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Goober Pyle posted a topic in Talk About the Falconshttps://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/thomas-dimitroff-on-the-moment-he-realized-who-the-falcons-will-take-in-2019-nfl FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – In the middle of an early morning workout on Thursday morning, it all clicked for Thomas Dimitroff in terms of what the Falcons will do with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. “I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, this is [the] person we’re going to take,’” Dimitroff said. “It’s kind of interesting when it hits you.” Going into his 12th draft as Atlanta’s general manger, Dimitroff has this down to a science. A week out from the draft, the Falcons’ draft board is pretty much set. The week leading up to the draft is more about the final touches and conversations with other general managers about potential trades. “We like to have our front board quite clean and really dialed in,” Dimitroff said. “That’s where we are right now. We’re putting the final touches on everything.” Sure, there’s the possibility the Falcons could be given new information on a prospect that could change things in the final week, but for the most part, Dimitroff knows exactly who he wants to draft come April 25th. The question on draft night won’t be regarding which prospect the Falcons hope to draft, it’s more about if he’ll be available. If not, where do the Falcons go next? That’s the main question Dimitroff has to prepare for. And that’s why Dimitroff is a firm believer in not entering the weekend stuck on just one prospect. “At times, you might not get exactly who you want,” Dimitroff said. “You hope to have two, three or four guys that you really do want. That’s a big thing for me to be positive about. If you’re only focused on one person and that doesn’t work, that’s a tough thing to be in the room, everyone can feel the energy.” Dimitroff said during his tenure as Falcons’ general manager, there has not been a time where he’s had a “womp womp” moment after not landing his desired prospect. When it comes to the draft, the Falcons don’t operate solely as a “needs-based” team. That’s not to say Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn won’t address specific positions of need, but if the highest-graded player on their board is available at a position that might not be viewed as a top need, they’ll take that player over a lower-graded player at the position of need. “Of course, we’re needs based [but with] that said, we’re not just going to go after someone because we need that position,” Dimitroff said. “We need to make sure that talent is matching what is on the board. We’ll never just randomly pick someone because we need a defensive end or whatever position. That’s not going to be the way it is.” Atlanta selecting Calvin Ridley in the first round is an example of Dimitroff’s strategy. Wide receiver wasn’t necessarily the top need for the Falcons heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, but Ridley was too good of a player to pass up. The Falcons’ positional needs are pretty clear to this point: Tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback. Three of those positions are viewed as the strengths of the draft. “This is a unique year,” Dimitroff said. “Defensive line is heavy [in talent] as well as [the] offensive line.” The Falcons have nine picks to use in this year’s draft which takes place on April 25th at 8 p.m. ET in Nashville, Tenn.
Goober Pyle posted a topic in Talk About the Falconshttps://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dan-quinn-believes-isaiah-oliver-is-ready-to-thrive-in-bigger-role NDIANAPOLIS – When the Falcons drafted Isaiah Oliver with their second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, it appears they had one eye on the present and the other on the future. At the time, the Falcons had both of their starting quarterbacks from the 2017 season returning in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Fast-forward a year and the Falcons released Alford on Feb. 5 with all signs pointing to Oliver being the player who could assume the starting job opposite of Trufant. “I think he’s going to really thrive,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He got reps, he got experience and I think he’s one who is going to take a big step.” Oliver played in 14 games in his rookie season with two starts and recorded 23 tackles. Similar to most rookies, as Oliver got more reps he continued to get more comfortable on the field and his play improved. His first interception of his NFL career came in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. Quinn often talks about the “on-the-job training” players will go through when they’re first getting acclimated to a new role. Oliver is a perfect example of someone who embraced the lessons and grew from the experiences, positive or negative. “If you haven’t been beat at cornerback then you haven’t played it very long,” Quinn said. “What I absolutely love about him, the lessons that he learned this year you had to go through some and I call that on the job training.” Standing at 6-foot, 201 pounds with a 33½-inch wingspan, Oliver has the physical traits and athleticism Quinn likes in his cornerbacks. One of the biggest adjustments Oliver had to make in his transition from college to NFL was playing at the line of scrimmage. At Colorado, Oliver primarily played more off-man coverage. He certainly has the makeup and talent to be a key piece of the Falcons’ secondary in 2019 and based off what Quinn and his coaching staff have seen in games and practices, they’re all in on Oliver’s development. “You have to make decisions based on what you think a person can do and what they will develop into,” Quinn said. “It’ pretty rare for a guy to be as good as they’re going to be in their rookie year. I think he and some of the guys from that first year are going to get better as we go.”
Goober Pyle posted a topic in Talk About the Falconshttps://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/how-the-falcons-austin-hooper-worked-his-way-to-becoming-a-pro-bowl-alternate-in Kelsey Conway AtlantaFalcons.com reporter 4-5 minutes FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – If the Falcons season ended today, it would be hard to argue against tight end Austin Hooper being named Atlanta’s most improved player. RELATED CONTENT Hooper is playing the best football of his career and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers as the third-year tight end was named an alternate for the 2019 Pro Bowl. Ready for the scary part? He’s only 24-years-old and he hasn’t even come close to scratching the surface of his potential. He even said so himself. “Keep working … that’s been my mantra since I got here and I’ve just gotten better and better since I’ve been here,” Hooper said. “I’m just going to keep going on that trajectory because I feel like there’s a lot more I can do and I still feel like there’s another level I can go to.” Since the Falcons drafted Hooper in the third-round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Stanford, he’s improved every year. The statistics show it. In his first season, Hooper caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, he caught 49 passes for 526 yards and three touchdowns. With two games left to play this year, Hooper has already caught 64 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns. Hooper’s progression didn’t happen overnight and certainly without a commitment to improving his craft more than ever. Following the 2017 season, Hooper made sure to reach out to his quarterback Matt Ryan to let him know when he was going to start throwing again. When Ryan was ready, Hooper was going to be there. No matter the time or the place. Hooper, a California native, previously spent most of his offseason back on the West Coast. That wasn’t going to be the case this time around. One or two weeks with Ryan here and there wasn’t enough. He wanted more. Ryan began throwing in March and who was there to catch passes from him? Hooper. And their improved rapport has been on display all season long. “It’s just repetition,” Hooper said. “It’s not sexy. You’re getting up there at 8 in the morning, going to an empty park, running routes until Matt says, ‘We’re good.’ It’s just a lot of hard work that nobody saw, it’s just between me and him and I’m glad that work came to fruition.” Ryan couldn’t have been more complimentary of the work Hooper has put in and how he’s played this season. “I think Austin has had a really good year for us,” Ryan said. “He’s worked really hard and he’s playing the best football of his career and I think his potential is to keep improving and to get better. I think he’s going to be a really critical and good player for us in this league for a long time.” One of the biggest areas Hooper and Ryan feel their connection has made the biggest growth is their non-verbal communication. Rather than having to tell Hooper exactly where he expects him to be on a specific play, Ryan can just give him a look or not even having to say anything because they’ve repeated it so many times. “It’s come a long way,” Ryan said. “Just his understanding of the offense and what our expectations are for him on certain routes versus certain coverage [and] what we expect him to do. He’s been spot on that this year. He’s been in the right place at the right time, given us good opportunities to convert third downs, to get first downs, catch touchdowns. I think that part of that game has improved.” At 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, Hooper has the size and athleticism to be an elite tight end in the league. He’s proven his catching radius is something Ryan can benefit from. While his physical attributes certainly make him a tough matchup week in and week out, the thing that could take Hooper’s to the next level has nothing to do with his physical makeup, it has all to do with the mental aspect of his game. “I think his confidence has improved,” Ryan said of Hooper. “You see that when he’s making contested catches and big plays and going up and using his size and his length to his advantage.”