NFL COMBINE: 7 players for the Falcons to watch

Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward (19) celebrates his interception-return for a touchdown with teammate Carey Spear (39) against Connecticut in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn.  Vanderbilt won 24-21. (AP Photo/John Russell)

Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward (19) celebrates his interception-return for a touchdown with teammate Carey Spear (39) against Connecticut in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 24-21. (AP Photo/John Russell)

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

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100 comments Add your comment

Mike Jay

February 21st, 2012
5:23 am

No Left tackles to look at? Though I suppose there would be better..

Mike Jay

February 21st, 2012
5:24 am

…suppose a veteran that is.

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February 21st, 2012
6:04 am

Interesting …. it all comes down to FA. I see that the OT from Iowa State must have raised eyebrows at the Senior Bowl and moved up in the evaluations…. before that, quite a few mocks had Keneche (sp?) pegged as a Falcons 2nd round pick.

DC Dirty Bird

February 21st, 2012
6:27 am

Trumaine Johnson is a lock in the 3rd for us as Nolan likes physical corners (see Sean Smith in Miami). The question is whether we go TE or OT in the 2nd as all of the quality 4-3 DE’s are projected to be off the board by the end of the 2nd.

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February 21st, 2012
8:03 am

Seeing that they used a high pick on Mike Johnson lets hope he can play the RG spot. It seems like it’d be a waste to draft another G in the 2nd round without giving him a chance.


February 21st, 2012
8:17 am

Well, the Raiders let the Chiefs set the floor for UFA corners. If the media reported numbers are to believed; 11 million first year ($6.5 million guaranteed) $19.6M so that’ll be $6.2M per year over 3 years. So that I’ll put an end to all of that “low-balling” Grimes talk…

This is like the 1999 Draft scenario when Reeves had a chance to keep his team in contention and completely whiffed on 7 of the 9 picks he had instead! All five picks have to stick…

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
8:39 am

Mike Jay – There won’t be any left tackles at 55th that can help. The top four will be long gone. They will have to address that in free agency with a veteran.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
8:45 am

Marcus — Ohio State’s Mike Adams jumped up at the Senior Bowl. Here’s Mayock’s top five by position. Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele is no where to be found.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
8:46 am

Right Guard is going to be an all-comers competition — Johnson, Reynolds, Hawley, Baker et al. Looking for them sign a free agent at that spot.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
8:48 am

JSS — But part of that $11 million is coming from the Raiders. ($5 million of it.) 20 of the last 21 picks are still around (William Middleton) lone escapee.

FL Falcon

February 21st, 2012
9:07 am

Take a look at Bobby Rainey from WKU. Top 5 in rushing yards the past two seasons. I think he would be a great pick up in the later rounds.


February 21st, 2012
9:09 am

JSS, We got Patrick Kearney, Reggie Kelly, and Tod McLure in that draft. How is that a whiff?

Sick of knicks coverage..

February 21st, 2012
9:15 am

I just hope we don’t try to outsmart the room (as we seem to do in the 3rd round and up) and pick someone that nobody else has on the radar…
Get me some battle tested SEC guys.

A Fan

February 21st, 2012
9:44 am

Like what Sick of Knicks said. The only SEC guys we’ve gotten is Jerry from Ole Miss? Is that correct? O line and D Line is where the big bodies are from the SEC. Every other team likes SEC guys. What’s up with that?

Delbert D.

February 21st, 2012
9:53 am

Here’s a breakdown I did last year of Falcons players by conference, updated 11-29-2011.

# Players – Conference
16 – ACC
14 – SEC
9 – PAC-12
7 – Big-12
3 – Big Ten
3 – WAC
2 – Big East
2 – Big Sky
2 – MWC
2 – WAC
1 – Atlantic 10 *
1 – C-USA
1- Independent
1 – MAC
1 – MEAC *
1 – PSAC **

** Div II


February 21st, 2012
10:01 am

Dled any idea how the Grimes negotiations are going? I think if they can not get Grimes at a “reasonable price” they let him walk, if that is true do you see picking up a replacement via FA, Draft or neither at letting Owens start? Also I think the same with Lofton, but do not see a replacement so not sure than can afford to let him go would like to hear your thoughts? Keep up the great work.


February 21st, 2012
10:08 am

@A Fan – Corey Peters from Kentucky, & Mike Johnson from Bama. Other than that, we haven’t really been in a position to take a top tier guy from the SEC like Upshaw or Dareus. I think we should’ve pursued Justin Houston last year since his stock dropped so drastically (1st round to 3rd round). Other than that, we just haven’t been in a position to take a big name SEC product for the O or D line.


February 21st, 2012
10:08 am

Battle tested SEC guys????

How about Peria Jerry, Jamal Anderson, Chris Houston, Jerious Norwood…………to name a few. All of these “highly touted” SEC players turned out to be mistakes (some would even say they are busts).

