If fans lost their marbles when the Atlanta Falcons selected defensive tackle Corey Peters in the 3rd round, they may have launched their remotes towards their TVs when the Falcons selected UNLV Center Joe Hawley in the fourth round. It was pretty much common knowledge that the Falcons were going to address center at some point throughout the draft, and the round probably wasn’t that shocking, just who they took. The Falcons top brass worked out several centers with their private workouts including JD Walton, Matt Tennant, Ted Larsen, and Joe Hawley. Walton was selected in the 3rd round by the Denver Broncos and it was thought by many that the Birds were zeroed in on Tennant, who was Matt Ryan’s center his senior year at Boston College. Thomas Dimitroff not only passed over Tennant, but also voted no on several other centers that were reportedly ranked higher according to draft “experts” including Eric Olsen and Ted Larsen.
Even though draft ratings are scattered all over the map and they probably hold little value to teams, most sites had Hawley slotted to go in the later rounds, perhaps around the 6th or 7th round and has one of the lower overall draft value ratings. NFLDraftScout had Hawley as their 6th best center and DraftCountdown had him as their 5th best center. Most fans were a little upset at this pick because they thought that Hawley could have certainly been nabbed with one of their 5th or 6th round picks, and should have taken some of the bigger names left on the board. With such a deep draft, there were a ton of names left at that point including OLB AJ Edds, OLB Eric Norwood, TE Clay Harbour, CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, and DE Austen Lane to name just a few. Hawley received one of the lowest grade ratings with a 2.0 from NFL.com, when most of the players around him ranked anywhere between 5 and 7 grade ratings.
The talk of grades and draft ratings leads perfectly into the next point about the Falcons top brass, and many other teams for that matter, complete lack of regard for what the draft “experts” have to say. How many can’t miss prospects become exactly that only a few short years later. Anywhere from QB Jamarcus Russell to our very own DE Jamaal Anderson. The draft experts may get paid to evaluate players on the surface, but they have no bearing on how teams assess their players and particularly how certain athletes fit into schemes, which makes up so much of teams and their respective success.
Regardless of what the draft experts say, Thomas Dimitroff has and will always draft on what he and his scouts believe to be the best fit and potential for the long haul, not just a splash in the draft. If any player fits the mold of what the Falcons are looking for in an offensive lineman, Joe Hawley is that man. The UNLV center is very good in pass protection with a strong punch and picks up extra defenders very well. Most well known as a “mauler who can drive 3 techniques into the ground and possesses one of the nastiest streaks of any player in the draft” according to NFLDraftScout. A tough and mean football player with a non-stop motor. Perhaps the best reason that Dimitroff and Co. took Hawley comes once more from NFLDraftScout, “with a little coaching and improvement in his technique, he could have a long NFL career.”
Even though its obvious the reason the Falcons selected a center, Todd McClure is still on the top of his game at the young age of 33. It is true that McClure could retire at any time, but offensive lineman have shown they can play a good bit longer at a top level than some other positions (consistent All-Pro Center Kevin Mawae is 39 and still playing). McClure is one of the more underrated centers in the NFL and is by far and away the captain of the offensive line. McClure’s ranks according to ProFootballFocus.com:
Todd McClure – 10th (10.3 score)
Top Rating – Nick Mangold (31.8) – By far and away the best rated center because the second rated center has a score of 18.5.
Todd McClure – 7th (3.8)
Top Rating – Jeff Saturday (8.9)
Todd McClure – 9th (9.0)
Top Rating – Nick Mangold (29.3); Second – Andre Gurode (17.7)
-What’s your thoughts on taking Hawley in the 4th round?
-Was the 4th round a good place to take Hawley or could they have waited?
-Do you think that the UNLV center was a reach?
-How much longer might Todd McClure play?