on Kyle Smith, a tenacious and driven personnel man with scouting in his blood who is, as Fontenot puts it, is 'obsessed with the process.'

Story by Scott Bair

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Terry Fontenot's a keen evaluator of talent. The Falcons general manager brings a detail-oriented approach to the process, as good scouts often do, gathering information on individuals beyond what can be seen on tape or a CV.

He leaves no stone unturned gathering insight on prospects, football players or otherwise.

That included his search for a right-hand man. Fontenot was looking for a vice president of player personnel with passion, conviction and drive, someone to help construct a roster capable of sustained success.

Was Kyle Smith that guy?

Fontenot wasn't yet sure.

"I didn't know Kyle," Fontenot said. "So, I started doing research."

Just like he would on a prized college prospect. By scouting.

Smith's draft record with Washington Football Team was plain to see, but Fontenot needed more. He made call after call, asking trusted resources about Smith's reputation in league circles and what it was like working with him day-to-day, about his work ethic and character from those who knew him well.

Here's something Fontenot probably expected but may not have known at the time: Smith was scouting him, too.

The 37-year old had options after he parted ways with Washington, and the Falcons opportunity was a good one. The respected personnel man and son of former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith wanted to make the right career move, so he started doing his homework on the Falcons and Fontenot.

Smith liked what heard about his prospective boss.

"Every call I made on the guy [revealed] that Terry was a top-shelf person and as advertised," Smith said. "…He's very organized and very detailed. He knows scouting. He checks all the boxes."

Then Smith and Fontenot started a dialogue about their approach to football, to college and professional scouting, and how to run a front office. Turns out they have a lot in common.

"As soon as we started talking there was an immediate bond between the two of us," Smith said. "We were on the same page."

Fontenot agreed. "It just clicked."

The pair formed a pact and a little while later and Smith moved down to Atlanta during Senior Bowl week.

Shortly after that came the text messages, sometimes late at night, asking Fontenot to check out tape one prospect or another. They kept coming and coming, day after day. Fontenot would see them and smile, knowing that his pre-hire evaluation was correct.

His top lieutenant is non-stop.

"You talk about passion, man, he has it," Fontenot said. "He grew up in ball. He's a good person and he's a passionate person who is literally obsessed with the process."

Fontenot went a step further to illustrate his point.

"It's football and golf for Kyle. That's it," Fontenot said. "He plays a little golf, and I guarantee you that when he's playing golf, he's thinking about football."

That can't be true. Is it, Kyle?

"Yeah, that's pretty much it," he said with a smile. "The process is what – just going through it is so exciting."

Smith's passion is clear while talking about building a roster the right way, through college and pro scouting. The intensity and focus, candor and conviction that Fontenot described is all there in his tone and detail while describing his weekly routine and the Falcons scouting calendar.

The sheer volume of work on Smith's plate is overwhelming when absorbed over one extended conversation, like getting hit by a wave you never saw coming,.

Smith isn't burdened by the responsibility in his job description, where he oversees the college and professional scouting departments, each one run by directors you'll learn more about as this Falcons front-office series progresses.

Their efforts don't run parallel to the football calendar casual fans know well, one that goes from offseason program to training camp and through a 17-game season that wraps in the new year. They also don't run in line with each other – see the graphs within this story for details on both – making Smith's work week jam packed.

Here's an example of it from after the trade deadline through last week, when the regular college football season ended.

Smith would spend Monday and Tuesday looking at pro tape, helping with tryouts and new in-season signings. Then he would fly (and then drive) to a college town on Wednesday, hit up a school on Thursday and Friday to research prospects, catch that school's game on Saturday and then fly home or wherever the Falcons are to catch the Dirty Birds on Sunday.

The Falcons college scouting process shifts this week, with college football entering bowl season. They're bringing regional scouts home for meetings on prospect evaluation. That marks a transition to the back half of the NFL draft process, which will end with a class of new players expected to fortify the team's young foundation.


Smith loves going through the entire thing, from early prospect identification in May to the selections themselves the following year.

"It's the buildup," Smith said. "You're building the profile of a player, and it starts in May. As you get closer and closer [to the NFL Draft] the clarity becomes so vivid.

"You start with hundreds of prospects and you narrow it and narrow it and narrow it again. The excitement builds when the clarity is evident. If you've done the work and done it right, the answers are all there come draft day. We've gone through it all and now it's time to execute."

Smith is right at home in this arena. He was primarily a college scout over a decade in Washington. He started as an intern and then spent six years on the road as an area scout, grinding out reports and prospect evaluations. He was promoted to director of college scouting in 2017, and become VP of player personnel in 2020, a defacto GM without Washington formally having one in place.

Smith conducted the draft, free agency and trades with Ron Rivera in Washington during 2020 but ended up in Atlanta the following year. He's considered a rising talent in the scouting field, with the NFL business in his blood. His father A.J. Smith was a longtime scout and personnel director who was Chargers GM from 2003-12. He also worked with Kyle in Washington before retiring.

Kyle Smith wasn't worried about transitioning to a new role with a new organization after all that time in one spot. He was excited about the opportunity to start fresh with a new GM in Fontenot and new head coach Arthur Smith. There were challenges with this opportunity, most notably an adverse salary-cap situation, but he was excited about the "big-picture thinking" Fontenot's asking him to do while building the Falcons back up.

He's always thinking about how the draft and free agency can help, how street free agents can make the team one percent better, trying to balance short-term needs with a long-term vision.


"That's all that's going through my head all the time," Smith said. "It's the college guys. It's the pros. It's all of it. That's what has been fun about this job, and what I've enjoyed the most. There was the job change, right? When you're a college scout or a director, you're in your office and grinding tape and writing reports. That's what I was always trained to do. Then in Washington and after I got here, it changes. I'm still crushing tape, but you're almost doing it with a mind on us. I'm watching our division and how they're built. I'll watch top teams to see how they're built and how they succeed.

"…Our job is to help the decision makers, Terry and Arthur, to make a good decision. I take tremendous pride in that."

Smith is nearing the one-year anniversary marking his move to Atlanta, though the milestone doesn't signify the end of one thing or the beginning of another.

He signed up as the Falcons were in the finishing stages of their 2021 college scouting, just winding up for the free-agency period, a rather awkward time for someone to enter the fray. But hiring coaches and general managers follows the football calendar, generally coming right after a season ends.

That's when Fontenot and Arthur Smith came aboard. The front office started morphing after that, with Kyle Smith hired and quickly helping assemble a draft board based on a slightly different grading system than he had in Washington, relying on scouts he hadn't worked with before.

They also had to conduct free agency with inherited salary cap issues handicapping what could be done to strengthen the roster.

Smith's transition phase is now over. His days are helping execute a vision Fontenot and Smith have laid out with systems to do so in place.

They're continuing to learn about the player skill sets that execute Falcons schemes best, and which personalities fit well into Arthur Smith's locker room.

They're making decisions designed to get right with the salary cap in the long term, creating the foundation for financial flexibility and fertile ground to establish and then maintain a period of success.

Getting to that point will be a challenge, one Smith is excited about undertaking with the people his working for and with.

"The exciting part of coming to Atlanta was the people, the opportunity, the chance to build something new and the challenge of getting things going here," Smith said. "Evaluating [this opportunity], I thought of one thing: Let's go."

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