As was discussed at length on the Talkin’ Birdy podcast (yes, that’s a shameless plug of our new weekly Falcons podcast that just dropped last week), the Falcons had to address the offensive line during the draft, and they did so on days 2 and 3, selecting Jalen Mayfield in round 3 and Drew Dalman in round 4. However, will that be enough to fix what has been a glaring issue for this team for years?
As much as I would love to say yes, I still think this group could use a free-agent addition or two before training camp. Mayfield is a college tackle that will likely make a transition to guard at the next level. Depending on where you look, this pick was either a steal or a reach. A couple of months ago, Mayfield was a projected first-round pick by some and was a sure bet to go by the end of the second round, but after an underwhelming performance at his Pro Day, he fell to the Falcons in the third. However, if you prefer a site like PFF, they had Mayfield ranked as the 144th best prospect on their big board, making this selection quite a reach for Terry Fontenot and company.
However, what most scouts will agree on is that it may take some time for Mayfield to develop into a starter in the NFL. He’s only 20-years-old and recorded just 15 starts at Michigan. The former Wolverine will also need to add some muscle to his frame to succeed at the next level. Here’s NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s scouting report on the Falcons third-round selection:
Athletic tackle with just over 1,000 college snaps to his name. He plays with alert eyes and well-balanced pass sets, but an excessive punch wind-up and lack of anchor will make it tough for him to slow NFL power rushers at this juncture. His initial quickness tends to help him more as a run blocker than in pass sets, where speed can be a problem for him from time to time. He’s experienced in all run schemes, and his drive blocking should improve if he can drop the pad level and sharpen his hand placement and technique. Mayfield is tough and has upside, but he is going to need to get much stronger and play with better contact balance in order to handle the NFL bullies that are headed his way. He has starting potential, but it might take some time.
Dalman will also add to the competition at guard and center. He played primarily center at Stanford and should push Matt Hennessy for the starting job; however, like Mayfield, Dalman is more of a developmental selection with some upside. Under new offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford, it’s very possible that he blossoms into a starting-caliber interior offensive lineman, but as far as 2021 goes, it’s tough to see him as anything more than a depth piece. Here’s Zierlein’s breakdown of the Falcons fourth round selection:
The son of a former NFL lineman and coach, Dalman is unsurprisingly a quality technician with an excellent feel for hand usage and staying connected to his blocks. His biggest issue will be his lack of NFL size, which could impact his draft standing. He’s not strong by NFL standards, but plays with leverage and leg drive to win many more than he loses at the point of attack. He can handle all of the athletic asks in the run game and in pass protection, but how he deals with bull rushers could make or break his NFL chances. Ultimately his grit, consistency, and technique could win out for him in the end as a zone-scheme center.
At the very least, the Falcons had to add some depth to their offensive line group through the draft. They did just that by selecting Mayfield and Dalman, but they could still use another veteran body or two to add to the competition. Before the draft, our own Alex Lord broke down some remaining free agents that could potentially fit with the Falcons on the offensive line. Atlanta doesn’t have any money to spend right now, but if they can create enough, I would expect them to bring in at least one more option with starting experience that can compete for the starting job at left guard and center.