FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn sees a wide variety of edge rushers in this year's draft class, but the pass-rush expert dissected enough of them to realize how many are capable of making an immediate impact.
The draft is an inexact science, of course. But Quinn tried his best to quantify how many of those edge rushers could make a seamless transition to the NFL.
"Coming in, I think all the guys are going to need time to develop," Quinn said Thursday. "I think there's a piece for all the players like, 'OK, let's be real: It's going to be a transition coming into the NFL.' So the development piece is real.
"I think the traits are what you're looking for: who has that kind of initial quickness and speed to go. I think there's going to be a handful of guys that when we look back on this year that said, `They made an impact on their teams.' Is that number somewhere five to seven to eight? I would say so. It's that big a group of guys that are going to make a real impact on their team. If we gauge it just on playing time and sacks, then we'll see it after the season. But it's a good group, for sure."
The group is led by Myles Garrett from Texas A&M, who is expected to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns. Stanford's Solomon Thomas, Tennessee's Derek Barnett, Missouri's Charles Harris, and UCLA's Takkarist McKinley are some of the other pass rushers getting plenty of first-round mention, although none of them is expected to be on the board if the Falcons hold steady with the 31st overall pick.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. talked about the pass rushers that might be available for the Falcons late in the first round, including Michigan's Taco Charlton, Houston, and Kansas State's Jordan Willis.
The one edge rusher the Falcons eliminated from their board was Alabama's Tim Williams, who has failed multiple drug tests along with being arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit.
Quinn obviously wants to improve his defense, as a whole, and he sees plenty of talent in this year's draft class.
"It's a good group of defensive (linemen)," Quinn said. "I think when we look back years from now, this will come back through as a class that had a strong defensive line. I think the secondary is a good group, too. When you go through those two positions, the depth that goes all the way down through the draft has been impressive.
"We're always looking (for) guys who can get on the edge and get after people. It's the initial quickness you look for, first, the get-off, and can you beat a guy to the punch. And past that, you're looking for the finish and the toughness that goes along with becoming a rusher. ... They come in different sizes. There's some real long, tall rushers. And there's some guys who are smaller and more compact. You've got to find the best player that you can feature in your system."
The Falcons found a gem a couple years ago in eighth-overall pick Vic Beasley Jr., who evolved into the NFL's sack leader in Year 2. But Beasley and his 15.5 sacks also accounted for 46 percent of the Falcons' sacks, which was the highest percentage in the league. That's why the Falcons are likely to target help for Beasley on the opposite edge.