Falcons looking hard at local WR

The common assumption out there, and I’ve been firmly in this category, is that the Atlanta Falcons are going to go with a defensive player with their first-round pick -- No. 19 overall.

But I just heard something that made me pause a bit. A league source tells me the Falcons were out in full force Sunday for a private workout by Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas. General manager Thomas Dimitroff, college scouting director Dave Caldwell, personal director Les Snead and assistant director Lionel Vital all were in attendance.

Yes, the workout was in Atlanta, so logistics weren’t an issue for the Falcons. But I think they must be looking hard at Thomas if they sent so many people to watch. They already should have a good read on this guy since he’s in their own backyard, but this is a sign that they’re doing extra homework.

Drafting a receiver wouldn’t be a total surprise for Atlanta. Dimitroff admits the Falcons draft for need and defensive end and linebacker seem to be the needs everyone talks about. But there also is a need at receiver.

Roddy White is firmly established as the No. 1 receiver. Michael Jenkins has been the other starter, but he’s somewhat of a role player. In the long term, Thomas could be an upgrade at No. 2. The Falcons still have high hopes for Harry Douglas, but he’s coming back from a major knee injury and projects more as a slot receiver. Veteran Brian Finneran is also in the mix, but he’s more of a situational player.

Thomas is in the Jenkins mold. He’s a bigger receiver -- 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds. He’s not a burner, but he’s tough to tackle and can make things happen after the catch. The best stat I saw on him is that he averaged 25 yards a catch last season. Thomas isn’t known for his blocking, which is perhaps Jenkins’ biggest strength. But he has the size and can be taught to become an effective blocker. He’s also born and raised in Georgia and the Falcons like that kind of thing -- see Dunta Robinson and, in the past, Keith Brooking.

Yes, the Falcons may still go with defense first, but don’t rule this one out. Keep in mind, this team is built around quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons try to give him all the toys he needs to succeed.