Falcons

Falcons ensure the offensive line will be a strength now and in the future

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With the 14th pick in the NFL draft, the Falcons took Chris Lindstrom an offensive guard out of Boston College. Lindstrom was widely regarded as the best guard in the class and could be the possible center of the future once Alex Mack decides to hang them up. For 2019, he should be an immediate plug and play starter, but considering the Falcons two primary offseason transactions were bringing in two guards on multi-year deals, the decision to take Lindstrom was head-scratching.

The right tackle position was a much more pertinent need, as Ty Sambrailo shouldn’t instill confidence in the most hopeful Falcons’ fan. On the defensive side, the pass rush desperately could have used a shot in the arm; which was the strength of this notably deep draft class. Even secondary needs – like cornerback and linebacker – lacked the depth that was apparent at offensive guard. But the Falcons zeroed in on who they believed was the best player available, a well-documented trend by Thomas Dimitroff, and he doesn’t care if you think it was a reach.

Lindstrom doesn’t have many notable weaknesses. He didn’t allow a sack or QB hit last year as a Golden Eagle and only allowed four total QB hurries in 363 pass blocking attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. Protecting Matt Ryan, who was sacked 42 times in 2018 (second-most in his career and eighth most in the league), has turned into the sole focus of the offseason.

In the run game, Lindstrom’s athleticism will allow the Falcons to stick with their patented zone blocking scheme. He’s going to be a substantial upgrade over what the Falcons had a year ago and is a much better option than both Brown and Carpenter.

The real bombshell came a few ticks before the clock struck midnight. With the Rams scheduled to select at pick #31, the Falcons worked out a deal that gave Los Angeles their second and third round selections to move back into the first round. With a bevy of talent remaining, Dimitroff chose to go with a lesser known prospect – Kaleb McGary, the offensive tackle out of Washington.

Selecting an offensive tackle was a must, but McGary wasn’t the prospect many had in mind, especially not in the first round. Most “experts” had the Washington product pegged as a third rounder, and some had him going as low as the fifth. Although, Draftek did have the former Husky as the fourth-best tackle in the draft and 37th overall prospect, and according to rumors, the Patriots were keen on taking McGary with the 32nd pick, prompting Atlanta to move up fourteen spots and snag him. Once again, the Falcons got their guy, but they are going to need McGary to be a day one starter for this to not be looked back on with regret.

On the positive side, McGary has the prototypical size for a premier left tackle at 6’7″, 317 pounds. He’s proven to be a bulldozer in the run game and is another lineman familiar with the zone blocking scheme. The Falcons are getting an experienced player with 3 1/2 years under his belt as a starter at Washington, possessing the competitive toughness Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff value so much when adding to their team.

Negatively, McGary lacks ideal athleticism for an NFL tackle prospect. He didn’t play many standout edge rushers in the Pac-12, something that will be across from him every week in the league. His most glaring fault is his inability to get deep enough in pass protection against speed rushers lining up in a Wide-Nine technique, leading to too many pressures and sacks. McGary improved upon his pass blocking every year at Washington, and that must continue for this trade not to turn into a monumental failure.

It’s never wise to grade a draft until a few years down the road. That is particularly the case with Atlanta, who have had so many of their questionable decisions produce positive results. The front office was not concerned with what the fan base may think; instead, they went out there with a plan to draft both Lindstrom and McGary.

It is acceptable for people outside of the organization to examine the process. Why spend every last free agent dollar on offensive lineman, only to use your first three picks on two more linemen. Why did they ignore the defensive side of the ball, especially the defensive line this offseason? Those concerns are legitimate and may come back severely bite Atlanta. But the focus of the offseason was clear – protect the face of the franchise for the remainder of his career. This ship doesn’t leave the dock without a healthy Matt Ryan, and the Falcons doubled-down on ensuring he will have plenty of time to throw this year and for many more to come.

 

 

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