Falcons set to get rookies ready to contribute

Falcons rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford will take their first steps on the fast track to playing, perhaps even starting, on Saturday.

Trufant and Alford, the team’s first two draft picks, along with the other six picks, are on hand for the rookie minicamp, which runs through Sunday. The players arrived Friday.

“When you get drafted in the first or second round, you’re supposed to come in and step in,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said Friday at an appearance in Smyrna. “I’m excited to see what those two guys can do, as well as the other guys in the draft. I think we’ve got some good ones.”

The team held meetings with the rookies Friday.

The rookies will have practices at 10:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and will practice at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. The sessions are closed to the public.

Under Mike Smith, the Falcons’ coaching staff has succeeded in getting the team’s top picks ready. All of the first-round picks selected by the Falcons since 2008 have opened the season as starters.

The group includes quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and wide receiver Julio Jones. Last season’s top pick, center-guard Peter Konz, was a second-round pick, and he ended up starting 10 games at right guard.

Trufant is ready to join the group of first-rounders who started immediately.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down with all of the coaches, learning the plays, learning the schemes,” Trufant said. “I’m going to come in and try to be ready from Day 1.”

Smith believes that the top picks have started immediately because the Falcons have drafted as a “needs-based” team and have correctly projected their picks to fit their schemes.

Trufant believes he can pick things up quickly.

“Some of the schemes I’ve learned in the past, like cover-3 (zone), man-to-man, other zones and fire zones,” Trufant said.

Trufant also looks forward to working against the Falcons’ veteran receiving corps, which might be the best in the NFL.

“There are great players here,” Trufant said. “There are so many guys who can make me even better, like Julio Jones and Roddy White. I can learn from them.”

The Falcons traded up to get Trufant, who played at Washington, with the 22nd pick in the draft. Alford, of Southeastern Louisiana, will attract a lot of scrutiny. He was the first FCS player selected in the draft, 60th overall.

Also, defensive end Malliciah Goodman (Clemson, fourth round), tight end Levine Toilolo (Stanford, fourth round), defensive end Stansly Maponga (TCU, fifth round), free safety Kemal Ishmael (Central Florida, seventh round), strong safety Zeke Motta (Notre Dame, seventh round) and quarterback Sean Renfree (Duke, seventh round) will participate.

“I talked to Thomas throughout the draft,” Weatherspoon said. “After the first pick, he was really excited about getting Desmond.”

During the pre-draft process, Smith had a chance to interview and work out six of the eight picks.

“It will be the first time to interact with these guys as Atlanta Falcons,” Smith said. “In the past we were interacting with them as prospective draft prospects. Now, they are going to learn, in a very short time, how we do things here in Flowery Branch.”