Smith focuses on D on last day of 1st draft as Falcons coach

<p>ATLANTA &mdash; Arthur Smith’s first draft as Atlanta’s coach helped to prove he’s taking an even-keeled approach to building the Falcons’ roster.</p>
<p>Sure, the first pick for Smith, the former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, was a tight end. </p>
<p>But after <a href="">Kyle Pitts</a> was the No. 4 overall selection, Smith and first-year general manager Terry Fontenot made sure to pay attention to the Falcons’ defense as well.</p>
<p>“It’s fun to be a part of it,” Smith said. “… It’s fun to have to get to worry about the whole team.”</p>
<p>The proof came on Saturday, when four of the Falcons’ final six picks were defensive players — cornerbacks Darren Hall of San Diego State and Avery Williams of Boise State and defensive linemen Ta’Quon Graham of Texas and Ade Ogundeji of Notre Dame. </p>
<p>Overall, five of the nine picks in the draft came on defense.</p>
<p>“The cool thing about Arthur is that’s his mindset,” Fontenot said of Smith’s balanced emphasis.</p>
<p>The Falcons also drafted Stanford center Drew Dalman in the fourth round and Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby in the sixth round.</p>
<p>Williams counts as a defensive player, but he is an accomplished return specialist. Smith said Williams also could be given a look on offense. </p>
<p>On Friday, the Falcons targeted an obvious need by making UCF’s hard-hitting <a href="">safety Richie Grant </a> their second-round pick. Atlanta, faced with salary cap restrictions, lost veteran safeties Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee in free agency.</p>
<p>Versatile offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield of Michigan, who could compete at left guard, was added in the third round. </p>
<p>Pitts knows his place as a rookie looking to fit in. Pitts, only 20, impressed the Falcons with his maturity as well as his unusual athleticism that allows him to play like a wide receiver at tight end. </p>
<p>The maturity immediately showed when Pitts, who wore No. 84 at Florida, saw that veteran Cordarrelle Patterson had that number with the Falcons. </p>
<p>As a high-profile player, Pitts probably could have pushed the issue with Patterson. Instead, Pitts avoided a potentially awkward negotiation, a decision likely to earn respect in the locker room.</p>
<p>“He’s a vet so I didn’t want to pay for that,” Pitts said Saturday with a laugh while making his first visit to the Falcons’ practice facility.</p>
<p>Pitts instead settled on No. 8, taking advantage of the NFL’s new rule allowing single digits to be worn by players at more positions.</p>
<p>Dalman’s father, Chris, started 64 games in seven seasons as a center and guard for the San Francisco 49ers from 1993-2000. Chris Dalman was the Falcons’ assistant offensive line coach from 2005-06, providing young Drew, then in elementary school, an opportunity to have his first look at his future NFL home.</p>
<p>“I definitely remember running around those fields, probably causing a little mischief,” Drew Dalman said. “I have great memories of being around the facility there and being around the team.”</p>
<p>The Falcons didn’t select a quarterback or running back. Each position needs depth even after the Falcons signed free agent A.J. McCarron to serve as quarterback Matt Ryan’s backup. </p>
<p>Former Carolina backup Mike Davis appears to be a lock to open the season as the starter at running back.</p>
<p>Dalman (6-3, 295) most prove his ability to handle bull rushers after fielding questions about his size during the draft process.</p>
<p>“It’s definitely a natural thing to want to inquire about, but I feel really good about myself,” he said. “I’m confident in my abilities and I think I’m going to do well.”</p>
<p>Drew Dalman could compete with 2020 third-round pick Matt Hennessy at center after the Falcons lost Alex Mack in free agency. Hennessy also is listed at 295 pounds.</p>
<p>Williams had no scholarship offers and was a walk-on at Boise State before developing into a third-team All-America selection as an all-purpose player. He led all FBS players in combined return yards while returning two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns.</p>
<p>“I knew my work ethic would carry me far in my life,” Williams said. “Being a walk-on is something I wouldn’t change. Definitely has motivated me.” </p>
<p>Williams said special teams is “my passion.”</p>
<p>“That’s definitely what has driven me this far and I’m looking to continue that,” he said.</p>
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