5 Hidden Gems the Atlanta Falcons Should Have Noticed at the Combine
The Atlanta Falcons need to notice as many hidden gems as possible at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine if they want to improve from their 2013 record of 4-12. Ideally, they will find some help along the offensive and defensive lines.
But they can't completely ignore other positions and sink all of their money into the lines. They need depth everywhere in order to make an impact in the NFL if called upon. Therefore, the combine will be huge for the Falcons in finding talent that might have slipped through the cracks.
RB/S Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
Height: 5'8.875" Weight: 209 pounds
Arm Length: 30.25" Hand Measurement: 8.625"
40-yard dash: 4.41 sec. 10-yard split: 1.46 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.12 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.83 sec. Bench Reps: 32
Vertical Jump: 40.5" Broad Jump: 11'0"
When recruits go to college, there are some who always get hit with a very generic athlete label. They don't have a set position but are excellent projections for multiple need spots for any college football team.
Jerick McKinnon is very similar to that kind of projection. He's a former triple-option quarterback at Georgia Southern who understands the concepts of running an offense. However, his best fit might be on defense at safety or even as a running back.
He was invited to the combine as a running back and lit it up with his 40-yard-dash time. Nonetheless, his overall group of drills make him a unique athlete whom the Falcons should look at bringing in with a late-round pick, as he could be a valuable special teams player at a minimum.
WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Height: 6'2.375" Weight: 221 pounds
Arm Length: 32.375" Hand Measurement: 9.125"
40-yard dash: 4.40 sec. 10-yard split: 1.50 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.30 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.02 sec. Bench Reps: 13
Vertical Jump: 39.5" Broad Jump: 11'0"
The Falcons need to prepare for Roddy White's eventual departure or have a contingency plan if Julio Jones goes down again with an injury. Donte Moncrief is a unique fit for the Falcons offense as he's got a massive frame for a wide receiver.
However, he's got impressive speed and change-of-direction ability. As much as Falcons fans would hate taking a wide receiver in the second round of the draft, Moncrief would allow more three-wide sets to be used, as he's a better outside receiver than Harry Douglas is.
When it comes to his ability to compete for jump balls, that's where his real value comes in. Moncrief's jumping ability is insane, and the Falcons could end up with three targets who have ridiculous catch radii in White, Jones and Moncrief.
OL Joel Bitonio, Nevada
Height: 6'4.25" Weight: 302 pounds
Arm Length: 33.875" Hand Measurement: 9.625"
40-yard dash: 4.97 sec. 10-yard split: 1.68 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.44 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.37 sec. Bench Reps: 22
Vertical Jump: 32.0" Broad Jump: 9'6"
The Falcons need some depth along the offensive line at a minimum. Joel Bitonio has franchise-left-tackle potential based on his athleticism alone. However, his film shows that he might be a little bit more of a project than anyone would admit.
That's perfectly OK, though. Atlanta would fall in love with his ability to shuffle his feet back quickly. Bitonio looked excellent in drills all throughout the combine, and Atlanta got to see him up close and personal at the Senior Bowl.
While he is a project, Atlanta just needs depth, and getting Bitonio in the early third round would be a steal for the Falcons. He'd be able to instantly compete with Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes for a starting role at either tackle spot.
DE/OLB Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
Height: 6'1.375" Weight: 253 pounds
Arm Length: 33.125" Hand Measurement: 10.5"
40-yard dash: 4.71 sec. 10-yard split: 1.59 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.31 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.29 sec. Bench Reps: 26
Vertical Jump: 38.5" Broad Jump: 10'2"
There's a couple of avenues for the Falcons to go down when it comes to adding depth at defensive end and linebacker. One guy who could potentially fill a similar role to Kroy Biermann is Prince Shembo from Notre Dame. The senior linebacker played in a scheme and role that Mike Nolan could duplicate for him in Atlanta.
At the combine, Shembo showed that he's an athlete as well as a solid all-around football player. With Atlanta having arguably the worst pass rush in the league, Shembo could be a solid rotational player early in his career and eventual starter as his career moves along.
The Falcons would love to have his athleticism in a rotation with Malliciah Goodman, Jonathan Massaquoi, Osi Umenyiora and whoever they wind up signing in free agency or the draft. Shembo is going to be one of the more underrated players in this draft until he gets integrated into a scheme and makes his impact.
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College
Height: 6'0.5" Weight: 232 pounds
Arm Length: 32.25" Hand Measurement: 10.125"
40-yard dash: 4.51 sec. 10-yard split: 1.53 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.02 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.92 sec. Bench Reps: 28
Vertical Jump: 39.0" Broad Jump: 10'8"
In looking for an underrated speedster at linebacker with potential to be a coverage specialist, the Falcons should have Kevin Pierre-Louis at the top of their list of guys to check out. He's a mid-round talent on the field with first-round measurables.
The Boston College linebacker showed speed that is easily relevant when you watch him on film. However, he also showed that he has good hip fluidity and solid strength on top of it. The Falcons could easily use a solid linebacker in the mid-rounds of the draft, and Pierre-Louis is a solid option.
At the combine, Pierre-Louis stood out from the masses of linebackers in every single drill that he did. The only physical limitation an NFL team could potentially see is that he's just 232 pounds. But Atlanta doesn't seem to have that issue, as Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu were in the 230- to 235-pound range in 2013.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.