Hopefully, the Falcons have learned from these mistakes; we do not want to waste any additional valuable draft picks on undercoached/over-rated SEC players.

There are some solid SEC players; however, simply playing in the SEC does not make a player worthy of a valuable NFL draft pick.

Atlanta has 16 from the ACC and 14 from the SEC……..on the Falcons roster, many of the SEC players are simply not living up to the HYPE!!

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February 21st, 2012
10:29 am

North FLA Falcon

February 21st, 2012
10:29 am

Why in the world are we even considering a TE when we have Tony G for one more year and Kerry Meier coming back from injury. This is like us drafting a punter last year … we cannot afford to waste draft picks on positions where we already have some depth. Oline, DE/DT and CB/are high priorities for us. Dimitroff needs to earn his pay on this draft … gotta make this work.

Delbert D.

February 21st, 2012
10:33 am

Here is the Falcons roster breakdown by school (11-29-2011):

# Players – School
3 – Alabama
3 – Georgia Tech
3 – Miami
3 – South Carolina
3 – Wake Forest
2 – Cal
2 – Fresno St.
2 – Louisville
2 – Missouri
2 – Montana
2 – North Carolina
2 – Oklahoma
2 – Oregon St.
2 – Stanford

1 – Baylor, Bethune-Cookman, Boise ST., Boston College, Clemson, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Miss. St., N. Illinois, Notre Dame, Oregon, Purdue, Richmond, San Jose St., Shippensburg, South Florida, Texas, UAB, UNLV, USC, Virginia, VaTech

curious and confused

February 21st, 2012
10:41 am

GT Grad, I wouldn’t say Jamal Anderson was a highly regarded SEC player coming into the draft. As a UGA fan who watches a lot of SEC games, and even saw UGA play Arkansas while Jamal Andersion 2.0 was there, I didn’t know about him. Norwood was only a bust because of health. When he was playing and had the ball, he was pretty special. He wasn’t injured in college, so you can’t really blame the Falcons on that one. Plus, that 3 of those were the previous regime.


February 21st, 2012
10:55 am

Sec players . don’t leave out Thomas Brown RB from UGA that didn’t make team.


February 21st, 2012
10:59 am

I am not sure we are desperate for more CB help even if Grimes leaves. I also believe we may sign up a TE in FA.

Therefore a draft of O line is more possible picking up sleepers will be the theme of 2012 draft.

Here’s my take on what is out there….flame away!

To Draft ( +Comp 6th rnd for M Koenen)

2nd Brandon Brooks OG Miami http://www.profootba…ndon-brooks-56/
3rd Brandon Mosley OT Auburn http://www.profootba…ndon-mosley-75/
5th Quentin Saulsberry C Miss http://tommeltonscou…tin-saulsberry/
6th Desmond Wynn OG Rutgers http://tommeltonscou…tin-saulsberry/
6th Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin http://nflspinzone.c…xt-doug-flutie/
7th Justin Francis DE Rutgers http://www.thedrafts…justin-francis/

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
11:06 am

mark – They are in the early stages.


February 21st, 2012
11:06 am

Can’t see a Super Bowl win using players from Montana……

Better be drafting SEC players primarily, and players from other prominent football schools, if winning is the goal.

Of course, comprehensive evaluations of the player drafted is paramount.

I love GIT guys poo-pooing SEC players……

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
11:09 am

mark — Franks would be next in line if Grimes leaves. Owens and Walls would fight for the nickel or they could get Cortland Finnegan to play nickel. He’s nasty!!! Dent was drafted as Lofton insurance.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
11:13 am

North FLA Falcons — They’ve studied the TEs each year very thoroughly going back to Pettigrew, Gresham and last season they were set to take the Notre Dame kid if they didn’t move up. TE is an issue whether if you like it or not. The OL/DL help is either on the roster or in free agency. You can’t pick in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh and think you’re getting instant help along the lines. Your CBs are either on the roster are coming in free agency, too.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
11:14 am

SimpleDawg — All SEC players don’t pan out. (JaMarcus Russell et al.)

Bob in SF

February 21st, 2012
11:22 am

If it comes down to believing Mayock or McShay, I’ll take Mayock every time. Charles would be a good fit not only to be groomed as a replacement for Tony G but also to have TE be able to stretch the defense more than Tony can at this point. For as many big catches as Tony makes The also has the lowest YAC avg. for all TEs over the last three seasons.


February 21st, 2012
11:48 am

The most important asset to find this off season is team speed and offensive linemen who are just plain nasty!!!!


February 21st, 2012
11:50 am

Dang D. you hit poor SinpleDawg a little low.

Bobo is Not the Problem

February 21st, 2012
12:29 pm

Watch for what? That second-round pick we have?

The Julio Jones trade was TERRIBLE.


February 21st, 2012
12:34 pm

Mike Jay: We are going to shore up our offensive line through free agency.. I think we focus at the tight end position and the defense through the draft this year..

