Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith will lead the Atlanta Falcons’ group that is headed to the National Football League scouting combine today. Players start arriving on Wednesday while the drills start on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Falcons will not select until the 55th pick in the second round of the NFL draft, which will be held on April 26 through 28.
Here’s a list of seven players to watch closely during the combine. They could all be on the board when the Falcons pick:
1. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford: NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and ESPN’s Todd McShay are split on who’s the top tight end in the draft. Mayock likes Georgia’s Orson Charles (better athlete). McShay likes Fleener (better blocker). “He’s one of the more underrated players in this draft,” McShay said of Fleener.
2. Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. “Emerged as a prolific pass rusher over his final two seasons,” according to Mel Kiper’s 2012 draft preview. “Curry is a proven and natural playmaker off the edge.”
3. Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State. “When you get to the defensive backs and the combine, for them it is all about speed and quickness,” Mayock said. “Leonard Johnson from Iowa State, I think he plays better than he will time [in drills.] If he times poorly, he could be a fourth-round pick instead of a second-round pick.”
4. Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt. He is a ball hawk. Started 37 games for the Commodores and had 13 interceptions. Started at quarterback for three seasons at Perry High.
5. Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin. He’s been a fixture at guard for the Badgers since 2009. The team would have to determine if he could win the pending all-comers competition at right guard. He’d be the first Big Ten player selected by the Falcons under Dimitroff.
6. Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia. Played at Stephenson for coach Ron Gartrell and is considered a pass-rush specialist. Some teams view him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
7. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana. “Trumaine Johnson from Montana is a long, physical corner,” Mayock said. Under Dimitroff, the Falcons have drafted two players from Montana in defensive end Kroy Biermann and safety Shann Schillinger.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog