Parker Baldwin of the San Diego State Aztecs reacts after a play during a game in 2018. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Cover 9@9: Five undrafted players to watch at Falcons’ rookie minicamp 

1. Five undrafted players to watch: One the most intriguing undrafted players signed by the Falcons was San Diego State free safety Parker Baldwin. 

He comes with the reputation of being a hard-hitter from the same program that produced Falcons free safety/nickel back Damontae Kazee. 

Baldwin had offers from Washington, Jacksonville and the New York Jets. He choose the Falcons because defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach Jerome Henderson put him through a private workout in March in San Diego. 

Here are five undrafted players to keep an eye on at the Falcons’ rookie minicamp, which runs Friday through Sunday: 

Baldwin, FS, San Diego State: He’s 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. He’s a two-time honorable mention All-Mountain West selection. He started 32 of the final 34 games at the signature Aztec spot in SDSU’s 3-3-5 defense (same position Brian Urlacher played under coach Rocky Long at New Mexico).... Played in all 54 games of his career at San Diego State.

Jayson Stanley, CB, Georgia: He’s 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds. The Falcons will try to convert him into a cornerback after he played wide receiver at Georgia. He played in each of the last 13 games and started against Kentucky and Georgia Tech. In 2017, he shared the special teams most improved player award with two others. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds at Georgia’s Pro Day. 

Del'Shawn Phillips, LB, Illinois: He’s 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. He originally committed to Western Michigan out of Detroit’s famed Cass Tech High, but did not academically qualify. Went to Kansas Jayhawk Community College before landing at Illinois in the Big Ten. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds at his Pro Day. His time would’ve ranked 11th among linebackers at the combine. Phillips had a 37-inch vertical jump and 10 feet, 1 inch broad jump. 

Tre' Crawford, LB, Alabama-Birmingham: He’s 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. Started his career at Tyler (Texas) Junior College. He had a top 30 visit to the Cardinals. He made 42 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and two fumble recoveries last season. At his pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, but he had an outstanding 42-inch vertical leap.

Yurik Bethune, LB, Alabama A&M: He’s 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He was a first-team All-SWAC defensive end selection. Bethune, who’s from Mobile, Ala., was second in the SWAC with 9.5 sacks, and he led the conference with 11.5 tackles for loss. Bethune, who was picked as the SWAC defensive player of the week twice, finished the season with 50 tackles.

2. Rookie minicamp. The league lists it as going on May 10-12, but the Falcons will have access on Friday and Saturday.

The Falcons will have drafted rookies, undrafted rookies and tryout players on hand for practices, film and study sessions. 

3. Rookies signed. The Falcons signed four of their rookie draft picks Friday.   Here’s a look at what the Falcons’ rookie class will make. 

4. Converted cornerbacks. After the draft, the Falcons signed 16 undrafted players including Stanley, who will be converted to cornerback. 

The Falcons have converted former wide receivers C.J. Goodwin (Cardinals) and Deandre Burton (Texans) into cornerbacks, but haven’t been able to retain their services. 

5. Tryout players. Former Georgia Tech defensive tackle Desmond Branch has accepted an invitation to the Falcons rookie mini-camp, according to his tweet on Sunday that confirmed an AJC report.

6. New team doctor: After a season that saw the Falcons register 80-game starts loss to injury to projected starters, they appointed a new team doctor on Tuesday. 

Dr. Kyle Hammond, an orthopedic surgeon at the Emory Sports Medicine Center, has been named the Falcons’ head team doctor after serving as an associate team doctor the past three years. Dr. Brandon Mines will continue to serve in the role as the primary care sports medicine specialist.

Hammond also serves as the head orthopedic surgeon for the Hawks, as well as associate team physician for the Braves, Georgia Tech, Emory University, and several metro Atlanta high schools. 

“Kyle has quickly established himself as an expert in the field of sports medicine while developing a high level of trust with those under his care and supervision,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement released by the team. 

Hammond will be the point person on a team of 15 Emory surgeons and non-surgical sports doctors who will provide services to the Falcons, according to Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center director Dr. Scott D. Boden.

Hammond has also served as team doctor for the Steelers, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh athletics, Duquesne University athletics and the Pittsburgh ballet. 

Dr. Spero Karas served as the Falcons’ head team physician from 2011-18.

“The Falcons would also like to thank Dr. Spero Karas for his outstanding service over the past eight seasons,” Dimitroff said in a statement. “We extend our greatest appreciation for the care, professionalism, and dedication he has shown to our players, coaches and the entire organization.”

7.  Transition period. Karas came on at a difficult time for the franchise.

In May 2010, the Falcons became so concerned about the excessive reliance on pain killers by players that the issue eventually reached the desk of owner Arthur Blank, according to a court filing in 2017.

A string of emails containing the information was entered into a California court record as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by more than 1,800 former NFL players, who claim that NFL teams fostered an atmosphere that led to the abuse of painkillers over the long-term health concerns for players.

Some of the emails went from Falcons trainer Marty Lauzon to Dimitroff to Blank, who then had president Rich McKay handle the matter.

One of the emails concerned the review by an outside agency that found the team spent $81,000 on prescriptions for medications for players in 2009, nearly three times the league average, according to a report by the Associated Press.

“That’s being litigated now. That’s not something we’re going discuss right now,” Dimitroff said at the time. “When the time is right, we’ll re-address that.”

The team would not comment on the matter at the time of the report.

In the wake of the episode, the Falcons switched team doctors, bringing in Karas, an orthopedic surgeon at the Emory Sports Medicine Center in August 2011. Dr. Jeffrey Webb, also of Emory, was also hired as consulting physician.

Dr. Scott Gillogly was the team’s previous doctor. He also was the team doctor for the NHL’s Thrashers.

8. Report card review: Folks get all enraged if their draft in not an initial hit on the report card circuit. You have to always give the check-back in three/four years caveat.

When there are 600,000 people in town just to hear names called and there’s another 47.5 million watching on television, instant draft grading and their big brother, mock drafts, are not going away. 

Deal with it!

Here’s a look back at my last few report cards. 

Also, I’m pretty sure that I gave the Falcons an A for selecting center Peter Konz and tackle Lamar Holmes back in 2012. That and the 2016 draft grade of C-plus, were major miscalculations. 

9. Depth chart. Here’s the updated depth chart after the draft. 

Dan Quinn is not in the business of handing out jobs to rookies. If they start, they’ll earn it. So, it’s wise to stick with the veterans for now.

Ty Sambrailo and Jamon Brown will get the nod at right tackle and right guard until the rookies show they are NFL worthy.

We saw what happened with the Falcons gave away Todd McClure’s job to Peter Konz. You have to make sure the prospects can play. 

Mauling against some poor two-star defensive tackle from Louisville and playing against grown men in the NFL are two different projects. 

We won’t add the undrafted rookies until after they survive the rookie minicamp. Some may get beat out by tryout players:

Offense

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14, Justin Hardy, 83 Russell Gage, 16 Christian Blake 
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 John Wetzel, 77 Matt Gono 
LG James Carpenter, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 60 Adam Gettis
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RG 68 Jamon Brown, 63 Chris Lindstrom, 64 Sean Harlow 
RT 74 Ty Sambrailo, 76 Kaleb McGary, 77 Matt Gono
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 88 Luke Stocker, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 87 Jaeden Graham, 89 Alex Gray 
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 7 Devin Gray 
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 43 Jeremy Langford, Marcus Green 
FB 30 Ricky Ortiz, 88 Luke Stocker, Qadree Ollison 

Defense

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 56 Steven Means, 91 Chris Odom
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat, 50 John Cominsky, Ra’Shede Hageman, 93 Michael Bennett, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner 
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 92 Justin Zimmer 
DE 98 Takk McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn
WLB 54 Foyesade Olukon, 42 Duke Riley 
MLB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter 
SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 53 Jermaine Grace 
CB 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson 

NCB 27 Damontae Kazee, Jordan Millier 
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 38 Taveze Calhoun, Kendall Sheffield 
FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman, Afolabi Laguda 
SS 22 Keanu Neal, J.J. Wilcox, 40 Ryan Neal, Chris Cooper 

Specialists

K 4 Giorgio Tavecchio
KO 5 Matt Bosher 
P 5 Matt Bosher 
KR 38 Kenjon Barner, 14 Calvin Ridley
PR 14 Justin Hardy, Marcus Green, 38 Kenjon Barner 
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher

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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.
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