Falcons are not looking for ‘angelic’ souls

FILE - This Dec. 20, 2016, file photo shows Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp scoring a touchdown against Memphis during the Boca Raton Bowl NCAA college football game in Boca Raton, Fla. NFL scouts love Lamp, but his frame and arm length suggest more guard than tackle. If he was a sure-thing tackle he would probably be a top-10 pick. Instead, middle of the first.(Adam Sacasa/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

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FILE - This Dec. 20, 2016, file photo shows Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp scoring a touchdown against Memphis during the Boca Raton Bowl NCAA college football game in Boca Raton, Fla. NFL scouts love Lamp, but his frame and arm length suggest more guard than tackle. If he was a sure-thing tackle he would probably be a top-10 pick. Instead, middle of the first.(Adam Sacasa/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

The Falcons are in the final stages of rating and stacking players on their board for the NFL draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who has been involved domestic violence case, is not on the team’s draft board, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution learned.

This was no random decision. The Falcons, even though they drafted cornerback Jalen Collins who had failed several marijuana tests at LSU, heavily scout the character of players they’re interested in drafting.

“That doesn’t just come from a head coach and general manger,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Believe me, that comes from higher than us for sure. (Owner Arthur) Blank is very direct about it.

“I think that’s important for this organization and this community to know that.”

The Falcons, who are seeking to improve their pass rush, solidify the right guard position and improve the team speed, have the 31st pick in the first round.

They hold five other picks, but don’t have a sixth-round pick, which went to Tennessee in the 2015 Andy Levitre trade.

While Mixon’s case has been highly publicized, some players’ backgrounds may not reveal red flags.

“You are never going to be 100 percent correct,” Dimitroff said. “Sometimes, things fall through the cracks, but we do all we can to make sure we are (making good) acquisitions. Again, they are not all angelic souls. I get that.”

Since the 2007 federal dogfighting case involving quarterback Michael Vick, the Falcons have increased background checks from scouts and former law enforcement officials.

“There are some very good football players with some excellent talent in this country that have issues that don’t fit well with us or another team,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve done a lot of research. We don’t just use our scouts. We have other instruments and avenues on the backside to get ready for this (in order to be) sure, as much as possible, that we are making the most educated decision.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn has carefully constructed the makeup of the locker room. In addition to being able to fit the team’s schemes, drafted players must blend into the team culture.

“Having the scouts go to the schools and talk to the people there and determine why that player was given a second chance, sometimes they get that second chance and thrive” Quinn said. “Some people have that second chance, third chance and fourth chance. … maybe that’s not the best fit. It’s on a case-by-case basis.”

The Falcons have heavily scouted pass rushers and offensive linemen and also believe the draft is deep with secondary talent.

Western Kentucky offensive tackle Forrest Lamp has received much attention from the Falcons.

“Obviously, he moves well and he runs well,” Dimitroff said. “He’s a competitive kid. He plays hard. He’s a fun kid to watch.”

If selected by the Falcons, Lamp would move to guard where he would compete with Wes Schweitzer, Ben Garland and Hugh Thornton for the starting position.

“It’s not unusual for guys to go from tackle to guard in the NFL,” Quinn said. “Our own Andy Levitre played some tackle at Oregon State. He’s been a guard his whole NFL career.”

The Falcons may have to trade up to get Lamp. Seattle has the 26th pick and is also in need of a guard.

“(Lamp) can play right tackle,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’d be better off playing guard or center. But regardless, he would upgrade (Seattle’s) line and be a Day One plug-and-play starter.”

Quinn said that once the staff gets past film review and measurables, the team must then determine how the player would interact with coaches and players. Those face-to-face meetings and workouts allow for the team to make that assessment.

“I like this time of the year as a coach,” Quinn said. “I like going onto the scouting side. I recognize that eliminating players is a big part of it, too.”

Dimitroff has made a trade in each of his previous nine drafts and plans to be aggressive again this year.

“We really are proud of the type of people we bring in here,” Dimitroff said. “We think it’s important.

“Of course, I’ve said this time and again: We aren’t looking for angels. We are looking for guys who are real. We are looking for guys who ultimately will fit into the brotherhood. … We are particular about looking at the character situation and how they fit. It’s a big thing, of course.”


Here are the Falcons’ official 2017 draft positions:

1 – 31 – 31 (Overall)

2 – 31 – 63

3 – 31 – 95

4 – 30 – 136

5 – 31 – 174

6 – 31 – 214 Sent to Tennessee (Andy Levitre trade)

7 – 31 – 249

2017 Draft Recap

1 (17 overall) — Keanu Neal SS Florida. Lived up to all expectations and was voted All-Rookie. (14 games played/14 start)

2 (52) — Deion Jones LB LSU. Took charge and was voted All-Rookie. (15/13)

3 (81) — Austin Hooper TE Stanford. Came on after injury to starter. Promising pass catcher. (14/3)

4 (115) — Devondre Campbell LB Minnesota. Shined in coverage and was a big thumper. (11/10)

6 (185) — Wes Schweitzer OG San Jose State. Being groomed for future position along line. (0/0)

7 (238) — Devin Fuller WR UCLA. Could be the team’s returner of the future (0/0)

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