Breaking down the Atlanta Falcons‘ 2019 draft class
Round 1, No. 14 overall: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
My take: Owner Arthur Blank made it clear before the draft that the Falcons needed to get younger along the offensive line. But it’s still somewhat of a surprise to see a guard selected with the 14th overall pick. Usually, an offensive lineman taken that high is a tackle. Right now, there are no plans to move Lindstrom to tackle even though he played there during the 2017 college season. A variety of folks who scouted Lindstrom said he’s extremely tough, and the Falcons sorely need toughness up front to not only open holes in the running game but to protect Matt Ryan, who was sacked 42 times last season — the second-most times in his career. Lindstrom is also known for intelligence.
What about Cody Ford? The Falcons were very high on Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford, who might be the toughest offensive linemen in the draft. But the Falcons obviously were convinced about Lindstrom after a contingent of coach Dan Quinn, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, and about eight others went to Boston College and put Lindstrom through an hour and a half workout. It didn’t matter that the team added two starting-caliber guards in free agency with 30-year-old James Carpenter and 26-year-old Jamon Brown. The Falcons are sold on Lindstrom making an immediate impact in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s system, which may include more of a gap scheme rather than the outside zone.
Missing on Wilkins: There was a lot of buzz early Thursday about the Falcons having strong interest in Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Whether that’s true or not, Wilkins went to the Miami Dolphins one pick ahead at No. 13.
What’s next: The Falcons still have to consider adding defensive line help, whether it be a defensive tackle with pass-rush ability or an edge rusher. Cornerback is another area of need with former starter Robert Alford now in Arizona and former nickelback Brian Poole now with the New York Jets. The wild-card position could be linebacker, where the Falcons need to think about having capable depth in case of injury, like what happened when one-time Pro Bowler Deion Jones broke his foot last season.
Round 1, No. 31 overall: Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington
My take: The Falcons needed a tough offensive tackle and went with McGary, who made a top 30 visit to Atlanta and also had a private workout with the team. McGary (6-foot-7, 317 pounds) could be the guy at right tackle, since returning player Ty Sambrailo is viewed more as a backup. One scout called McGary a reach, and even McGary admitted he thought he’d go in the second round.
“They’re getting a guy who is very prideful about being a lineman,” McGary said. “I love everything about being a lineman. I’m going to bust my tail and protect [Matt Ryan].”
NFL draft profile: Kaleb McGary
Kaleb McGary is a tall, well-built right tackle prospect out of Washington who is a very good run-blocker and moves defenders off the ball when he keeps his pads down.
For starters: With McGary and Chris Lindstrom being first-round draft picks as offensive linemen, one has to figure both will be starters at tackle and guard, respectively. Coach Dan Quinn wouldn’t jump to that conclusion just yet, but you don’t use a first-round pick on a guy who will sit on the bench. Left tackle Jake Matthews was an immediate starter as a first-round pick.
Trading places: The Falcons gave up their second- (45) and third-round (79) picks in order to move up back into the end of the first round to select McGary. They picked up a sixth-round pick from the Rams in the process, meaning the Falcons go into Day 2 with two fourth-rounders, two fifth-rounders, two sixth-rounders and a seventh. Let’s see if they do some more wheeling and dealing or stay put and fill their needs.
What’s next: The Falcons admitted having an interest in Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who went to the Dolphins at No. 13 before the Falcons picked Lindstrom at No. 14. So maybe a defensive tackle remains in the cards in the fourth round or higher. The Falcons also need to think about cornerback, but the quality might not be there.