I’m personally nervous about losing Grimes.. we can’t lose that dude!


February 21st, 2012
12:37 pm

Bobo is not the problem.. You are an idiot! First of all Bobo is the problem.. 2nd of all .. The Julio Jones trade was a masterpiece.. !! You’ll see.. Julio Jones will be the next top wide receive in the league.. I believe in TD and Mike Smith.. What I am questioning is the arm strength of Matt Ryan.. He can’t get the ball down field.. This is a major problem!

Mark Driscoll

February 21st, 2012
12:38 pm

Love the list but think DE & OG should be near the top. I do like Fleener though as I think he could become one of the best TE in the NFL. I think the Falcons need a corner but not sure if they should get one in the second round. You should take Trumaine off your list though, he may have some off the field issues but after a solid combine he will most likely go near the end of round 1.

DC Dirty Bird

February 21st, 2012
12:41 pm

The point was that we should continue to look to the SEC for line help. PJ was a reach and everyone knows it. Mike Johnson still might pan out.

The Julio trade is over and done with it. I wish folks would stop crying over it. We could plug that hole at LT, win a playoff game with Julio as the MVP and these same folks would complain.

Who are the diamond in the rough TE’s? We need some athleticsm at TE a la Marcedes Lewis.

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D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
1:00 pm

DC Dirty Bird — Mike Johnson was an SEC pick. He didn’t beat out the ACC pick (Reynolds). Top Diamond in the rough TE is LaDarius Green, Louisiana Lafayette. The Missouri kid Egnew is dropping fast, too.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 21st, 2012
1:02 pm

Mark Driscoll — Good points. I’m thinking Johnson will get every shot to take over at RG.


February 21st, 2012
1:11 pm

February 21st, 2012
9:09 am
“JSS, We got Patrick Kearney, Reggie Kelly, and Tod McLure in that draft. How is that a whiff?”

What didn’t you read in “7 of 9?” I give them credit for Tod(d) Mc(C)lure and Kearney… Kelly was a colossal bust at no. 2 in the 99 draft. A 195 catches in 184 played in the league. And even Reeves had to admit that he goofed and went out and got Crumpler…

Reggie Kelly, Paulk, Carty, Baker, Jeff Kelly, Thigpen, and Menendez were wasted picks…

@ Ledbetter…
That is why I said the Raiders “let the Chiefs set the floor.” He was released early and they are taking the hit. Grimes has been three times the ball hawk and hasn’t been in the top 3 for TDs allowed like the ex-Raider did…
And for all of those 20 of 21 still around, only 8 of them see the field and make them better… Their O-line picks are the slowest developing bunch in the league! Stick = do more than take up a roster or practice squad spot!


February 21st, 2012
1:23 pm

Don’t worry about TE till next year. Too many holes to fill elsewhere. And with a 2nd round pick as first pick in draft, you have to hit a homerun with pick at other position.

Draft the obvious for once

February 21st, 2012
1:27 pm

Thank goodness Reeves isn’t coaching….he’d draft 10 TE’s


February 21st, 2012
1:31 pm


what do you think about us picking up Martellus Bennett in Free Agency? as our replacement TE instead of drafting one & using those draft picks on the O & Defensive lines?

Mark Driscoll

February 21st, 2012
1:33 pm

@ Draft the obvious for once…Drafting a lot of TE worked out for the Patriots, Texans, and Ravens in the past few years…

Joshua Malavenda

February 21st, 2012
1:56 pm

Dled- Classy article as usual.

Coby fleener is a class act and whereever he goes in the nfl he will be a star. His verstatility and experience to play all of the wr postions and his 6-5 stature make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. I think he would excell under the tutledge of gonzo if drafted by the falcons and will become matt ryans safety blanket for years to come.

trumaine Johnson heres a link talking about his trouble he got into in college.:
heres his scoutting report:
His size and his ablity to excell in press coverage would definly make for a great match in nolans defensive coverage but I am not sure the falcons have a discplined structured enviorment that will keep him in line.

Who knows though mike nolan has coached with mike singletary and singletary definly brings that to the table so I could be wrong. He might be brought in to bring that to the defense. plus he has worked with mike smith before. Aprently mike is doing something right because players want to play for him and Bvg didnt have that kind of repetion when he was coaching for the falcons.

My thoughts-
I would love the falcons to draft Coby Fleener or Doug Martin Boise state in the second rd
I think the falcons will shore up their ol in fa but it really depends on if Pat “Hulk” Hill goes to a zone blocking Scheme on what they do with the ol.

BCS Tiger

February 21st, 2012
2:14 pm

Dwayne Allen is the TOP TE in the draft hands down. He won’t be around for when the Falcons select. Best bet at that pick is to pick a guard . Seems safer than this staff blowing another pick on the defensive line. Ryan will never be effective unless he has ultimate pass protection, proven early on in his pro career.