Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn are in the final stages of their preparation for the NFL draft, which is set for April 25-27 in Nashville.
Dimitroff and Quinn are finishing off plans for their fifth draft together as co-team builders. They wouldn’t reveal who has tie-breaking power if the scouting side and the coaching side are split on a player.
But the electronic draft board is stacked and ready.
The Falcons ultimately try to build a consensus around a player and move in that direction.
“It’s a very collaborative group, with the coaches and the scouts,” Dimitroff said Thursday. “We’ve run all kinds of comparatives and have a really good feel for who is going to be a good fit for our team and who’s going to contribute early.”
The Falcons hold nine picks in the draft, including the 14th overall. They also have the 45th and 79th pick, which should be fertile ground in the top 100 for potential starters.
The Falcons have focused on improving their offensive and defensive lines in free agency. That’s the strength of the draft, and they could add a stout offensive or defensive lineman.
“This is a unique year,” Dimitroff said. “Defensive line is heavy as well as offensive line. There are other positions that are thriving this year that haven’t in the past in numbers. It’s great to see that.”
Clemson defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence could be available to the Falcons. The team has also heavily scouted offensive linemen such as Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford, Alabama tackle/guard Jonah Williams, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard and Washington tackle Kaleb McGary.
“I think for a while some people had been disappointed from some of the offensive-line classes,” Quinn said. “It’s good to see that position climb back up and really establish itself for some guys that will be ready to contribute to teams right off the bat.”
The Falcons have made protecting Matt Ryan a priority, and they want to get there rushing attack moving again.
“The big guys in this year’s class is a really cool group of guys,” Quinn said. “We’ve gotten to meet a lot of them, have gone to see some of them and even had some of them here.”
Dimitroff believes that guards also will be taken in the first round, while in year’s past, selecting a guard high in the draft was considered a mistake.
“To the numbers, I think this is a big year,” Dimitroff said. “It’s not only a (good) year for tackles, this year guards are going to be falling into the first round. There could be a run on seven to 10 potentially.”
The Falcons are looking to get bigger along the offensive line.
“A guy may fit one style better than another, at this stage, the only people that you’re going to select are the ones that are going to fit for your team,” Quinn said. “That’s a little different. For our team it may be one number, for the league it may be another. At the end of the day, we are scouting for the Falcons.”
The Falcons also moved on from three of their top four cornerbacks in Robert Alford, Brian Poole and Justin Bethel.
The Falcons are projected to be in position to select the top cornerbacks in the draft in LSU’s Greedy Williams, Georgia’s Deandre Baker and Clemson Trayvon Mullen.
“There are some good corners in this draft,” Quinn said.
The Falcons have heavily scouted Houston’s Isaiah Johnson and Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams. Both are massive cornerbacks. Johnson is 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, while Williams is 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds.
“That group by the way, it’s not really a fast group generally,” Dimitroff said.
The Falcons love Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, but likely would have to trade up to land him.
“I think 14 is really good place to be,” Dimitroff said. “I think it gives you opportunities (to move) up (or) down. Last year, we were dabbling in discussions with people right in the middle of the round. It’s kind of a ripe place for discussion.”
Dimitroff made a big move up in 2011 to land wide receiver Julio Jones.
“You’re giving away a lot to move up into the top 10s for sure,” Dimitroff said. “With the quarterbacks potentially going, it helps. We will continue to look at players not only the quarterbacks that might go some place else, but the positions that we think will go earlier than we had planned.”
There are usually three or four surprise picks.
“Every year, it’s that way,” Dimitroff said.
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