James Gayle is a situational pass-rusher that the Falcons have shown some interest in this offseason. He's an edge player who can line up at end or linebacker depending on the front seven look that Atlanta wants to show this year.
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated reported that the Falcons spoke to Gayle at the combine in February and asked him a question about how many ways he can use a brick. While the question was weird, it does show the Falcons want to at least see what he can do.
Height: 6'3-7/8" Weight: 259 pounds
Arm Length: 32-3/8" Hand Measurement: 9-5/8"
40 yard dash: 4.68 sec. 10 yard split: 1.60 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.27 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.19 sec. Bench Reps: 26 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.0" Broad Jump: 10'2"
2013: 13 Games Played, 44 Tackles, 10.5 Tackles for Loss, 6.0 Sacks, 21 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2012: 13 Games Played, 43 Tackles, 11.0 Tackles for Loss, 5.0 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 1 Pass Deflection
2011: 13 Games Played, 38 Tackles, 12.5 Tackles for Loss, 7.0 Sacks, 13 QB Hurries
2010: 14 Games Played, 13 Tackles, 6.5 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Fumble Forced
When it comes to rushing the passer, few do it better than Gayle. He uses his speed, quickness and agility to bend the edge effectively. On top of that, he has the intelligence and instincts to play standing up as a linebacker.
He's got a great inside move and forces double teams. He has lined up on both the left and right side for the Hokies and shows versatility there. He's solid as a run defender setting the edge and can even drop into coverage a couple plays a game.
Gayle is extremely raw as a whole. His hand usage is mediocre at best, as he gets tied up at the line sometimes going against tackles with remotely average strength. He's much better as a weak-side end than as a strong-side end, but honestly, his best fit is as a 3-4 linebacker.
Gayle doesn't fight through double teams well and doesn't man up well in coverage. In run defense, his poor hand usage is highlighted because he gets locked up with tackles too easily. Ideally, he should be in a scheme that blitzes him from multiple spots in a standing position.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
Gayle has a great motor on the field and shows up as a hard worker off of it. The Falcons would love how the Hokie edge player hasn't ever been arrested nor suspended during his college career. He'd be a great fit for a locker room that loves team-oriented players.
Edge players are abundant in this year's draft, and Gayle is just another one out there. He's a mid-round talent and will definitely find a role in the NFL. His niche may end up being on special teams and in a rotation more than as a starter.
Gayle, as a rotational pass-rusher, could wind up as a player similar to Kroy Biermann—someone who gets 25-30 pressures, 5-10 hits and 4-5 sacks every single season. The issue is that he really needs to improve his all-around game before he becomes anything more than rotational.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans
Atlanta shouldn't even look into taking Gayle until the fourth or fifth round. He's not a premier pass-rusher in this year's draft, but he does have high-risk, high-reward potential. The Falcons would have to use him at linebacker in their scheme.
Ideally, he plays on the weak side instead of the strong side, which he was forced to play in college. Mike Nolan and Bryan Cox could be the ideal coaches to develop him into a strong long-term starter. He needs to develop more pass rush moves before he finally gets there.
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.