The Falcons improved dramatically this offseason.
For the first time in years, the club had a mountain of cap space to work with in free agency. Terry Fontenot completely revamped the defensive front, tinkered with the secondary, and touched up the offense.
Atlanta then went out and drafted Bijan Robinson, the best playmaker in the class, to add to an already potent rushing attack. Arthur Smith is licking his chops at the weapons at his disposal — Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, and Drake London.
It’s easy to see the premier names and talk yourself into a potential playoff berth, but it’s the less notable guys that round out the roster that make the difference.
Pro Football Focus identified each team’s unsung hero, and the Falcons’ most underrated player is Kaleb McGary:
McGary was another offensive lineman who took a big step forward in 2022, besting his previous career-high 64.3 overall grade from 2020 with an 86.6 overall grade last season, the fourth-best among all tackles. With a 91.6 run-blocking grade, McGary trailed only Trent Williams in run-blocking grade from a tackle position last season, and Atlanta rewarded him with a new three-year contract this offseason.
I don’t know if underrated is accurate. I think McGary is exactly rated; he’s an above-average right tackle.
The club decided against franchise tagging him, which would’ve paid him over $18 million in 2023, after not picking up his fifth-year option last offseason, which would’ve paid him around $13 million this season.
McGary turned in a career year in 2022 but didn’t have the most impressive stretch before that. Granted, progression is rarely linear in the NFL. The former first-round pick struggled for much of his career; however, in Arthur Smith’s offense, he thrived.
McGary still leaves a lot to be desired in pass sets, but the Falcons’ offense caters to his strength — run blocking.
Now, obviously, I couldn’t disagree with this article without giving my own vote for the most underrated Falcon.
Up until last season, it would have easily been Chris Lindstrom. He was an ascending talent, vying for an All-Pro selection, but he earned it and the richest contract for a guard in NFL history.
Jake Matthews is a better candidate than McGary. The stalwart left tackle hasn’t missed a game in his entire career while providing elite pass protection and above-average run blocking. Moreover, he’s evolved as a player. With Arthur Smith, his run blocking has improved dramatically. All while receiving virtually no praise from media outside of Atlanta.
Hell, Avery Williams is more underrated than McGary. He’s arguably the best punt returner in football and is rarely recognized as such. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t shout out Keith Smith, one of the best fullbacks in football that gets absolutely no love whatsoever.
Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire
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