Skip to main content

'This guy's active': Why the Falcons took notice of disruptive Brandon Dorlus

Talking heads may have dubbed Brandon Dorlus a “tweener” coming out of Oregon, but he’s someone the Falcons feel can “create havoc in the backfield” as he grows.

Finding Falcons is a series that ventures beyond Atlanta's decision to draft a specific player and reveals the why behind doing so. Exclusive interviews with Falcons position coaches, area scouts and the decision-makers at the top detail the moments that solidified the decision to draft each of the men who make up their 2024 draft class. For eight consecutive weeks, we'll tell those stories.

Last week, we found out why Bralen Trice’s “The Enforcer” nickname became something of interest to the Falcons throughout the scouting process. This week, we're diving into the story of why the Falcons took notice of another defensive lineman, Brandon Dorlus, in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Story by Tori McElhaney


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – When the Falcons drafted Brandon Dorlus with the No. 109 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the broadcast team called the Oregon product a "tweener." In this case, it's a term used to describe a defensive lineman who doesn't necessarily fit a particular mold from a physical standpoint.

Truly, if you look up the word on Google, the example sentence given for the usage of the word is: "Price considered him a tweener, too small for a lineman and too big for a linebacker."

There are times when this word's connotation isn't all-together positive. In this case with Dorlus and the Falcons, that shouldn't be the takeaway.

"He is a tweener in terms of versatility on the defensive line," Falcons assistant director of college scouting Michael Ross agreed. "He can play inside, he can play outside. They played him at multiple weights over his years (at Oregon). But this year he was more inside and just his ability to penetrate as a pass rusher really stands out on film."


It's something the Falcons are known to value in their defensive players, but particularly across the defensive front. This term has come up time and time again with general manager Terry Fontenot's front office. In fact, it came up recently with the Falcons’ earlier pick of Ruke Orhorhoro in this very series. And spoiler alert: It's going to come up again with Zion Logue to round out the draft class.

No matter how you slice it, and what form it comes in, every coach and scout will tell you the same thing:

"The more you can do the better off you are," Ross said.

Even in this idea of versatility, though, Falcons defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said teams are still looking for a certain niche players can fill. He called it everyone's very own "redeeming quality."

"I think it's very difficult in the NFL to acquire players who are top level, Hall of Famers in the run and the pass. It's hard to do that in the draft as well. So, you're always looking for guys with redeeming qualities like, 'What can they do to help the team?'" Rodgers said. "And this guy's redeeming quality? It's the pash rush, and it's really good."

Over his final three seasons with Oregon, Dorlus accumulated 134 pressures with 12 sacks. So, when asked to elaborate on what he saw from Dorlus when he first cut on his Oregon tape, Rodgers had a list prepared.

"When you're evaluating Brandon, the first thing that jumps off the tape is the speed, the effort, the dynamic ability to use his hands, the ability to attack the edges, to make offensive linemen move certain ways and counter the other ways," Rodgers said. "That's what you see on tape."

When it comes to evaluating talent at this level, sometimes the most intriguing aspects of a player don't show up on tape right away. Sometimes, it's a gradual inclination of projecting what could be. And with Dorlus, he showed a knack for incremental improvements.

Take something as simple as passes deflected as the example. Not necessarily something that those from the outside value in a defensive lineman. Everyone would rather have sacks, right? Of course, but there's more to affecting the quarterback than a sack.

A part of Dorlus' repertoire that developed at Oregon was his feel for the game and how he could best disrupt it, which included batting down passes. Dorlus went from two passes deflected in each of the 2021 and 2022 seasons to eight in 2023. Some may look at this stat and not think twice about it, but it's one that shows more value than meets the eye.

"You don't affect the quarterback unless you're there close enough to the quarterback," Rodgers said. "There's two ways you can get the quarterback hits: You can get the quarterback sacks, you can bat the ball down. (Both of) those things are good for the defense, which in turn is good for the team. So, when you have that kind of production, you feel really good that the unit, the four guys playing as one, can come together and affect the quarterback in a way that we want to."


So, we've got the stats. We've got the film. What about in-person evaluation? Well, we've got that too.

The Senior Bowl is a hotbed of sorts for the Falcons. Since Fontenot took over as general manager in 2021, 12 of the Falcons’ 23 draft picks prior to 2024 participated in the Senior Bowl. You can now add Dorlus to the list, who was a standout participant this year in Mobile.

"At the Senior Bowl, Brandon flashed," Ross said. "One thing that defensive linemen do, the one on ones, obviously that perks everybody's interests: offensive line vs. d-line. Well, he dominated those opportunities."

In the end, it was the dominance at the Senior Bowl, the dynamics on film and the development in the stat book that put Dorlus on the Falcons' radar. It's these three things combined that brought him to Atlanta.

That, and his ability to do what any lineman worth his salt in the NFL must: disrupt.

"This guy can get off the rock, can create penetration and create havoc in the backfield," Ross concluded. "Whether it's him making the play or helping make the play with others around him, this guy's active."

Related Content