Acquiring a new, young guard is a rite of spring, right up there with leaves budding and getting drenched in a rainstorm because you're way too cool to carry an umbrella.
Okay, so maybe you have to squint a little. In the last four drafts, the Falcons have acquired five players in the draft who were either primarily guards or ended up getting playing time there. Those are Garrett Reynolds (2009), Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley (2010), Andrew Jackson (2011) and Peter Konz (2012). That's not to mention the calvacade of undrafted free agents who have had at least some time on the roster, and currently Harland Gunn and Phillipkeith Manley are hanging around as UDFAs.
Consider, if you will, that all of these guards have been brought in with Justin Blalock nailed to a starting job at left guard. The Falcons have been trying for this entire time to find a reliable right guard, one who could provide the skills of a Harvey Dahl on the salary of a rookie mid-rounder. The results of those efforts up to this point have been, to put it delicately, mixed.
So why don't I want the Falcons to sink another draft pick into the position? Because the team has finally reached the point where the amount of talent on the roster would seem to guarantee they can find a viable starting option for 2013 and beyond, all of it young. Let's take a quick look at the possible scenarios for next year:
- The Falcons re-sign Garrett Reynolds and start him. Reynolds was actually playing pretty well before he went down last season, so this is a legitimate possibility. In this scenario, Peter Konz probably slides to center.
- The Falcons start Peter Konz at right guard, with an eye on making it his permanent position. Konz wasn't great there last season, but perhaps he'll grow into a fine right guard with a year under his belt. In this scenario, they probably don't re-sign Reynolds. I still think Konz is the long-term center, though.
- The Falcons start Joe Hawley at right guard. Hawley's had flashes, but again, this seems unlikely.
- The Falcons start Mike Johnson at right guard. Johnson has gotten limited opportunities, but still is someone the coaching staff appears to like and still has that mauling run-blocking pedigree from his college days.
- The Falcons start Phillipkeith Manley or (less likely) Harland Gunn at right guard, giving over to the UDFA phenomenon. I like Manley's chances as a long-term option at the position, given his intriguing blend of size and strength, but it would be rushing it.
- Lamar Holmes plays right guard. Not impossible, considering Reynolds took the same path, though I still think he's the long-term answer at right tackle. For now, though, his size would made him an intriguing run-blocker at the position.
The point is, the Falcons have six and a half legitimate possibilities here. None of these guys are necessarily going to be elite right guards in 2013, but the opportunity cost of sinking a high-round pick into another guard when the defense needs work and the Falcons may need a tight end of the future is rather large. You're also not guaranteed to get a Week 1 starter, which is what this team sorely needs. I would prefer they prioritized other positions and went with one of these in-house options, unless a truly terrific player becomes a possibility.
I expect some of you will disagree, so let's discuss. Which of these options would you prefer, or would you rather go with a draft pick?