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Atlanta Falcons expected to look for edge rusher, RB in draft
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff watches from the sidelines during Tuesday's practice in Flowery Branch. Dimitroff appears poised for more trades in the NFL draft even with a new pecking order in the Atlanta Falcons’ front office with new coach Dan Quinn. - photo by John Bazemore

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff appears poised for more NFL draft trades even with a change in Atlanta's front office.

Dimitroff has made at least one trade in each of his first seven drafts in Atlanta.

New coach Dan Quinn has the final say on the 53-man roster. Dimitroff will work with Quinn and assistant general manager Scott Pioli in the draft.

The Falcons, looking for an edge rusher and help at running back, among other areas, have the No. 8 overall pick. That was because of a 6-10 finish in 2014 that cost coach Mike Smith his job. Dimitroff said he is excited about the potential "to move up and back" from the No. 8 spot.

"There's a lot of discussion already about movement both ways with a lot of our peers in the league," Dimitroff said.
"It'll be interesting to see how that all works out. A lot of it, I believe, has to do with what goes down in the top three picks. I think that's going to set the tone for how much movement there is into the top 10 or even into the top five."

Dimitroff is expected to try to boost Atlanta's poor pass rush in the draft. The problem is some of the top edge rushers could be taken before Atlanta's first pick.

Dimitroff said Friday he believes Missouri defensive end Shane Ray will be ready for the 2015 season after missing the NFL combine with a toe injury. Ray's first-round status might be affected after his misdemeanor citation for marijuana early Monday.

Some other edge rushers to watch include Clemson's Vic Beasley, Florida's Dante Fowler, Kentucky's Bud Dupree and Nebraska's Randy Gregory, who tested positive for marijuana at the draft combine.

As an assistant coach at Florida, Quinn recruited Fowler. Quinn then spent two years as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator. Dimitroff likely would have to trade up in the first round to arrange a Quinn-Fowler reunion.

An option in the first round could be local favorite Todd Gurley, the running back who left Georgia following his junior year and is recovering from knee surgery. The Falcons released starting running back Steven Jackson and backup Jacquizz Rodgers signed with the Bears.

Still, defense is the priority, especially with Quinn. The Falcons gave up the most total yards and passing yards in 2014 and their 22 sacks were the second-fewest in the league.

Here are some things to know about the Falcons entering the draft:

CALL ME: Dimitroff's reputation for draft trades was built on his big move in 2011 when he gave up five picks to move up to No. 6 overall and select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. He said he enjoys being a GM other teams call during the draft.

"Given that move, we're always one of the first teams that teams call when they're looking to deal, and personally I like that," Dimitroff said. "I think it's good. There never will be potentially missed opportunities for us."

NO DEAL: Dimitroff said he is "ready to move on" from potential interest in a trade for Vikings veteran running back Adrian Peterson. Atlanta needs to protect salary cap space to negotiate a new deal for wide receiver Julio Jones and may be reluctant to invest heavily in another veteran running back.

Expect help at running back to come through the draft. The team could look again at free-agent options after the draft.

ADDING LINEBACKERS: Atlanta has signed free-agent linebackers Brooks Reed, Justin Durant and O'Brien Schofield, but could look for more help at the position. "It was just a position we thought we really wanted to address hard both in free agency and in the draft," Quinn said.

MISSING GONZALEZ: Quarterback Matt Ryan clearly missed having the go-to presence of tight end Tony Gonzalez last season. The Falcons signed veteran tight ends Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki and have 2014 starter Levine Toilolo, a strong blocker who is still developing as a receiver. It wouldn't be a surprise if Atlanta drafted a tight end with strong skills as a receiver.

CATCH THIS: Wide receiver Roddy White is 33 and re-signing Jones could be a challenge. Harry Douglas was released after last season. The Falcons added free-agent Leonard Hankerson, but have room for another receiver.
"You have to keep your cupboards full and have to be ready to move forward when people move on," Dimitroff said.

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