After tumultuous season, Falcons can now focus on the draft

Here's a look at the year-by-year record for Dan Quinn as coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons’ scouts have been at the college bowl games and are set to hit the All-Star games in preparation of the 2020 NFL draft, which will be held April 23-25 in Las Vegas.

“Our scouts have been out there,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “They’ve been digging it up since the end of last year's draft.”

The Falcons will select 16th in the first round and have eight picks overall, four among the top 100.

“We’ve already had our first set of draft meetings,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve set the board, a light set right now, but we’re in a good spot. Guys are out there churning it out during the All-Star games, All-Star season. We'll come back in February and really focus on the position stacks.”

The unofficial start to the draft season begins with the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 (2:30 p.m., NFL) in Mobile, Ala.

The Falcons continue to need help along the offensive line, but the coming draft doesn’t have as many NFL-ready offensive linemen as the 2019 draft.

"There are some really good developmental prospects, but there are not as many guys that are NFL-ready that are going to come in be starters like guys like (Falcons 2019 top pick Chris) Lindstrom," said Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout and executive director of the Senior Bowl. "Not many guys like that, especially on the interior. The interior (offensive) line is kind of thin."

There will be plenty of NFL-level skill position players at cornerback, wide receiver and running back.

“It might be the best wideout class I’ve done in 21 years of scouting,” Nagy said. “The running back class is deep and talented. Quarterback is a little thin. (Defensive) line is strong again. Linebacker is good. The biggest difference is the (offensive) line is down a little bit.”

With a deep running back class, the Falcons may look for some help after Devonta Freeman, who rushed for a career-low 3.6 yards per carry last season. Freeman has not played 16 games since signing a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension in 2017.

Freeman, who has three years on his contract, is a candidate to have his deal restructured or possibly even become a salary-cap casualty.

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is knocked off his feet by 49ers defensive back Emmanuel Moseley during the first quarter Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

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“But I would say we’re really proud of the work that he (Freeman) put back in,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He did an exceptional job. His energy, his attitude, his fight, it was always on point. But as the life of a competitor, we’ve got tough decisions ahead. So, way too early for us to put in too many spots.”

The Falcons have drafted a running back in four of the past five drafts. Qadree Ollison (2019), Ito Smith (2018), Brian Hill (2017) and Tevin Coleman (2015).

It may not be a good year to attempt to replace defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley and/or linebacker De'Vondre Campbell in the draft.

“Right now, this draft is an interesting draft,” Dimitroff said. “Every year there's strengths and challenges at certain positions. To special-teams point, there’s some good specialists out there, so the competition is strong.”

Dimitroff took umbrage with Nagy’s assessment of the offensive line group.

“The reality is what people in certain organizations see as strengths, I think may be different from someone running the Senior Bowl,” Dimitroff said. “I’ve talked to Jim quite a bit myself, and, again, my feeling on that is there are definitely some good football players along the offensive line in the draft, and there’s some interior guys that I think are going to be really helpful. They’re going to play early. Yeah, I think, don’t count it out.”

Because of the trade of Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots, the Falcons have draft picks projected at Nos. 16, 47, 59 and 78, 109, 140, 171 and 206. The league's official draft list will be released after the Super Bowl, including compensatory picks.

“When we orchestrated that deal, it wasn’t the easiest one, of course,” Dimitroff said. “Sanu was an important part of where we were, but where we are right now, we think, looking at three picks within the first two rounds and the people that are on our boards right now, we think that we could be in a really good spot (59th).”

The scouts, when they get off the road, will try to match the talent with the demands of Quinn’s coaching staff.

“(We’re) really honing in on what we’re looking for in the specifics at the position, which is in team-building and the elements of scouting,” Dimitroff said. “That is a very important thing and to be on the same wave length is massively important.”

Dimitroff is confident that the scouts will return with detailed reports that will lead to a successful draft with a blend of analytics.

“We have a really good mix of the veteran personnel evaluators and some of the younger guys,” Dimitroff said. “It's a really good mix, I believe, a lot of hard-working guys, a lot of really good sort of research-element guys as well mixed in there, as you know, on the analytics side.”

After the All-Star season, the Falcons will attend the NFL scouting combine, which will be held Feb. 24-March 2 in Indianapolis. Then they’ll hit the Pro Days on college campuses around the country.

The Falcons have used owner Arthur Blank’s private plane to attempt to discreetly fly to some “private” on campus workouts.

“There are a lot of adept evaluators out there,” Dimitroff said. “I think, again, we have a really good group together.”

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