Terry Fontenot has preached that the Falcons must hit on later-round draft picks and lower-priced free agents, given their current salary cap outlook.
“We’re going to have to find players because you can’t just build your roster with overpaid players in free agency or top draft picks. We have to really dig and find value in free agency,” Fontenot said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s working with the coaches and finding exactly what they need and going and finding the players that they need. That’s throughout the entire draft, and that’s in undrafted free agency. So, we have to be scouts and go find good players that can really fit the make-up and profile that we are looking for.”
This will begin a series on mid-to-late round prospects that could intrigue the coaching staff and front office. These are just as important as the higher-valued picks. Devonta Freeman (fourth-round) and Ricardo Allen (fifth-round) were both productive players for the Falcons but did not become worth their second contracts. Grady Jarrett (fifth-round) was the best mid-to-late-round pick from the Thomas Dimitroff era. He is top-three at his position and deserves to be a Falcon for life — similar to Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. De’Vondre Campbell (fourth-round) was good for Atlanta when he was here, but again, not worth bringing back. Russell Gage (sixth-round) and Foyesade Oloukon (sixth-round) both are ascending players and could receive second contracts for the right price. Most recently, Mykal Walker (fourth-round) is the latest mid-to-late-round pick to earn starting time, but who is next?
Meinerz is an absolute mauler. See the aforementioned videos if you don’t know what I am talking about. In Penei Sewell’s draft profile, I mentioned one of the only weaknesses in his game is his inability to move a big body. It is the exact opposite with Meinerz; he looks like a bulldozer just moving piles of dirt around like it’s nothing. Mienerz is an absolute hog when it comes to run-blocking. He has a heavy background in wrestling, and it shows in his technique when pushing defenders around. He uses fantastic leverage and hand placement to dictate the direction of the defender. But someone this aggressive and bruising shouldn’t hold up in pass protection, right? Wrong, he was lighting up all of his individual pass rush reps at the Senior Bowl.
The best thing about the former Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk is that he will step in and start as a guard or center, depending on how Fontenot attacks the offseason. Meinerz has been gaining steam as a prospect since Mobile, and now I get the feeling the Falcons will have to spend their third-round pick to get him.
Quinn Meinerz is moving up my board. https://t.co/yz7uPYJkW7
— Blake Jewell (@BlakeJewellNFL) January 27, 2021
Instead of a fourth or fifth-round swing tackle, how about a prospect who has played every position along the offensive line.
Landon Dickerson has started games at LT, LG, C, RG, RT in his college career while at FSU and Alabama… His versatility is remarkable. He's physical. He's nasty. He's a tone setter.
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 28, 2021
If Dickerson didn’t tear his ACL late in the season and other injury concerns from Florida State, he’d be iOL1. He can compete for both guard and center positions immediately after getting healthy. The leadership and ferocity that he plays with make him a prime candidate to compete with Matt Hennessey for starting center and the open guard spot opposite Chris Lindstrom. Dickerson has great strength for the center position and produces great power. He has the strength to maintain blocks in both the passing and running game. When his team runs the ball, he is a move blocker capable of opening up huge holes for running backs. He can handle most power rushers on the inside as well. Expect Dickerson to be healthy before the 2021 season starts.
Although he has played predominantly at guard, potentially Green’s best fit would be as a center. According to PFF, Green tied another member of this list — Dickerson — for the Power Five lead in big-time blocks this season (14). Like the other two on this list, Green is an explosive interior lineman who has consistently improved throughout his collegiate career and offers center/guard positional flexibility. Furthermore, his experience in a run-heavy offense at Illoinis means he would best fit an NFL team that emphasizes running the ball, i.e., Arthur Smith. His athleticism points towards fitting in a zone-heavy scheme, but I wouldn’t limit Green just that; he’s an extremely underrated prospect.
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 25, 2021
Davis is one of the best interior linemen in this draft, but unlike the others in this article, the former Ohio State Buckeye is strictly being scouted as a guard around many circles. The Falcons do have Matt Hennessey, who is expected to step in for the departing Alex Mack, but competition at every position is critical. Regardless, Davis has the tools to start immediately in the NFL — an extremely high floor. Davis is more scheme versatile than the others in the article as he is a dominant run blocker who can generate movement in any scheme. In man-gap schemes, he has the brute strength to move anyone lined up across from him. In zone schemes, he has enough athleticism, agility, and speed to be an effective pulling guard or blocking on the move. He is better in power concepts than outside-zone running schemes but can execute both effectively.