Falcons select Davidson, Hennessy on second day of NFL draft

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The head coach and general manager discuss the second- and third-round picks of Davidson, Hennessy.

On Day 2 of the NFL draft, the Falcons attempted to fortify both their defensive and offensive line.

The Falcons selected Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson in the second round (47th pick overall) and Temple center Matt Hennessy in the third round (78th) on Friday.

“We went into this evening focused on interior,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Getting stronger, bigger and more versatile inside and we accomplished our goals. To have both Marlon and Matt join us, again we feel like we accomplished what we were looking for.”

Dimitroff said there was a lot of “loose discussions” about trades “on and off the clock,” but they did have to trade up to land their players.

“We were fortunate to not give up any draft capital.” Dimitroff said.

Davidson, 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds, will play tackle and end in running situations. Hennessy, 6-3 and 307 pounds, will compete for the starting left guard spot and serve as an understudy to six-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack.

“For us, it was the trenches,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “It’s a line of scrimmage game, we wanted to attach how those specific areas could improve.

Davidson has some swagger.

“When I step on the field, I feel like I’m the best,” Davidson said. “I improved every little bit and aspect of my game from my freshman year to my senior year.”

Hennessy, who met with the Falcons owner Arthur Blank at the scouting combine, was a three-year starter as a center.

“I just look at it as an opportunity,” Hennessy said.

MoreMarlon Davidson draft bio

In 2016, Davidson became the first freshman to start on the defensive line for Auburn since 1985. He went on to make the SEC All-Freshman team. Davidson started 51 games over his career.

“I like this pick,” ESPN analyst Booger McFarland said of Davidson. “I can’t wait to see him rush over guards in the NFL.”

Davidson is open to playing defensive end in run situations, too.

“I can play it all,” Davidson said. “Whatever they want me to be, that’s what I’m going to be. If they want me at 285, 280 playing a big end on the edge or if they want to kick me inside, I can do it all.”

Davidson thought he would be selected in the first round.

“I woke up a 4 o’clock this morning because I was mad that I didn’t go in the first round,” Davidson said. “I woke at 4 o’clock and I ain’t been to sleep all day, man. I’ve been waiting on this call. I got it. Now, I’m going to give everything that I have to this organization.

Davidson is familiar with the Falcons. He plays with them in the Madden video game.

> More: Matt Hennessy draft bio 

“The defense is going to be good next year, I promise you that,” Davidson said.

Davidson said he draws inspiration from his mother, Cynthia Carter, who passed five years ago.

“Every day, I look on the side of me and it’s a picture of my mother,” Davidson said. I wake up every day and look at the picture of my mother. It’s on my phone. It’s on my shelf. ... That’s who got me to this point. She helped me get here.

“She is my queen and she will always be my backbone.”

Davidson, 22, of Greenville, Ala., led the Tigers with 12.5 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks last season.

“He has scheme versatility,” said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. “You can play him inside or out. The Senior Bowl really helped him out.”

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Temple center Matt Hennessy was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Falcons. (Credit: Temple Athletics)

Temple center Matt Hennessy was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Falcons. (Credit: Temple Athletics)
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Temple center Matt Hennessy was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Falcons. (Credit: Temple Athletics)

» MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM: Falcons were right to stay put at 16

Hennessy started his career at Temple when Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins was the head  coach. But it was Panthers coach Matt Rhule who suggested that he move to center.

Hennessy was a lightly recruited right tackle coming out of high school. Rhule discovered him at a Temple camp.

“He figured that I had the idea skill-set for center,” Hennessy said. “Day one at Temple I bumped down to center.”

The Falcons have an open competition at left guard and Mack will turn 35 in November.

“Going forward, I’m looking forward to playing all three interior spots,” Hennessy said.

Davidson was the 15th pick of the second round. Hennessy was the 14th pick of the third round.

“We are going to try to feature (Davidson) at a tackle spot over the guards as often as we can,” Quinn said. “Having a guy with that versatility, you could image, we are going to partner him as often as we can.  His intensity. His physicality. It all shines through.”

Quinn stop short of naming Hennessy the heir-apparent to Mack.

“As for Matt, tough, smart,” Quinn said. “He’s got really quick feet. He can get out on the edge. He pulls at center. There are a lot of things that he does that you want to see in  a wide zone offensive scheme.”

The draft will conclude with rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday. The Falcons have two fourth-round picks (119th and 134th overall) and a seventh-round pick (228).

The Falcons also want to land an offensive tackle who can fill their backup swing tackle position and they could take a running back or wide receiver who can handle the return duties on the third day of the draft.

In the first round, the Falcons selected cornerback A.J. Terrell from Clemson. They elected to pass on higher-rated players in Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, LSU defensive end K'lavon Chaisson, Michigan center/guard Cesar Ruiz and Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray.

Terrell, who was the sixth-rated cornerback in the draft by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was projected to be selected late in the first round or early in the second round.

» ALSO: A.J. Terrell's projected salary

Passing on Lamb and a host of other wide receivers was no surprise because the Falcons are deep at the position with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and newly signed Laquon Treadwell.

Chaisson could have helped the anemic pass rush, but he is young and would take time to develop after just one productive season at LSU.

Ruiz could have helped the offensive line, which gave up 50 sacks and 135 quarterback hits last season.

Murray might have replaced De’Vondre Campbell, who was the team’s leading tackler over the past two seasons. Campbell signed with the Cardinals.

AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES

Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads classTop 10
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lessonTop 10
Tight ends:  Harrison Bryant top prospect Top 10 
Guards/Centers:  Solomon Kindley a late-rounderTop 10 
Offensive tackles:  Austin Jackson's life lesson | Top 10 
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb  | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand outTop 10
Defensive ends: A 'generational' talentTop 10
Linebackers: Simmons a position-less LBTop 10
Safeties: Loaded with Georgia talent | Top 10
Special teams:  Georgia's kick-centered | Return with flashTop 10
Cornerbacks:  Jeff Okudah a lockdown CB | Top 10

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