INDIANAPOLIS – As Dan Quinn gets ready to spend the next week evaluating and interviewing draft prospects, Atlanta's head coach shed some light on what he's looking for specifically from the defensive end prospects.
The Falcons have the No. 16 pick in the draft and defensive end is one of, if not the top, positional need for the team.
With Vic Beasley not returning and Adrian Clayborn set to become a free agent when the new league year begins on March 18, the Falcons are relatively thin at the defensive end position from a depth standpoint. Clayborn and Beasley combined for 12 of Atlanta's 28 sacks.
Defensive end Takk McKinley, Atlanta's first-round pick in 2017, is someone the Falcons are counting on to step up in the upcoming season. McKinley finished the season on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury.
Quinn said his only expectation for McKinley at this point is to get healthy.
"That's my expectation … to throw the best rehab that he possibly can to get him at his best self," Quinn said.
The Falcons finished No. 29 in the league in sacks in 2019 and in order to get back to the postseason, they'll need more production from their defensive line group.
As Quinn evaluates defensive end prospects whether they are acquired through free agency or the draft, he's looking for one trait above all.
"No. 1 you better have explosiveness," Quinn said. "Their first two or three steps had better be on point. If you can't beat someone to the punch, it's hard to be a really good pass-rusher. Explosiveness on your first three steps, that'll go a long way. Can you beat someone to the punch? Now you're able to do some counters. It's not just sped, that's a big part of it. They don't need 40-yard speed, they need 5-yard speed. Those first 5 yards that's where it really goes down for a pass-rusher."
Quinn said he has reached out to the defensive end prospects he plans to interview while at the combine to get a head start on the process.
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah listed the following players as the top pass-rushing prospects in this year's draft class:
- Chase Young, Ohio State
- A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
- K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
- Marlon Davidson, Auburn
- Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
- Bradlee Anae, Utah
The Falcons have seven picks in this year's draft, with three of them coming in the first two rounds.