Many Falcons fans believe that its time for the Birds and their top brass to draft a franchise, bookend offensive tackle. One of the biggest and best surprises of the 2008 season was an amazing effort by the seemingly makeshift offensive line. Thomas Dimitroff traded up to draft Sam Baker in the first round in 2008. Justin Blalock was one of the main holdovers from the Bobby Pric-trino era. Todd McClure is one of the most underrated centers in the NFL, and the right side of the line consisted of two players redeemed from practice squads in Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo. Baker has been pretty solid, but has been injured and has missed a lot of games in his two years in Atlanta. Blalock has been a road grader in the run game but has had some issues in pass protection. McClure is the captain of the offensive line, but is 33 years old. Dahl is one of the feistiest players on the roster but also has issues in pass protection. Finally, Clabo is a big-bodied offensive tackle and did well in pass protection, but had problems in the run game according to ProFootballFocus.com
The fans wanting to lock up a franchise tackle do have some valid reasons concerning statistics. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Tyson Clabo ranked as the 29th best offensive tackle in the NFL and Sam Baker ranked 55th using cumulative statistics. Will Svitek performed well in run-blocking, but fell well short in terms of pass blocking. Garrett Reynolds has potential, but would he be ready to take over if Clabo either got hurt or left as an unrestricted free agent next year? Todd McClure ranked as the number 11 center in the NFL and had good numbers in terms of both run and pass blocking, but he’s 33 years old. Harvey Dahl ranked as the 25th best guard, but Justin Blalock ranked very far down the chart as the 73rd best guard and had very poor run-blocking numbers, even though he’s usually known as a good run blocker.
Thomas Dimitroff set 1st round tenders on both Tyson Clabo and Harvey Dahl, meaning that he’s likely not going with an offensive lineman as the number 19 pick, but maybe he was doing that as an insurance. There are quite a number of potential franchise tackles that could go in the first round:
Bench Reps: 38 – 40 Time: 5.15
Generally considered the best offensive tackle prospect among various draft rankings and experts. His combination of strength, speed, and athleticism is the prototypical franchise tackle that many teams want and need to be their bookend lineman for years and years to come. Barring a crazy trade, Okung will be long, long gone by the time the Falcons get ready to draft. Most believe Okung will be gone in the top 5 picks.
Bench Reps: 26 – 40 Time: 5.25
Bulaga caught the eye of many with his dominating performance against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Many Falcons fans believed Bulaga would be a real possibility for the Birds early on, but he has quickly risen up draft boards with his measurables and potential to be a franchise left tackle. Bulaga is roundly considered the second best OT prospect and will also likely be long gone by the time Atlanta picks. Mike Mayock of NFL.com guaranteed that Bulaga wouldn’t escape the top 10 picks. Bench reps were somewhat low for a franchise left tackle.
Bench Reps: 21 – 40 Time: 5.40
Okung and Bulaga are widely considered the top two tackle prospects in the draft and there is some disagreement on who comes next. Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com believes that Davis is next and could possible be available when the Falcons select if the expected run on tackles doesn’t occur. Named as one of the fallers from the combine according to NFLDraftScout.com when he failed to represent the quick feet and agility expected of him. Mike Mayock of NFL.com has Davis ranked as the fourth tackle prospect. Extremely low bench reps for an offensive tackle.
Bench Reps: 23 – 40 Time: 4.88
Lost the hype of Bruce Campbell running a 4.85 forty was Trent Williams running a 4.88 forty time at 315 lbs. Ranked as the 4th best tackle prospect by DraftCountdown.com, but is listed as the 3rd best by NFLDraftScout.com and Mike Mayock. Nasty instinct and a very powerful punch give Williams a boost, but some consider him a touch on the short side to play tackle and some has questioned his work ethic. Williams could definitely be available for the Falcons.
Bench Reps: 34 – 40 Time: 4.85
Campbell likely helped himself out as much as any other prospect at the NFL Scouting Combine with his extremely impressive high bench rep and running faster than many tight ends with such a huge frame. Could be available for the Falcons, but likely assured himself of being drafted in the first round after his combine performance. Some warned that he could be a potential bust with his superb combine performance inflating expectations some.
Bench Reps: 29 – 40 Time: 5.27
Most believe that Campbell is the last legitimate 1st round prospect among the offensive tackles, but that doesn’t mean that some teams may reach to fill a need. Ducasse has a huge frame and decent footwork for a big man. Reportedly possesses a great work ethic, but some question his level of competition. Likely a first round reach. Not listed in Mike Mayock’s top 6 tackles.
Bench Reps: 21 – 40 Time: DNP
Mike Mayock has Brown tied as the 5th best tackle prospect in the draft, but few draft experts believe he will be selected in the first round. Converted from tight end and is still learning the tricks of the trade and will need to add weight to be an every down left tackle in the NFL, but potential is there. Slotted as a second or third rounder who will need to time to develop wherever he goes. Brown wouldn’t be a great fit in Atlanta due to his needed time to adjust.
The Falcons will probably go in a different direction than offensive line due to the 1st round tenders to Clabo and Dahl, but it shouldn’t be out of the question. A run on tackles may render the argument a moot point. Kansas City, Seattle, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Oakland are just a few teams that may go for an offensive tackle before the Falcons do.