After trying to move up unsuccessfully on at least one occasion, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves picking at #6. They made the most of it when they selected Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews.
The initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive, if a little short of elated. Matthews has the NFL bloodlines—his dad, Bruce, is a Hall of Fame lineman—he's a wizardly technician, a natural tackle and a player with a reputation for intelligence and a stellar work ethic. He fits what the Falcons are looking for, and while I was hoping for one of the class's elite pass rushers, you just can't get mad about getting that kind of tackle.
``I can honestly say Atlanta was the place I wanted to be,'' Matthews said.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) May 9, 2014
``Just feel so blessed right now,'' Matthews said.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) May 9, 2014
Matthews said he's looking forward to being a tackle in Atlanta for years to come.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) May 9, 2014
Now that he's here, the Falcons need to figure out what they're going to do with Jake Matthews in 2014. Over the long-term, if everything works out, he should be Atlanta's left tackle for many, many seasons. It's a little less clear where he'll be in 2014, even if it's clear where he should be.
Missed this one last night, but you can't get much more clear than this:
That's mostly because of Sam Baker. The team's incumbent left tackle has been plagued by injuries and stretches of poor play, but the Falcons have stuck by him up to this point. With a hefty contract and a track record of at least average starting left tackle play when he's healthy, Baker may not be easy to unseat immediately. Given that the competition at right tackle boils down to some promise and a lot of uncertainty between Mike Johnson, Gabe Carimi, Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder, you have to figure Matthews would win a competition there on day one.
Honestly, though, the Falcons should strongly consider playing Matthews at left tackle, even if I'm dubious that they will. His pass protection is tops in this class of tackles, he's the heir apparent on the left side and it's entirely possible that Matthews at left and someone else at right is the strongest possible configuration the Falcons can put on the field. Given their need to improve and improve rapidly in pass protection, they should weigh that possibility very carefully.
Right now, I'd give Matthews a 50% chance of starting at left tackle, just because I think he's got a real shot to beat Baker in an honest competition as soon as this season. There's no question he'll be a starter, either way, and a tremendous upgrade for a line that could go from abysmal to above average in a single offseason.
The Falcons still have some work ahead, but by adding Matthews they've truly made Matt Ryan and the offense's life easier. I can't wait to see what he can do in Atlanta.