10 NFL Combine Prospects That the Atlanta Falcons Must Closely Watch

Christopher Beheler@@CBehelerCorrespondent IIIFebruary 20, 2013

10 NFL Combine Prospects That the Atlanta Falcons Must Closely Watch

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    The Atlanta Falcons will be panning for draft gold at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. Unconventional scout turned general manager, Thomas Dimitroff will be looking past the numbers as NFL hopefuls show their wares. It takes a keen eye to see how these simple drills will translate to on-field performance.


    Julio Jones Exemplifies Dimitroff Mindset

    Chances are, Dimitroff was almost sold on Julio Jones prior to the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. But Jones' 40-yard dash time was extremely telling. Posting a 4.39, Jones' speed looked great on paper. It is doubtful that the time is what sealed the deal.

    It was how Jones achieved that time.

    Julio Jones posted that blazing fast time with an injured foot. That is the sort of gutsy performance that translates on the field. Dimitroff paid dearly to acquire Jones, and time has proven it well worth it.


    What to Watch

    As the Falcons try and fill various holes, there are numerous options throughout the draft. Translating the results of individual drills can be tough. Different drills carry different weight for different positions. In the end, it can feel like trying to decode a secret message in a bowl of alphabet soup.

    There is plenty of film on players projected to go in the first couple of rounds. The combine will feature plenty of late-round talent as well.

    But here 10 prospects to watch and the drills to keep an eye on.

Omitted Prospects

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    Some players have little to no chance of being available when the Falcons select. Thus, there is no need to keep a close eye on certain players. Star Lotulelei might be the highest rated defensive tackle in the draft, but he will almost certainly be snatched up before the Falcons are on the clock.


    How the List Is Compiled

    This is a list not a ranking. These are players who show a combination of potential and late-round value.

    This is not a mock draft, nor should the rankings reflect potential draft order.

T.J. Barnes, DT, Georgia Tech

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    T.J. Barnes might be a great value pick up in the late rounds. Though only a one-year starter, Barnes has the size and drive to be far more than a role player. Barnes is the biggest defensive lineman at the combine and weighs in at 378 pounds. That is a lot of beef to clog up a running lane.


    Drill to Watch

    Barnes must do well on the bench press. The bench press will show both the strength and stamina of Barnes' upper body. A decent amount of reps will show he is more than just a wide load. Low reps means Barnes has been getting by on sheer size. That will not work at the NFL level.

Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia

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    Kwame Geathers is another defensive tackle that might be available in the later rounds. He has the size to help out against the run game. Geathers' weakness seems to be when a lineman attacks him below the waist. This is easily done when lined up at nose tackle, but the Falcons tend to attack the gaps instead. In this system, Geathers might flourish.


    Drill to Watch

    Unlike Barnes, Geathers' upper body strength is not his biggest question. Instead, Geathers needs to do well in the shuttle run. His initial burst and lateral movement will be the make-or-break on this big man. His time might mean less than how fluid he looks executing the drill.

Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU

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    Lavar Edwards is an interesting defensive end that will most likely be available in the later rounds. Overshadowed at LSU, Edwards struggled for playing time. His determination forced coaches to make room on the field for Edwards. Edwards has potential. The fact he has eliminated the word "quit" from his vocabulary should make him even more attractive to Dimitroff.


    Drill to Watch

    Defensive ends are not usually judged on their 40-yard dash times, but Edwards will be. The Falcons often deploy a defensive end into coverage. If Edwards is too slow, he might have a hard time finding a place at the Falcons' table.

David Bass, DE, Missouri Western

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    David Bass is a small school prospect with great instincts and motor. He lacks polish but exhibits the determination and versatility required by the Falcons' aggressive schemes. His late-round availability and high-end potential makes him extremely intriguing for the Falcons.


    Drill to Watch

    Bass has the skills and speed, but how will he stand up against NFL-quality offensive tackles? The bench press might offer a clue. Bass has good hand work, but how his strength and stamina stack up could affect his draft stock.

Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

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    Le'Veon Bell has plenty of potential. Bell excels as a bruising short-yardage back. Bell has the size and strength to gain much-needed first downs. His lack of top-end speed should cause him to be available in later rounds.


    Drill to Watch

    Bell might best sell himself in the three-cone drill. Downhill, Bell overcomes a lack of speed with power. If Bell can show quickness in changing direction, the Falcons might show interest.

Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt

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    Zac Stacy is a tough, determined runner who can do more than run between the tackles. He has the size, power and determination to move piles. He has decent hands and can gain yards after the catch.


    Drill to Watch

    Stacy's 40-yard dash should be interesting. It might not affect the "if" the Falcons should pick him up, but rather the "when."

Manase Foketi, OT, West Texas A&M

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    Manase Foketi might be a project player worth the risk. He is surprisingly nimble to weigh in at 333 pounds. His technique is improving and his instincts are good.


    Drill to Watch

    Foketi will need to show explosiveness on the shuttle run. How fluidly he performs might determine if he is a left or right tackle prospect.

Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

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    Jake Stoneburner has the ideal size and hands to be a favorite target of Matt Ryan. Stoneburner shows a willingness to go after the catch. Stoneburner is somewhat wanting when it comes to blocking. 


    Drill to Watch

    Stoneburner should be focusing on his 40-yard dash times. As a better receiver than blocker, Stoneburner needs to show he is more than a possession receiver.

Lerentee McCray, OLB, Florida

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    Lerentee McCray is a fast, hard-hitting outside linebacker. His size and speed might actually be working against him in the draft. Teams eyeing him as a 3-4 outside linebacker might be turned off by his pass rushing skills. 


    Drill to Watch

    McCray could draw some attention with a fine showing in the three-cone drill. McCray has plenty of speed, but the three-cone drill might highlight his coverage skills. The Falcons need another linebacker that can keep up with today's more athletic tight ends.

Michael Clay, OLB, Oregon

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    Michael Clay is a fast, fundamentally sound outside linebacker. Clay hits hard and wraps up after contact. Clay has one potential drawback. He is only 5'11". This puts his ability against covering tall tight ends into question.


    Drill to Watch

    Film on Clay shows his speed and endurance. The vertical jump might be crucial. Clay must show he can at least compete for passes thrown over his head.