Not going to lie. I’m a little disappointed. Not in the Falcons’ first-round pick per se – Chris Lindstrom should be a solid professional – but disappointed in that they came within one spot of landing Christian Wilkins, who was my fave among this draft class.
Ah, well. Can’t have everything. (To borrow from the droll Steven Wright, if you did have everything, where would you put it?) And now we – and the Falcons – move on.
About Chris Lindstrom of Boston College: He was the best guard on the board, and if you wonder how important a guard can be, let’s note the Falcons’ offensive line hasn’t been the same since Chris Chester retired after the Super Bowl. This is not a young group, and it needed an infusion of high-end talent. Getting the best guard on the board qualifies.
I know, I know. An offensive lineman is never ever a sexy pick, but ask yourself this: Have you ever seen a bad team with a good offensive line? (I’ll answer for you. No, you haven’t.) The Falcons want to run the ball harder and protect Matt Ryan better. Chris Lindstrom is a start.
Maybe he’s a reach. According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, he was the 41st-best player available. The 41st pick falls a third of the way through Round 2. But such ratings don’t account for need. Keanu Neal wasn’t considered a Round 1 prospect by any team except the one that took him, and he started in the Super Bowl as a rookie and graced the Pro Bowl in Year 2.
(Oh, and to be fair, the famous Mel Kiper -- also of ESPN -- ranked Lindstrom the 14th-best player in the draft. Ah, sweet consensus.)
Call me naïve – I’ve been called far worse – but I’m willing to believe that a reasonably intelligent front office knows what it has and what it lacks better than anyone on the outside. I consider the Falcons’ brass a reasonably intelligent group. (I’ve been less convinced about the coaching, but that has undergone mass change.)
This is a team that had the NFL’s absolute best offense in 2016, and much of that was because of the five men up front who started every game and who allowed Ryan to become the MVP. That line has frayed. Maybe you’re a believer in Ty Sambrailo, the Denver washout ticketed to replace Ryan Schraeder at tackle, but Lindstrom should offer a greater upside. If he doesn’t, then he really was a reach.
As mentioned earlier, the Falcons entered this draft having clear needs – along the defensive line, and with Wilkins gone the drop-off among available names was significant; at cornerback, and there are questions about both Deandre Baker and Greedy Williams, deemed the two best of the bunch, and on the O-line. Well, here’s your O-lineman.
I know there are a lot of you who threw shoes at the TV when you heard Lindstrom’s name, but that’s OK. A lot of people wanted the defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey back in 2008 and were furious when the rookie general manager Thomas Dimitroff picked a quarterback from, er, Boston College. That quarterback became the greatest draftee in team history. (Dorsey? He mustered a grand total of seven NFL sacks.)
Until proved otherwise, I’m inclined to give the Falcons the benefit of most every draft doubt. Scott Pioli and his guys watch tape and scout games all year. It’s what they do. If they see something in a player, I’m willing to concede there’s probably something there, something that can help the Falcons.
And if you doubted that this team saw the offensive line as the area of greatest need, check what the Falcons did just before midnight Thursday. They traded with the Rams for the right to select Kaleb McGary, a tackle from Washington, with the 31st pick. Two Round 1 selections, two O-linemen. I believe that’s known as doubling down.
I told you yesterday I have faith in the Falcons’ capacity to find good players. I have faith they just found two more. And I’m pretty sure they’ve made their most important player -- he wears No. 2 -- a very happy man.
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