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Falcons GM hints at another draft deal

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Thomas Dimitroff is at his 26th NFL Scouting Combine, first attending as a high schooler with his father, Tom Dimitroff, Sr., and then as a scout and administrator with the New England Patriots.

Now a 48-year-old, six-year veteran general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, he restructured the front office around him in January to reshape the direction of the franchise.

"Obviously 4-12 was a challenging season, disappointing season for us," Dimitroff said. "Now the real fun begins."

The Falcons are relatively young in scouting from top to bottom, and Dimitroff said he has a sound staff of researchers who are budding evaluators.

"We focused on our personnel department with what we needed to adjust," Dimitroff said. "We needed some teeth, we needed some experience on the personnel side."

Atlanta added Scott Pioli, an elite-type evaluator in Dimitroff's words, as assistant general manager. Pioli and the pro scouting department is projecting what could take place in free agency and setting Atlanta's "needs board."

"He's going to be a very important seat at the table," Dimitroff said of Pioli.

A chief priority is continuing to build blocking protection around "No. 2," quarterback Matt Ryan. That could be solved in free agency, but Dimitroff is another combine with his eye on prospect targets with the No. 6 overall pick. Or, he says with a coy smile, a higher pick.

The Falcons moved up in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in 2011 to draft Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Dimitroff orchestrated the trade to climb 21 spots to get the player the franchise identified as a must-have.

"I always want to have the light on for business," Dimitroff said. "When you ever are able to cultivate trades, it's about being able to be honest with people. Moving up from the late 20s into six, that was difficult. I thought that was going to be a multi-tier trade to be honest with you. ... Honestly in the top 10 it's a little easier to move around now."

It was at the Scouting Combine where Jones cemented his status as a top-10 prospect, running a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash.

Could a repeat be in the offing with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or offensive tackles Greg Robinson (Auburn) -- two freakish athletes with the ability to start, and possibly star, at positions of great need for the Falcons?

"By draft time we'll have myriad contingencies and scenarios," Dimitroff said. "We throw out some really interesting scenarios, sometimes throwing out moving up in an unprecedented way. ... In my mind it's an outstanding top-10 draft. That's exciting for us. Rarely are you a team with a marquee, and franchise-type quarterback picking at six or earlier -- that's not foreshadowing, but six or earlier."
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