Editor's Note: This story is the fourth in AtlantaFalcons.com's "Road to the Draft" series.
The series gives behind-the-scenes looks at the Falcons evaluation and scouting process leading up to the NFL Draft on April 28-30. The other three stories can be read here: Georgia's Pro Day, Senior Bowl, NFL Combine.
By Kris Rhim
Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot laughed with excitement as he pulled his cellphone out of his pocket.
It was the day before the NFL scouting combine was set to begin, and Fontenot was asked how the evaluation process impacts his personal life. He turned his phone to show a text message from Kyle Smith, Falcons VP of player personnel, who sent him footage of an offensive lineman prospect at around 10:30 p.m. the night before.
"Here's Kyle texting me about a swing tackle!" Fontenot said with a laugh, as proof of how the draft evaluation process is a 24-hour commitment. By this point, Fontenot's wife, Tanya, knows that if he's getting a text late at night, it's likely from Smith or another member of the Falcons personnel staff.
"I'm single and have no kids, so you know, this is the job," Smith said, with a smile, on the combine's first day. "That's something I gotta work on, but yeah, at this time of year, there's no balance for me. It's all in."
When the NFL season wraps up with the Super Bowl in February, it marks the beginning of one of the busiest stretches of the year for NFL front offices. College all-star games – some of which happen before the Super Bowl is played – the NFL scouting combine and college pro days are significant checkpoints in the evaluation process leading up to the NFL draft in April.
It means long hours, innumerable film reviews, countless conversations about the top college prospects in the draft, and sacrificing life outside of football.
"There's no life, not right now," director of college scouting Anthony Robinson admitted. "And that's cool. I'm good with that."
The Falcons have the eighth-most valuable draft capital in the NFL, with five picks in the top 82 selections in this year's draft – including the No. 8 pick. The robust draft ammunition will help the Falcons accelerate their return to prominence by getting multiple players expected to be significant contributors. There is also the possibility that the Falcons will trade their picks for future draft capital or to get a proven player around the league.
"At eight, the potential for you to add a really good football player to this team is exciting," Robinson said.
The arduous journey to the draft, from summer scheduling to player evaluation beginning with area scouts in August, comes to a close today with the NFL draft. In the days leading up to Falcons' evaluators' "Super Bowl," as Robinson puts it, he and the rest of the Falcons personnel staff spend endless time at the team headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga. searching for the perfect fits in Atlanta.