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Roundtable: Looking Ahead to 2016 NFL Combine

1. By releasing William Moore and Justin Durant, the Falcons have two more spots to fill on defense. Do you think these moves will impact Atlanta's draft strategy?

Andrew Hirsh: Possibly, but I think strong safety and linebacker are positions the Falcons were going to target no matter what. With a full season under his belt, this is Dan Quinn's chance to truly fill out Atlanta's defense with his guys, and a lot of change was inevitable. 

Jay Adams: I don't, unless we're talking about depth. I could see the Falcons wading into the free agency pool to fill the linebacker spot as it looks like there will be several quality options there that could make a big impact right away. At safety, I think the spot is now Kemal Ishmael's to lose. Ishmael quietly put together a fantastic 2015 season as he filled in for Moore when he was hurt. He's a tough, hard-hitting, sure-tackling option at that spot and while it wouldn't surprise me to see the Falcons take a safety at some point in the draft, I could easily see Ishmael being the starter at the spot come Week 1 of the regular season.

Kelsey Conway: No, because I think both of those positions the Falcons would add too this offseason, via free agency of the draft. Although, there are several players in the draft that they could target, I believe at this point there will be some proven players in free agency that the Falcons will make a run at. If they are able to land a couple of those guys they can use the draft bolster the depth at those positions.

2. Now that the Super Bowl is over, the Combine is right around the corner. What's one thing you're looking forward to in Indianapolis?

AH: I'm curious to see how the defensive linemen fare across the board. The 2016 class features a lot of talented DE—this was extremely clear during the Senior Bowl—and guys can potentially separate themselves from the pack with strong Combine performances. 

JA: I agree with Andrew here on a couple of things. We really start to see the separation of players after Combine testing and that has as much to do with the on-field drills as it does the off-field stuff that happens at the Combine that you don't see on TV. Teams have the chance to take 15-minute interviews with a number of prospects to get to know them further and test them on various aspects of the game or their personal lives. When you hear after the Combine that a prospect is rising on many draft boards, it's usually a product of the interview and less from what you'll see on the field. KC:I'm interested to see the wide receiver group in particular. The reason I say that is look what guys like Braxton Miller did at the Senior Bowl and the talk he generated due to his stellar play. The Combine gives guys who are relatively unknown names, or even known names, a chance to showcase their raw physical abilities and their personalities when talking to the media. The receiver group particularly intrigues me because right now I believe it's a position where if an athlete has an exceptional showing, they could really separate themselves.

3. Quite a few mock drafts have the Falcons taking a wide receiver in the first round. Do you think Atlanta should invest that much in a WR with Julio Jones in tow?

AH: I think if the right wideout is available at 17th overall—and that's a big if—Falcons brass will strongly consider drafting him. Jones is arguably the best receiver in the world right now, but he can't do everything himself. Adding an elite prospect to complement Jones could go a long way towards getting Matt Ryan back on track. 

JA: Your draft strategy changes a bit when you're in the middle of the pack like the Falcons are this year. When you're in the top 10, it's easy to just go out and get the best player at a position of high need for your club because, chances are, you're going to find great talent there. Once you get into the middle, things can get less clear and it becomes more about taking the best player available regardless of need. We've seen the BPA strategy trumpeted loudly on Twitter in the past and I think it really could apply this year. If you end up in a situation where the best player available is at a position of need, that's great. If you end up in a situation where the best player available isn't necessarily a need but could be a game-changer at his spot, you waste little time in taking his name off the board.

KC: I wouldn't rule anything out. Dan Quinn wants a roster full of playmakers and guys who go all out, all the time. And if a player who fits that description happens to be a wide receiver, I wouldn't rule it out. Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff both want athletic players here in Atlanta and this year's draft class is full of them at the receiver position.

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