FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn addressed the media for their pre-draft press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The NFL Draft is April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas, and the Falcons currently have seven picks, including the 26th overall pick.
There were a number of insights to be gleaned from the half-hour discussion, and with the draft just one week away, the Falcons are deep in their preparation.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the pre-draft press conference.
There are a number of positions the Falcons could target
The biggest takeaways from the press conference, and possibly the overall theme, was that the Falcons believe there are a greater number of directions they could go in the first round compared to years past.
"I would say that this draft, different than probably most drafts that I've been involved with and for Q (Dan Quinn) and I, this is an important draft and an interesting draft, because I think there are a number of positions that we are looking at," Dimitroff said. "More than other years. In other years we've been really honed in on potentially one or two, and we have a number of positions that we think can benefit us at No. 26. That's actually really exciting."
Most consider the Falcons primary need at this point to be at defensive tackle, but there are also other positions like wide receiver or linebacker that the team may choose to add to if the right player is available. Of course, Dimitroff has never been afraid to make draft-day trades to get the player he covets.
"We're always going to be aggressive if we see someone that we're interested in that we think are going to be impact players for us, that we, basically, need on this team to take us to another level," Dimitroff said.
For now, however, it appears the Falcons like their options at No. 26, believing that there should be several difference-makers available to them late in the draft.
"It feels really good to know that there are going to be some very legit contributors to this team, right away, we believe, at 26, if we stay put," Dimitroff said.
Putting the finishing touches on the draft board
With just a week to go until the draft begins, the Falcons continue to evaluate and analyze their draft board. While it certainly is much more refined at this stage of the process, Dimitroff and Quinn are still moving some pieces around.
"It just changed two minutes ago with Dan and I doing some work," Dimitroff said when asked how long the draft board has been set. "We're always adjusting – in a good way. We'll bring up another player that we may have something that we want to revisit, and we'll put on another couple of game tapes and before you know it, we may adjust."
This review process can uncover something previously overlooked, but it also serves to help sort through players who may have previously been grouped together on the board.
"Sometimes what happens, too, is three or four people may have the same grade, so that may be an adjustment," Quinn said. "When you first have a board that's put up, everybody is given a grade. So, this stack of three, or this stack of four, how do they get maneuvered around? Of those 50 players, if four of them have this grade and another four have this grade, how do those four maneuver around? So, that's probably more posturing within a stack of guys."
Getting guys on the field early
This will be the fourth draft for the Falcons with Dimitroff and Quinn working together. Thus far, they've been successful at building their roster through the draft, with two current offensive starters – not including running back Tevin Coleman, who is a significant contributor – and seven current defensive starters added over the past three drafts.
Dimitroff spoke on the importance of getting their draft picks the opportunity to contribute on the field earlier rather than later to help further evaluate them at the NFL level.
"I've said this time and again, the fact that Dan is really open to playing younger guys and getting them time on the field, today, and as soon as possible is great for us," Dimitroff said. "Instead of tucking them away and hoping – you know, the first year maybe he sees a little bit of spot time on special teams, the second year, well okay, something happens, and then by the time you know it, it's the third year and we haven't truly gotten a feel for what this player is. "That's the most unnerving thing as a co-team builder, when you're sitting there looking at someone in their third year and you're thinking, 'We haven't even had the chance to know the ability of this guy.' That's a big thing for us."