So, during the season I posted some possible running back (definitely late rounds) and wide receiver (possibly free agent/mid rounds) draft choices. However, today I'm talking about the position I definitely think will be our first-round pick.
And, one of our biggest needs this offseason will without a doubt be offensive tackle. Feel free to jump over that thingy with the stars -->
Here are some intro stats:
-In 2010, the Falcons offensive line actually only allowed 23 sacks, ranking 3rd in the NFL.
-Additionally, we allowed 46 QB hits, tied for 8th in the NFL.
-We have the 11th oldest offensive line in the league. We also started the same 5 guys all season.
-We ranked 5th in number of rushing attempts. However, we ranked 12th in total rushing yards and tied for 25TH in yards per carry, averaging a measley 3.8 yards per carry.
- The left side of the line was very much "hit or miss", with both more rushes of 10+ yards and more negative rushes than the right side of the line. Rushes up the middle proved to be fairly productive, with the highest power rating of the three (77)
If you want to look at these stats in detail, they are here.
So what does this all mean?? Well, the right side of our line (Dahl/Clabo) was very consistent, while the left (Baker/Blalock) was not as much, but they were still productive blocking for our rushing attack.
However, don't let the sacks ranking fool you. Even though we only gave up 23, alot of that has to do with the fact that we run mostlyf short-medium passing plays and that Ryan is very good at getting the ball out of his hands and avoiding sacks. Too many times we saw our star QB under throwing under duress or on his back at the end of a play. If we want to be successful again, protecting your franchise quarterback is a great way to get back to that point.
Now, I'm not an expert on offensive line play, so I'm not exactly sure how to sum up Sam Baker's season. He noticeably struggled at times in pass protection and mentally (as far as penalties are concerned). However, towards the second half of the season he seemed to have gotten his mojo back. I guess the main point to take away from this is that I'm not so sure if the organization is ready to "give up" on Baker or not. If they are ready to give up, then I guess we can welcome a new LT next year. And so, here are some possibilities:
1) Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (6'7, 308)
Projected: Mid-Late 1st Round
A big man out of BC. Played RT his freshman year while blocking for our own Matty Ice, and then moved to LT for the next three years. Since moving to LT, he has been one of the few bright spots on an offense that has been pretty woeful ever since Ryan came to Atlanta. Although he is not versatile (they tried playing him at guard... it failed), he has the size to still be effective in the run game while being the main man providing pass protection at the LT spot. I would really like to see this guy a Falcon. The big thing about this guy is that he has the skill set to be effective in our run game AND be an an effective pass-blocker on the left side.
2) Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (6'7, 327)
Projected: Late 1st Round
Wisconsin was very noted for their grind-it-out run game this year, and Carimi was a big part of that. Will most likely play at the RT spot in the NFL, which may or may not fit with the Falcons (depending on what we do with Baker/Clabo). However, if the Falcons cannot re-sign Clabo, then OT would without a doubt be the highest priority. And Carimi would fit perfectly on the right side of a Falcons line known for being big, aggressive, and nasty. Only concerns with him are pass-blocking footwork, agility and balance.
3) Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State (6'5, 305)
Projected: 1st-2nd Round
Definitely has the size/skill set of a pass-blocking LT. Size may not be suited to a Falcons offense that runs the ball alot, but if he bulks up or TD&co decide that his size isn't an issue, I think he would be great for us. Started all four years of college, and was a big part of the Miss State 9th ranked run game in the nation. Very agile and smart.
Those are the big three on my list. If we don't take one of those three, we will probably wait until the second or third at the very latest to pick up an O-tackle.
Other notable options:
4- Demarcus Love, Arkansas (6'5, 315)
Projected: 2nd round
5- Marcus Cannon, TCU (6'6 350)
Projected: 2nd-3rd round
6- Clint Boling, UGA (6'5, 315)
Projected: 3rd round