5 things to watch for from Falcons in draft

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn have planned for just about every contingency for this year’s virtual NFL draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday.

“We are in a really good spot we believe right now,” Dimitroff said Monday. “We think that we are primed and ready to roll.”

The Falcons are slated to have six draft picks, including the 16th in the first round.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the pre-draft process was shut down by the league office and by many states ordering shelter-in-place orders.

The Falcons, with most of their scouting work done, used technology to finish off the scouting process.

“In the middle of all of this newness, it’s still the same idea with the draft,” Quinn said. “How do we get the team better. …That’s what the goal is, and that’s where it always is. We’re pumped to get rolling.”

Here are five things to look for from the Falcons:

1. Trade winds. They don't call him "Trader Thomas" for nothing.

Dimitroff, who was named general manager in 2008, has made at least one trade in all of his drafts. He has made five moves in the first round, including the mega-deal in 2011 when he moved from No. 27 to No. 6 to land wide receiver Julio Jones.

Dimitroff said that the league’s general managers want to remain active in the virtual draft. The NFL held a test mock draft Monday.

“I think there is going to be more involvement early on during these next few days, trying to get things mapped out,” Dimitroff said. “Where you talk about compensation ideas prior to getting into being on the clock.”

Around the league, the general managers have embraced technology.

“If it does in fact break down in the middle of trade, the league is going to be mindful -- they are not adding time -- but they will be mindful if things go on and you don’t seal it at that point,” Dimitroff said. “They’ll give some extra consideration to make sure that it’s finalized. I think we are in a really good spot, from talking to most of the general managers lately.”

2. Cornerback slot. The Falcons have heavily scouted the cornerback prospects.

Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah is the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the draft, followed by Florida’s C.J. Henderson.

“I think the corner class has a handful of guys that are going to be legit and significant contributors to their respective teams when they are picked,” Dimitroff said.

NFL Network reported last week that the Falcons may trade up to get Henderson. There also have been rumblings of a major move to get Okudah.

“Per C.J. Henderson, I would suggest, of course, this guy is a fast football player, and he’s a competent cover guy,” Dimitroff said. “There are going to be a lot of people looking at him. I think we’ve seen that.

“I’ve seen him all over the mock drafts. Of course, I don’t adhere to those that much, but there is a lot of discussion about him and a number of other corners. I think in the end, it will be interesting to see how they all fall.”

3. Sheffield lauded. The Falcons released their top cornerback, Desmond Trufant. He signed with Detroit during the free-agency period.

If the Falcons think Kendall Sheffield is a No. 1 cornerback, they could trade up for one of the top defensive tackles in Auburn’s Derrick Brown or South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw.

Quinn said he believes that Sheffield could develop into the team’s No. 1 cornerback.

Sheffield, who was taken in the fourth round of the draft last season, played nickel back in 2019.

“Yes, I do feel that way,” Quinn said when asked if Sheffield could be the No. 1 cornerback. “We played him a lot in the slot. That wasn’t something that he had tons of experience with. He kept growing and was really up for the challenge.”

Sheffield played in all 16 games and made 11 starts. He finished the season with 46 tackles, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.

Sheffield played 708 defensive snaps (67%) and 142 snaps on special teams (23.8%)

“In our league and division there are certainly some guys that you want to match up on if you need to,” Quinn said. “He’s definitely somebody with the speed and short- space quickness to do that. I definitely think he has a shot to do that, based on his speed and that I just think he’s going to continue to grow. Yeah, we’re very excited about him.”

4. Pass-rush help. Several mock drafts have the Falcons selecting LSU outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (6-foot-3, 254 pounds) to help their pass rush if they stay at No. 16.

“I think what you see with Chaisson is where you think he can get to,” Quinn said. “This is a young player who’s just kind of (had) one year, and the year prior (he was injured). I think moving forward, you are going to see a lot of really good football from him. “

Chaisson, who will turn 21 in July, may not be immediately ready to thrive in the trenches of the NFL.

“It’s not the NBA when you’re coming out that early and you’re projecting his development,” Quinn said. “But there is going to be a good course for where he can get to.”

5. Other picks. The Falcons hold the 47th overall pick in the second round, 78th overall in the third round, 119 and 134 in the fourth round and 228 in the seventh round.

They were ready for the league-sanctioned mock draft.

“That’s just to make sure that we are ironing out all of the kinks potentially,” Dimitroff said. “Everyone is going to be given certain players to give. You can’t just come up with random names. The idea is to make sure that we are all interacting properly.”


Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads classTop 10
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lessonTop 10
Tight ends:  Harrison Bryant top prospect Top 10 
Guards/Centers:  Solomon Kindley a late-rounderTop 10 
Offensive tackles:  Austin Jackson's life lesson | Top 10 
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb  | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand outTop 10
Defensive ends: A 'generational' talentTop 10
Linebackers: Simmons a position-less LBTop 10
Safeties: Loaded with Georgia talent | Top 10
Special teams:  Georgia's kicker-centered | Returner with flashTop 10
Cornerbacks:  Jeff Okudah a lockdown CB | Top 10


The Bow Tie Chronicles Podcasts:

Can be found on Google, iTunes and TuneIn

For more content about the Atlanta Falcons:

Follow me on Twitter @DorlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Have a question? Email me at dledbetter@ajc.com