Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith will take a break from NFL Draft preparations on Friday night when he and his staff host a coaching clinic for around 700 of the state’s high school football coaches at Flowery Branch.
And what about the NFL Draft? Smith told the AJC on Thursday that the mock drafts “may have it right” when predicting which player the team will select at No. 19 of the first round.
The only problem is this: There are a gazillion mock drafts. Which one is on target with the Falcons?
Looks like we’ll have to wait until the big day to find that one out. Smith chuckled when asked about the topic of mock drafts on Thursday.
“I really believe this, at the top of the draft board, the mock drafts are probably a lot more accurate,” Smith told the AJC. “When I say accurate, I’m talking about the first 5-6 slots. On any given year, they are pretty accurate. I just think when you get past a certain point in the first round, it becomes a little more difficult to predict.
“But I’m sure somebody has the right choice for us, with the guy we’re going to end up picking, just because of the sheer volume of mock drafts that are out there.”
Of course, we at the AJC, we know the only mock draft to trust — when it comes to the Falcons — is by our own NFL beat writer, D. Orlando Ledbetter. Click here for his latest first-round projections.
What is Smith’s state of mind with the draft day so close?
“The three days of the NFL Draft are culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people in our organization. I’m not sure people understand the man hours that are put in, such as our team scouts who have been tracking these players and gathering information for a year and half. (General manager) Thomas Dimitroff and his group have done a great job preparing for the draft, and we (coaches) really don’t get involved with it until the number of prospects gets narrowed down. I’m real excited.
“At No. 19, we’re going to get a very good player. We believe philosophically that we’re going to build our roster through the draft, (and) we’re going to augment it through free agency. Over the last three years, we’ve done that the first year with Michael Turner, the second year with the Tony Gonzalez trade, and this year adding Dunta Robinson.
“But as we get closer to draft, we’re getting excited, and we’re going to get a good player at No. 19, no doubt.”
Back to the high school clinic: Despite Smith’s hectic schedule so close to the draft, he has still found time to have the clinic for the second year in a row. When Smith accepted the Falcons job, he decided that it would be a priority to connect to the state’s football base.
“I really think coaching the game of football — whether it’s high school, college, or the NFL — it’s a fraternity,” Smith said. “It’s always good to get together and exchange ideas. That’s what we’re doing, getting together for a good, old-fashioned clinic. We’re going to have about 20 (coaches) talk about different football subjects.”
What could a high school coach possibly learn from an NFL head coach? “I tell our guys all the time … they ask ‘What is the difference between coaching in high school, colleges and the NFL?’ There’s really not a whole lot of difference. There are a lot of things high school and college coaches can learn from NFL coaches, and a lot of things we can learn from high school coaches.
“I think it’s a two-way street. Our clinicians, the coaches from our staff that will be presenting, they will be talking more about fundamentals rather than scheme-oriented topics. I think there is always something you can learn, myself included, when you get a group of football coaches together.”