32 players with Georgia ties going to NFL Scouting Combine

Cover 9@9: 5 positions of need for the Falcons to scout at the combine

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. Unlike the Broncos and the Rams, the Falcons are sending a full contingent of scouts, coordinators and assistant coaches to the NFL scouting combine, which starts Sunday and runs through March 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“We are not following suit as Rams and Broncos,” the team notified The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via text message. 

The Broncos are not sending their assistant coaches. Denver coach Vic Fangio told ESPN.com that the assistant coaches’ time would be better spent studying draft prospects on film. 

The Rams are not sending their new offensive and defensive coordinators, Kevin O’Connell and Brandon Staley, to the combine because the want them to keep working on implementing their new schemes.

Under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, a former scout, the Falcons have long valued the gathering of information at the combine and meeting players on the field and during the interview process. 

Over time, he has involved the coaches more into the process since they’ll be working directly with the players.

The Falcons are not likely happy about the reduction in team interviews from 60 to 45. That change was made to accommodate the workouts being moved to prime time for NFL Network.

The Falcons hold the 16th overall pick this year. The team is set to make eight picks overall — four among the top 100 — when the NFL Draft is held April 23-25 in Las Vegas. 

“We’re looking at both sides of the ball,” Dimitroff said recently. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The Falcons will have to get ready for free agency first and have made some moves, including saying they will not re-sign defensive end Vic Beasley. Tight end Austin Hooper and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell are the top players who could make it to free agency.

Running back Devonta Freeman is one of the veterans would could become a salary cap casualty. 

At the combine, the Falcons’ focus will getting better in the trenches.

“On both sides of the ball, (offensive) line and (defensive) line, we are always looking to bolster that depth,” Dimitroff said. “I do believe that on both sides there are some really interesting guys.”

The Falcons’ positions of need are defensive end, left guard, defensive tackle, running back and tight end. 

Here is a look at available players in those  five positions of need.

2. Top defensive ends/tackles. With Beasley heading to free agency, the Falcons have some snaps available at defensive end. Also, veteran defensive tackles Tyeler Davison and Jack Crawford are set to become free agents. The Falcons need a DT to play alongside Grady Jarrett and a big one that will keep guards from climbing to middle linebacker Deion Jones. Here are all of the defensive linemen who’ll be at the combine: 

McTelvin Agim, Arkansas
Bradlee Anae, Utah
Ross Blacklock, TCU
Derrick Brown, Auburn
Josiah Coatney, Mississippi
Kendall Coleman, Syracuse
Darrion Daniels, Nebraska
Marlon Davidson, Auburn
Carlos Davis, Nebraska
Khalil Davis, Nebraska
Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Jordan Elliott, Missouri
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Leki Fotu, Utah
Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
Jonathan Garvin, Miami
Trevis Gipson, Tulsa
Jonathan Greenard, Florida
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
DaVon Hamilton, Ohio State
LaDarius Hamilton, North Texas
Alex Highsmith, UNC-Charlotte
Trevon Hill, Miami
Benito Jones, Mississippi
Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame
Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Rashard Lawrence II, LSU
James Lynch, Baylor
Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
Larrell Murchison, North Carolina State
Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
John Penisini, Utah
Chauncey Rivers, Mississippi State
Malcolm Roach, Texas
Alton Robinson, Syracuse
Qaadir Sheppard, Mississippi
James Smith-Williams, North Carolina State
Jason Strowbridge, UNC
Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota State
Broderick Washington, Texas Tech
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Raequan Williams, Michigan State
Rob Windsor, Penn State
D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina
Chase Young, Ohio State
Jabari Zuniga, Florida

3. Guards/Centers. The Falcons have a hole at left guard. Ideally, they need to find a guard or a guard-center, who can be groomed by Alex Mack, who’ll turn 35 during the season in November. Here are some of the top projected guards and centers at the combine:  

Solomon Kindley, Georgia
Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas
Ben Bartch, St. John’s (MN)
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
Ben Bredeson, Michigan
Netane Muti, Fresno State
Logan Stenberg, Kentucky
Simon Stepaniak, Indiana
Jonah Jackson Ohio State
Damien Lewis, LSU
Mike Onwenu, Michigan
Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU
Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
Darryl Williams, Mississippi State
Matt Hennessy, Temple

4. Running backs. With a decision looming on Freeman, it must be noted that the Falcons have taken a running back in four of the past five drafts. Maybe they believe they can move forward with a committee of Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison and Ito Smith. Here’s the running backs group that will be at the combine: 

Salvon Ahmed, Washington
Cam Akers, Florida State
Jet Anderson, TCU
LeVante Bellamy, Western Michigan
Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Raymond Calais, Louisiana-Lafayette
DeeJay Dallas, Miami
AJ Dillon, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
JaMycal Hasty, Baylor
Brian Herrien, Georgia
Tony Jones, Notre Dame
Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Javon Leake, Maryland
Benny LeMay, UNC-Charlotte
Anthony McFarland, Maryland
Zack Moss, Utah
Sewo Olonilua, TCU
La’Mical Perine, Florida
Scottie Phillips, Mississippi
James Robinson, Illinois State
D’Andre Swift, Georgia
J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Patrick Taylor, Memphis
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
Mike Warren, Cincinnati

5. Tight ends. The Falcons may not want to pay market value for Austin Hooper ($10 million per year) and will skip the franchise tag. ($10.3 last year). If that’s the case, they’ll need to get a cheap veteran in free agency and a young player from the draft to develop. 

Here’s the tight end group that will be at the combine:

Devin Asiasi, UCLA
Jacob Breeland, Oregon
Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
Hunter Bryant, Washington
Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati
Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech
Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
Sean McKeon, Michigan
Thaddeus Moss, LSU
C.J. O’Grady, Arkansas
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
Colby Parkinson, Stanford
Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt
Stephen Sullivan, LSU
Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State
Adam Trautman, Dayton
Mitchell Wilcox, South Florida
Charlie Woerner, Georgia
Dom Wood-Anderson, Tennessee

6. Let Neal recover. We did a Twitter poll after Pro Football Focus suggested that the Falcons cut safety Keanu Neal to make some salary-cap room. Most fans wanted to keep Neal. 


7. Bartkowski to Burrow. Former Falcons great Steve Bartkowski gave former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow some advice to “pull an Eli Manning” and force a trade so he doesn’t have to play for the Bengals. Bartkowski, a former No. 1 pick, was not too fond of his first three years with the Falcons, either. He said he spent a lot of time in the hospital.


8. Kicking game. The Falcons have made some of their special-teams decisions. They have signed two punters and a kicker already this offseason. They also want to bring in competition for Younghoe Koo. Also, fullback Keith Smith, the team’s top special-teams tackler last season, wants to return and the Falcons want him back. They just have to work out a deal.

9A. Georgia combine invitees. We are in the middle of completing all of the bios for the players from Georgia who are going to the combine.

9B. Defensive coaching summit at Tech. New Falcons defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi will present at the Georgia Tech defensive summit per an article by our Ken Sugiura. Lupoi came to the Falcons from the Cleveland Browns, where he held the same title, and before that was defensive coordinator at Alabama.



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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.