Falcons’ 4th-rounder Harlow figures to move from tackle to guard

Sean Harlow played offensive tackle almost exclusively over four seasons at Oregon State, yet he knows the Falcons are going to try him at guard and that’s fine with him.

When the Falcons used the 136th pick of the NFL draft Saturday to select him in the fourth round, they turned in their pick listing Harlow as a guard. At 6-feet-4 1/8, 305 pounds, his body type suggests a move inside at the next level as he tied for the shortest arms of any offensive linemen at the scouting combine.

Team officials told the former Oregon State captain as much.

“Yeah, definitely,” Harlow confirmed. “I think it will be fine. I practiced it a bunch in college. I’m comfortable doing it … I’m really looking forward to the challenge of playing inside, and getting after it.”

Having also practiced at center while at Oregon State, Harlow will get work there with the Falcons as well. The NFL won’t be new for his family. His father, Pat, played tackle at USC before the Patriots made him the No. 11 pick of the 1991 draft. He played eight NFL seasons with New England and Oakland.

Falcons defensive passing-game coordinator Jerome Henderson was a teammate of Pat Harlow’s in New England.

“Jerome Henderson and Sean’s dad were drafted at the same time, and were teammates,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He’s a versatile guy; we’re going to see if he can snap it, too.”

From San Clemente, Calif., Harlow has never been to Atlanta, and rarely has traveled east of the Mississippi River, yet he has some familiarity here.

“I know a couple people out there already,” he said. “(Falcons running back) running back Terron Ward and (tight end) Austin Hooper (who played at Stanford). I played with Terron in college, and just know Austin from recruiting and Stanford.”

Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons’ first-year offensive coordinator and a former USC head coach, tried to recruit Harlow to play for the Trojans. Although the player did not travel to Falcons headquarters in the pre-draft leadup, Harlow’s been in front of team officials multiple times.

“I had a really good on-the-field workout, and I had one of the formal interviews at the combine,” he said. “I’ve known coach Sark since he was recruiting me out of high school, and the whole staff was awesome. I’m just really stoked about the whole process.”

Harlow enrolled a semester early at Oregon State and graduated with a degree in human development and family sciences. He is considered a better run blocker than pass protector.

He’s likely to compete with second-year pro Wes Schweitzer, Ben Garland and others for work at right guard, where Chris Chester retired.

“I know (the Falcons) run a lot of outside zone, which is great,” said Harlow, who also played defensive line in high school. “They’re a run-heavy team, which is something that I really pride myself in, and I’m really looking forward to learning all I can and getting after it and competing.”

Having played weighing as little as 284 in college, Harlow played last season around 295 and though he weighs 305 now, he’s open to change.

“It’s really up to the team,” he said. “I can go up, go down, stay the same.”

Schweitzer struggled last season as a rookie making the transition to guard from college tackle, and admitted as much. Quinn, though, said he’s worked extremely hard, and in fact is among the Falcons he currently believes are “setting it off” with the intensity of their offseason workouts and studying.

Harlow’s leadership qualities have shown up well in many scouting reports.

“I think it’s different for different guys. We’re excited about where Wes is headed; he can snap it, too,” Quinn said. “I have a sense that Sean is made of the same things. That’s what everybody has reported to us. … You’ll probably see him in a lot of spots in preseason games.”