For the Falcons’ personnel men, this time of the year is like Christmas.
Some of the scouts have been on the road for about 200 days trying to find more talent for the defending NFC champions. With all of the information gathered, the Falcons are considering their options heading into the NFL draft, which runs Thursday through Sunday in Philadelphia.
“We have a few more days to continue to massage the board, and we’ll be ready to go,” Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff said.
While the Falcons were making their run to the Super Bowl, the scouts were criss-crossing the country double-checking their information on the draft class.
“(Assistant general manager) Scott Pioli and (director of college scouting) Steve Szabo have done a heck of a job teeing up the college draft for (coach) Dan (Quinn) and I to really move forward on it and really focus,” Dimitroff said. “They (moved) us in the right direction and did a fantastic job.”
Quinn enjoys going to the scouting side of the football operation. He’s been able to clearly communicate to the personnel staff the type of players that he covets.
“The connection between the personnel staff and the coaching staff was one that I’d hope to see grow stronger and stronger,” Quinn said. “We’ve added some new coaches into that mix. To see that connection take place both at the combine and here in the office has been great.”
Here’s a look at the five players who are on the Falcons’ radar screen:
Charles Harris, DE. He is 6-foot-3, 253 pounds and played at Missouri. He made 61 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, two passes batted and two forced fumbles in 2016 for the Tigers. Harris had one of his better games against Georgia, when he had seven tackles and three sacks.
Harris, who had a private workout with the Falcons, will not be available at 31. The Falcons must trade up to get him.
Harris has that quick-first step that Quinn likes to see in his pass rushers.
“I just thank God, just natural ability,” Harris said. “To come out of that stance over and over and over in practice. That was our warmup — to come out of that stance.”
Harris is the latest in a recent line of Mizzou pass rushers to go to the NFL.
“That’s why I developed so quickly because I had Shane Ray, I had Markus Golden and I had Kony Ealy,” Harris said. “I had those guys telling me (what to do) every single day in practice.”
Jabrill Peppers, S. He's 5-11, and 213 pounds. There is some controversy around Peppers because of a diluted drug test at the combine.
His agents contend that he was heavily hydrating at the combine because he flew in from San Diego and had to work out with the linebackers and defensive backs, drinking eight to 10 bottles of water a day. They noted that he never failed a drug test at Michigan.
“There is no question in the field of doping control that one of the things that has be done when you give an urine sample as an athlete, the athletes are working hard and losing fluids,” said Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, an orthopedic surgeon and co-chair of medical affairs at Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. “They are drinking a lot and rehydrating. Their urine gets very diluted. There is a limit below which the sample is not good, and it’s not acceptable. So the dilute-urine thing can be a very circular discussion in general for all athletes and all time because of that.”
Peppers believes he can play safety in the NFL. The Falcons believe he has the size to play strong safety and speed to play free safety.
“But the bottom line is I’m a ballplayer, and I’m a hell of a ballplayer,” Peppers said.
The Falcons also have scouted Washington safety Budda Baker, who projects as a pick late in the first round or early in the second.
Forrest Lamp, RG. He played mostly left tackle at Western Kentucky, but because of his short arms (32 1/4 inches), he's considered an NFL guard.
He lifted 225 pounds 34 times and fits the Falcons’ outside zone-blocking scheme. He may go to the Dolphins, who have the 22nd pick in the draft.
Jordan Willis, DE. He's is 6-3, 255 and racked up 26 sacks over his career. He had 11.5 last season for Kansas State.
He played exclusively on the left side of the line in college. He’d have to make the switch to the right side with the Falcons.
Willis had the best 10-yard split (1.53 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.85) of any of the defensive linemen at the combine. Those times suggest he has a quick burst and the ability to move fast in tight spaces.
T.J. Watt, OLB/DE. He's 6-4 and 252 and the younger brother of NFL players J.J. Watt (three-time defensive player of the year) and Derek Watt (Chargers' fullback).
Watt, a converted tight end, thrived for one season in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense, when he finished with 63 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last season. Watt needs to get stronger.
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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC