FLOWERY BRANCH – Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who could have been the top player in the draft, may not be selected.
The knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State didn’t check out at the combine. There will be a re-check in April, but some teams have already taken him off their draft boards.
Here are the 15 things I learned at the 2016 NFL scouting combine.
- RODDY WHITE UPDATE: The folks in Roddy White’s camp think that he’s safe and will be returning. His biggest supporter is owner Arthur Blank, who said at the Super Bowl he won’t get involved in the football decision.
- SPEED IS THE KEY: Falcons coach Dan Quinn stressed that the Falcons have to get faster on defense. He went in to detail on the importance of football speed and not 40-time speed. If player runs a 4.6 and plays at that speed, he’s better than a 4.5 guy who hesitates.
- NOISE GATE 2: Quinn kept talking about wanting the Georgia Dome to be loud in order to give his pass rushers an advantage. After getting fined $350,000 and losing a fifth-round pick, the Falcons shouldn’t be discussing stadium noise.
- MARSHALL IS FAST: Former Georgia running back Keith Marshall, who was a five-star recruit, dazzled at the combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 25 times, both were highs for the running back group. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said the teams will want to look at his unproductive tape from Georgia and get explanations for his injuries.
- ARE YOU A CAT OR A DOG?: The Falcons’ offensive line coaches asked Western Michigan’s tackle Willie Beaver would he’d rather be a “Cat or a Dog.” He picked dog. The media debated if that was the correct pick. The consensus was that we wanted dogs in the trenches and quick and fast cats everywhere else.
- RECEIVER ALERT: The Falcons were linked to Cincinnati receiver Mohamed Sanu and Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin at the scouting combine.
- IRVIN MAY COST TOO MUCH: With everyone looking for pass rushers, the Falcons are no longer the favorite to sign Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin. Jacksonville is projected to have $74.6 million under the cap, while the Falcons plan to be thrifty with their $30.6 million.
- WELCOME BACK PARTY: The Falcons would like to re-sign defensive end Adrian Clayborn and linebacker O’Brien Schofield. However, they don’t plan on getting into any bidding war.
- NKEMDICHE IMPRESSED WORKERS: One of the staff workers who escorted Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche around to his interviews and various other combine stations, said he was easy to work with and seemed like a good kid. He still has some explaining to do NFL teams.
- MAYES MAKES HIS CASE: Georgia defensive tackle Chris Mayes was impressive. He bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times, which was the top lift of the defensive line group. At 6-foot-3 and 338 pounds, the 3-4 defensive teams will want to look at Mayes to play nose tackle.
- PRO READY TACKLES: Alabama defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson and Jarrad Reed are both projected to be selected in the first round.
- SALARY CAP: The NFL Players’ Association released the salary cap data. The Falcons are projected to have $30.6 million to spend when free agency starts on Saturday with the legal-tampering period. Players can’t be signed until 4 p.m. on Monday.
- DON’T MESS WITH COX: Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox got in to a shoving match with a scout from the Arizona Cardinals and plans to apologize. The Falcons were leaking over the 15 minute period and the scout pointed that out and Cox snapped.
- FLOYD, JENKINS SOLID PROSPECTS: Georgia will have a pair of linebackers drafted. Leonard Floyd, once considered a top 10 pick, is waging a war to move back into the first round. Jordan Jenkins met with the Falcons at the combine. Floyd ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds, the fifth fastest time of the linebackers.
- WEATHERLY HELPED HIMSELF: Vanderbilt linebacker Stephen Weatherly, who played at Shiloh High, helped himself with a 4.61 time in the 40-yard dash, which was the sixth-fastest time of the linebackers. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times, which was tied for the third most.
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