With a little over a month remaining until the NFL draft, the Falcons are finalizing their plans for their nine picks.
The Falcons are on the final ramp-up to the draft, which is set for April 25-27 in Nashville.
“We have a busy next month with our local day,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “With a lot of visits still coming up here.”
The Falcons get to cover more ground on the private-workout circuit because owner Arthur Blank allows his top football executives to use his private plane to travel the nation.
“We are very fortunate that our owner is as generous as he is with the private plane, to be able to skim around the country and get three or four visits in a day, which is important for us,” Dimitroff said.
The Falcons get to work out players from the area on their “locals day” workout, which is set for April 5.
“We are fortunate again to have such an unbelievable hotbed of talent, just natural pure talent from the state,” Dimitroff said.
Some teams are jealous of the Falcons’ locals day.
“That’s why some of the guys complain to the league office about how unfair it is that we have our (locals) day, and they are somewhere else,” Dimitroff said. “They complain about it all the time.”
The Falcons have the 14th pick in the draft, but also picked up compensatory picks in the fourth and fifth rounds.
They signed four offensive players in free agency, signaling that this will be a defensive-minded draft.
One thing is almost certain, the Falcons will make a draft-day trade. Dimitroff has made at least one trade in each 11 of his drafts, dating to 2008.
“As much as we don’t like being at 14, it affords us an opportunity to be a little more creative about whether if we move up or whether if we move back,” Dimitroff said.
The Falcons made a blockbuster trade in 2011 to move up from the 27th slot to the sixth slot to select wide receiver Julio Jones, who became an All-Pro player. They moved up five spots as recently as 2017 to take defensive end Takkarist McKinley.
If they want to get Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, they likely will have to move up in front of Detroit, which holds the eighth pick.
The Falcons, after parting ways with cornerbacks Robert Alford, Brian Poole and Justin Bethel, could trade back, amass more picks and pick up one of the top cornerbacks in the draft.
Georgia’s Deandre Baker, Clemson’s Trayvon Mullen and LSU’s Greedy Williams are considered the top three cornerbacks in the draft.
“Everyone continues to tell me that I never want to move back, but 14 is a good place to be while considering the move back as well,” Dimitroff said. “It just gives you some real flexibility.”
Clemson’s massive defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (6-foot-4, 342 pounds) could be available with the 14th pick. The Falcons would have to view Lawrence as a three-down player to select him that high.
“At 14, you know there is going to be a legit player that you’re going to be really excited about,” Dimitroff said. “Again, it’s a really interesting draft this year, the people that are going to be around there through the first 20-something picks in my mind.”
Some teams used the old Jimmy Johnson-trade value chart when making deals. But with the advent of analytics becoming apart of the equation in some front offices, getting deals done is not that simple.
“The value chart has been around for a long time and is still there,” Dimitroff said. “We still use it as sort of a standard, and some of us and teams like us with an analytics department in place, they create their own alternative trade chart.”
Establishing valuation of the trading slots becomes more complex when the teams are using different internal rules.
“The problem with that is that it’s not consistent across the league,” Dimitroff said. “So, I may say a player is worth something to a certain team, and they think no, that’s not what our chart says. It becomes a little complicated that way. The tried and true chart is intact, and people still use it.”
The Falcons heavily scouted Georgia’s Pro Day and got a close-up look at Baker. They also have a need for a punt returner and had Mecole Hardman perform some special-teams drills.
Falcons offensive line coach Chris Morgan and assistant offensive line coach Bob Kronenberg paid close attention to center Lamont Gaillard’s workout.
Baker and Mullen each thinks he is the top cornerback in the draft.
“Most definitely,” Mullen said when asked if he was the top corner in the draft at Clemson’s Pro Day. “I feel like I separated myself being able to compete well, do drills well and just be mentally focused and prepared for the next level.”
Baker made the same contention at Georgia’s Pro Day.
“My film is undeniable,” Baker said. “You can’t overlook what I do.”
The Falcons, after parting ways with defensive ends Brooks Reed, Bruce Irvin and Derrick Shelby, have only three defensive ends on their depth chart in Vic Beasley, Steven Means and McKinley.
“I always think you have to have an adept group of guys who can get up and around the corner to get to the quarterback,” Dimitroff said. “We all know how important that is. We feel that we have some good ones. We’ll continue to look there, of course.”
The Falcons may not have finished revamping their offensive line after signing veteran guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown in free agency.
“Does that mean you’re going to move away from focusing on continuing to build there?” Dimitroff said. “We need to continue to build our depth and our youth and continue to develop. We’ll continue to look at ... the (offensive) and (defensive) lines as we go into the draft.”
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