FLOWERY BRANCH – The month of December is always a busy time for Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and the rest of the team’s personnel staff.
At the completion of the college regular season, all of the scouts return to office for meetings.
“We just completed our December meetings,” Dimitroff said. “Which we affectionately refer to as ‘Needs’ meetings. We determine what we need going forward into the all-star season and bowl season on certain players around the country.”
It’s the first big step toward getting ready for the 2011 NFL Draft. The team ends up with what it considers an early draft board by position.
“We discuss players at length with the area scouts, the regional scouts and the national scouts,” Dimitroff said. “It’s a
very informative time because it gives us a very good gauge of where we are to this point and how much more work we need to do going into the future.”
The coaching staff will get involved in the process after the season is completed. The Bowl season is very important for prospects and the playoffs for the divisions that do have a system.
“We are very involved in viewing an evaluating the bowls as well as the all-star games in January to determine whether any players have slipped through the cracks and quite honestly to determine who may be rising and who may be falling,” Dimitroff said.
In each of Dimitroff’s three drafts, the Falcons have selected at least one Football Championship Series (formerly I-AA) player.
In 2008, defensive end Kroy Biermann was selected from Montana in the fifth round. He’s now a starter.
In 2009, the Falcons selected defensive end Lawrence Sidbury from Richmond in the fourth round and cornerback William Middleton from Furman in the fifth round. Sidbury is still developing and working on his techniques, according to defensive line coach Ray Hamilton. Middleton plays for Jacksonville.
Last season the Falcons selected safety Shann Schillinger from Montana in the sixth round. He’s contributing on special teams.
“We’ll certainly have coverage of the (playoffs) live and we’ll get the video,” Dimitroff said.
Sometimes players from small schools rise up through the scouting grapevine.
“Although you don’t share information, there is a lot of word of mouth this time of year,” Dimitroff said. “There tends to be a lot of scuttlebutt about the small school players and they tend to rise. It’s real rare in this league where you have a sleeper that no one knows about it and they just kind of fall through the cracks.”
Some other recent small school finds have included New York Giants tight end Kevin Boss (Western Oregon), Houston wide receiver Jacoby Jones (Lane), Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin (Monmouth) and Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes (Shippensburg).
“It will happen, but it is rare the way the league is set up,” Dimitroff said. “You have area scouts and they are going to be dealing with the same coaches and having the same talks. For instance a scout from a certain team may go into a school and determine that he may like a player at a certain school, a coach will then turn around and call other people and say ‘hey the Falcons were in here and they think this player has some ability.’ That’s how news moves quickly.”
The labor uncertainty doesn’t have impact on the team’s draft preparation.
“Right now, with our scouting staff, it’s kind of a sidebar for us,” Dimitroff said. “We are focusing on the draft, which doesn’t change. It’s been grandfathered in. So we’re getting ready for the full run of the draft. For our preparation, it won’t change a thing.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter