The 2011 NFL Combine begins Thursday in Indianapolis and despite the black cloud of labor negotiations looming, the show must go on. Over the course of six days, 300 potential pros will be timed, measured, tested and evaluated by scouts, coaches and General Managers in an effort to determine which players will make a good fit with their respective franchise.
Which players will the Atlanta Falcons' front office be keeping an eye on? I offer up 10 possibilities.
Anthony Castonzo | OT | Boston College
Gabe Carimi | OT | Wisconsin
Derek Sherrod | OT | Mississippi State
Any of these players could step right in and play if the Falcons lose Tyson Clabo to free agency. The only question is whether or not they'll still be on the board when the Falcons pick at 27.
Ryan Kerrigan | DE | Purdue
Cameron Heyward | DE | Ohio State
Allen Bailey | DE | Miami
Even if John Abraham can give the Falcons another season like he had in 2010, they'll still need to improve the pass rush on the opposite side. Kerrigan has been a popular mock option but like the offensive tackles above, he may not be available in the late first round.
Mike Pouncey | OG | Florida
Danny Watkins | OG | Baylor
The Falcons flirted with Mike's brother, Maurkice, before the 2010 NFL Draft but some scouts think Mike is the better player. Watkins could add depth and serve as the eventual replacement for Justin Blalock or Harvey Dahl if one or both go the route of free agency.
Luke Stocker | TE | Tennessee
A lot of people are on Kyle Rudolph's bandwagon but he's not on mine (read below for more). Stocker has great length and as I wrote before, he'd be an excellent red zone option.
Leonard Hankerson | WR | Miami
After his Senior Bowl performance, everyone knows about him now. If the Falcons go wide receiver in the first round, he's at the top of my wish list.
You may have noticed some missing names in juniors Tyron Smith, Aaron Williams, Rudolph, Jon Baldwin, Torrey Smith and Jurell Casey. I'm not saying the Falcons won't kick the tires on these underclassmen but the Falcons love drafting seniors. They've done so 92 percent of the time so I'm going with the numbers here.