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Why the Falcons have vested interest in the Senior Bowl

Though a large contingency of Falcons representatives will be in Las Vegas for the Shrine Bowl, the Senior Bowl remains an important and prosperous "touchpoint" for Falcons decision makers. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- With the Falcons selected as one of the two coaching staffs to coach in the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 2 (and with practices already underway) a lot of the organization's eyes are on Las Vegas. But not all.

Since Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith were hired on two years ago as the organization's next general manager and head coach, the Senior Bowl has been a hot spot for the Falcons to build relationships with college players that directly impacts their decisions when the weekend of the NFL Draft arrives.


The Senior Bowl takes place in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 4 this year, two days after the conclusion of the Shrine Bowl on Feb. 2. Like the Shrine Bowl, the Senior Bowl holds a few practices prior to game day. And like the Shrine Bowl, the Falcons have top representation in Mobile, too. However, with the bulk of the Falcons coaching staff in Vegas because of the nature of their roles there, a smaller contingency of coaches and scouts are in Mobile.

Like special teams coordinator Marquice Williams finds himself the acting head coach of the Shrine Bowl's East team (while tight ends coach Justin Peelle and inside linebackers coach Frank Bush act as his coordinators), Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London will act as the American team's offensive coordinator at the Senior Bowl.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 listens to coach Charles London during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, November 2, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

It's important that London is there in this capacity, too, as the Falcons have shown invested interest in the Senior Bowl over the last two off-seasons.

Before we dive into why they do and how they've shown they do, let's first go over a particular term Fontenot likes to use in his press conferences: Touchpoints.

Every time the Falcons organization gets to interact in some capacity with top college prospects, Fontenot calls it a touchpoint. So, think all-star games. Think college pro days. Think the NFL Combine. All of these moments are when the Falcons can meet, get to know and work with players that - come the end of April and beginning of May - they could draft.

In fact, a primary "touchpoint" for the Falcons in the last two off-seasons has been the Senior Bowl. They actually have a significant track record of drafting players they meet in Mobile.

In Fontenot and Smith's first year in Atlanta, the Falcons drafted five players from the 2021 Senior Bowl (S Richie Grant, CB Darren Hall, OLB Ade Ogundeji, DL Ta'Quon Graham and WR Frank Darby). Last year, they again drafted five players who they met at the 2022 Senior Bowl (QB Desmond Ridder, OLB Arnold Ebiketie, ILB Troy Andersen, OLB DeAngelo Malone and OL Justin Shaffer).

The week of Senior Bowl practices and prep as well as the game itself has become an important stop on the Falcons road to the NFL Draft.

With this in mind, here are a handful of players to watch as the Senior Bowl arrives, with a heavy emphasis on positions the Falcons could target early in the Draft.

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman DJ Dale (94) celebrates during the Cotton Bowl NCAA College Football Playoff semifinal game against Cincinnati, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. Alabama won, 27-6. (Ric Tapia via AP)

Defensive line

Keeanu Benton (Wisconsin): National team

DJ Dale (Alabama): American team

Zach Pickens (South Carolina): American team

Auburn's Derick Hall (29) defends during the second half of an NCAA football game against Mercer on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Defensive end

Derick Hall (Auburn): American team

Nick Hampton (Appalachian State): National team

Byron Young (Tennessee): American team

Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson attempts to intercept a pass intended for Appalachian State wide receiver Corey Xavier Sutton during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The pass was incomplete. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


Tyrique Stevenson (Miami): American team

Darrell Luter Jr. (South Alabama): American team

Mekhi Blackmon (USC): National team

Ohio State offensive lineman Dawand Jones plays against Rutgers during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Offensive tackle

Tyler Steen (Alabama): American team

Darnell Wright (Tennessee): American team

Dawand Jones (Ohio State): National team

Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our rookies from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.

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