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Cover 9@9: Falcons’ draft war room normally has 45 to 50 people

Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff (right) and head football coach Dan Quinn have maintained constant communications ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff (right) and head football coach Dan Quinn have maintained constant communications ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog — our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. The No Spin Zone. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff meets virtually with coach Dan Quinn each morning from about 8 a.m. to 12 noon to watch video on Zoom and discuss the draft board, Dimitroff said Tuesday on "The Rich Eisen Show."

Dimitroff is bracing for the virtual draft, set for April 23-25.

“I will be interested to see how smoothly it flows,” Dimitroff said. “There are elements and nuances to draft day that are going to change of course.”

The Falcons usually have a mass gathering in their draft room.

“I will say this, interestingly enough, when I came from New England, our draft was probably eight to 10 people in the draft room,” Dimitroff said. “Atlanta, 45 to 50. Obviously, very different. Everyone has different approaches.”

Instead of being connected to 50 people, Dimitroff said five or six people, including owner Arthur Blank, will be in the inner loop.

“This will be very interesting to be back in the house doing the draft, as I’m going to do it with me and basically my 12-year-old son,” Dimitroff said.

He gets to have one IT person in the house, and no, it can’t be Quinn or someone from the staff who took an electronics class.

Dimitroff is preparing to run the draft in the war room off his kitchen with a bank of three televisions.

“There are a lot of layers to it,” Dimitroff said. “We have basically the five or six of us in the middle, then a whole bunch of layers outside that we are connected to.

“We are using baseline technology. We are trying not to go overboard on this. We have the capacity to do that, and ability to do that, but we are trying to make it as simple as possible so if something does go down, it’s going to be a relatively easy fix.

2. Board is set. With just over a week to go before the NFL draft starts, Dimitroff said the team's draft board is set.

Falcons draft picks

“Our board is set, yeah, it’s set,” Dimitroff said. “We are still doing some minor adjustments and massaging, as we call it.”

» ALSO: Review all of Thomas Dimitroff's 86 Falcons draft picks

3. Linebacker search: The Falcons lost linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who was a fourth-round pick in 2016, in free agency. While they believe Foye Oluokun is ready to step in, they are still thin at linebacker.

“We’ll continue to build around the linebacker group,” Dimitroff said. “We feel like through some of our acquisitions in free agency and potentially continuing to look in the draft that we’re going to be in a good spot.”

Falcons linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich, who helped find Deion Jones, former Falcon Duke Riley and Campbell, will be involved in the evaluations.

» MORE: Versatility will help Isaiah Simmons at next level

“In our minds, we have one of the best linebacker coaches in the league,” Dimitroff said. “(Coach) Dan (Quinn) has a really good understanding of what he expects from this linebacker group. I think that’s — again, continuing to look there, continuing to build will always be important for us at the linebacker spot.”

The Falcons like to see some intangibles to go along with the speed they covet at their linebacker spots.

“We know we need leaders there, as well, right, because that’s a position that we need to make sure someone has the leadership ability to not only get the guys going and get the morale up, but also make sure that they’re passing along the right information,” Dimitroff said.

4. AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES

Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads classTop 10
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lessonTop 10
Tight ends:  Harrison Bryant top prospect Top 10 
Guards/Centers:  Solomon Kindley a late-rounderTop 10 
Offensive tackles:  Austin Jackson's life lesson | Top 10 
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb  | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand outTop 10
Defensive ends: A 'generational' talentTop 10
Linebackers:  Versatility is a mustTop 10
Part 10: Safeties
Part 11: Special Teams
Part 12: Cornerbacks

5. How to watch the virtual draft: 

ESPN and NFL Network will join forces for this year’s NFL draft. They will produce a broadcast that will air on both networks over all three days.

The April 23-25 draft originally was scheduled to be in Las Vegas, but has been moved because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will now originate from ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

6. 2020 NFL Draft schedule

Round 1, Thursday, April 23
• 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m.: Channel 2 Action News, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

Rounds 2-3, Friday April 24
• 7 p.m.-11:30 p.m.: Channel 2 Action News, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

Rounds 4-7, Saturday April 25
• Noon-7 p.m.: Channel 2 Action News, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

The live videostream will be available across NFL and ESPN digital properties (authentication may be required). Fans can listen to the event on SiriusXM and ESPN Radio. Digital audio will be available via the TuneIn app.

Draft hosts and a limited number of commentators will be in-studio but will adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Other reporters and analysts will report remotely from home. Dianna Russini will provide Falcons updates for the networks.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will introduce first-round picks from his home in Bronxville, N.Y. Fifty-eight prospects — including three former Georgia Bulldogs —will participate remotely.

7. Fowler steps up: Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler will donate $100,000 to the #ATLStrong fund started by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the team announced Monday.

Fowler, who signed with the Falcons in free agency, said he planned to get active in the city after he agreed to terms with the team.

The fund is a partnership between the city and the United Way of Greater Atlanta to support residents experiencing economic hardships and health-related issues caused by COVID-19.

