The Ringer mock draft slots Falcons taking a… center?

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The Falcons undoubtedly need improvement across the line of scrimmage. The defensive front could use an upgrade next to Grady Jarrett, but both edge positions will require significant resources this offseason. The offensive line isn’t much better. Outside of Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta could stand to add an influx of talent across the board.

Development from Matt Hennessy and Jalen Mayfield is almost inevitable, so there should be at least some improved offensive line play. Kaleb McGary is entering his fourth NFL season, so the clock is ticking on his outlook. The Falcons need better production from these three positions, regardless of where it’s coming from — free agency or the draft.

In Danny Kelly’s latest mock draft, he has the Falcons addressing this area by selecting Tyler Linderbaum, a center out of Iowa.

If the Falcons want to get the most out of Matt Ryan’s final year or two with the team, they’ve got to do a better job of keeping him upright in the pocket. Linderbaum is a plug-and-play starter for this offense who would provide a boost to both the passing game and ground attack.

If the Falcons selected Linderbaum, he would immediately improve their run blocking and pass protection. Regardless of position, he’s an incredibly athletic prospect who won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center in 2021. His background as a high school wrestler consistently shows his understanding of how to use leverage in the run game and pass sets.

Linderbaum is ideally a zone-blocking center, given his excellent first-step quickness to seal playside defenders. That athleticism and explosion are on display in his ability to get to the second level of defenses with ease; he’d be a shoo-in to start at center if the Falcons went this route.

The Falcons have a third-year center in Matt Hennessy and second-year Drew Dalman under contract in 2022, so this is surprising to a certain extent. Hennessy wasn’t great by any means, but 2021 was his first full season as a starter. One would expect improvement, even if it is minimal.

The only reason teams take an interior offensive lineman in the top ten is if they’re an incompetent franchise or confident the prospect has Hall of Fame potential. The vision for the Falcons would become much cloudier if Terry Fontenot selected Linderbaum. However, he’s been adamant about taking the best player available regardless of if they’re adding to a position of strength. 

Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

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