“I wanted to give something back to the community of Atlanta. … This is a brutal time that we are going through in this world, and I thought it was best for me to donate to this foundation,” Fowler said in a statement released by the team. “It was super important, especially because I want to come in here and contribute, to be a leader and play a big role in this franchise and community. It’s just the beginning of a lot of special things. That’s what it’s all about, my teammates coming together for one cause, which is this city, this community.”

8. Free agency tracker. Who's coming, who's going and who's staying:

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS 

NEW PLAYERS 

OFFENSE 

» Todd Gurley, running back - Agreed to one-year deal with team. 
» Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Justin McCray, guard - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Hayden Hurst, tight end – Acquired via a trade with Baltimore.
» Khari Lee, tight end -- signed by Falcons 

DEFENSE 

» Dante Fowler, defensive end - Agreed to three-year, $48 million deal with the Falcons.
» LaRoy Reynolds, linebacker - signed by the Falcons on March 24.

» Edmond Robinson, linebacker – signed by the Falcons to a one-year deal March 28. 

SPECIAL TEAMS

» Sam Irwin-Hill, punter – Signed to a one-year contract worth $510,000.

RETURNING PLAYERS 

OFFENSE

» Matt Schaub, quarterback – Club picked up his option, according to his agent.
» Keith Smith, fullback – Re-signed to a three-year deal.
» John Wetzel, offensive lineman – Vested veteran contract terminated and then re-signed.

DEFENSE

» Blidi Wreh-Wilson, cornerback - Agreed to one-year deal with the team. 
» Tyeler Davison, defensive tackle - Agrees to three-year deal. 
» Steven Means, defensive end - Re-signed to a one-year contract March 9.
» Sharrod Neasman, safety - Signed to one-year contract.

SPECIAL TEAMS

» Ryan Allen, punter – Signed to a one-year contract extension for $945,000 on Feb. 18.

FORMER PLAYERS 

OFFENSE

» Austin Hooper, tight end – Will be allowed to hit the market. Has agreed to terms with the Browns
» Devonta Freeman - Cut by the team March 17.
» Luke Stocker, tight end - To be released pending a physical.
» Kenjon Barner, running back - Unrestricted free agent.
» Justin Hardy, wide receiver - Will not re-sign with team.
» Matt Simms, quarterback -- Unrestricted free agent.
» Wes Schweitzer, offensive guard/center – Will be allowed to hit the market. Set to sign with Washington.
» Ty Sambrailo, tackle - Released by the team March 16. Signed by the Tennessee Titans.

DEFENSE

» Desmond Trufant, cornerback - Released by team. He signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the Detroit Lions.
» Vic Beasley, defensive end/linebacker – Will not re-signWill join Titans on a one-year deal.
» De'Vondre Campbell, linebacker – Will be allowed to hit the market. Agreed to one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million with Arizona. 
» Adrian Clayborn, defensive end - Agreed to terms with the Browns on Tuesday, March 31. 
» Jack Crawford, defensive tackle - Signed with Tennessee on March 31.
» Johnathan Cyprien, safety - Unrestricted free agent. 
» Ra'Shede Hageman, defensive tackle – Waived by the team Jan. 13.
» Kemal Ishmael, safety/linebacker – Will not re-sign with Falcons.
» Jamar Taylor, cornerback - Unrestricted free agent. 
» J.J. Wilcox, safety -- Unrestricted free agent.

SPECIAL TEAMS 

» Matt Bosher, punter -- Unrestricted free agent.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS 

OFFENSE

» Brian Hill, running back - Falcons placed fifth-round tender on him.

DEFENSE

» Michael Bennett, defensive tackle – free agent

SPECIAL TEAMS 

» Younghoe Koo, placekicker – Signed a one-year contract extension for $660,000 on Feb. 18.

LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson talks about what separates him from other prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

9. Updated depth chart. We didn't get any injury updates from Falcons coach Dan Quinn last week during the half hour video call. He would have been available for an hour at the Owner's meeting.

We need to get updates on safety Keanu Neal (Achilles), defensive end Takk McKinley (shoulder), safety Ricardo Allen (safety), defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (posted on social media) and running back Ito Smith (concussion).

Here’s a look at the Falcons’ updated depth chart:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 19 Devin Gray, 80 Laquon Treadwell
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel 
LG 73 Matt Gono, 77 James Carpenter, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Justin McCray
RT 76 Kaleb McGary 
TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 86 Khari Lee 87 Jaeden Graham, 85 Carson Meier
WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert, 16 Danny Etling 
RB 21/23 Todd Gurley, 25 Ito Smith, 30 Qadree Ollison, 23 Brian Hill, 42 Craig Reynolds
FB 40 Keith Smith

DEFENSE 

DE 56 Dante Fowler 53 Austin Larkin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 50 John Cominsky 
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 55 Steven Means 
DE 99 Takk McKinley 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 46 Edmond Robinson, 52 Ahmad Thomas 
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 LaRoy Reynolds
RCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 39 C.J. Reavis 
LCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller
NCB 37 Ricardo Allen, 34 Chris Cooper
SS 22 Keanu Neal, 35 Jamal Carter 
FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 37 Ricardo Allen

SPECIALISTS

K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen, 9 Sam Irwin-Hill
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 9 Ryan Allen
KOR 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
PR 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell

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