Sometimes, you can call a bust a mile away. Those fans who took one hard look at Jamaal Anderson and shook their heads mournfully were right about him, and disappointing Dezmen Southward got much the same treatment. Much of the time, however, calling a young player a bust after a single year is a reckless exercise that can backfire a little or backfire a lot.
In the case of Jake Matthews, pleasantly, it has backfired a lot. The Falcons have a very mixed track record in the draft over the last several years, but they've nabbed some terrific players in the first round, and some players that showed signs of being terrific before injury effectively wrecked their careers. Matthews was inexperienced, out of his depth and playing on a bum ankle throughout much of 2014, and by the eye test and Pro Football Focus scores, he was not good. Heading into the offseason, there were plenty who thought he'd bounce back, but many who thought he'd never be the tackle his top ten draft status would indicate.
Fast forward to 2015, and Matthews' play has been the brightest spot on the offensive line. Pro Football Focus has reasons to be optimistic about every NFL team, and they list Jake Matthews as the best one for Atlanta, given that he ranks as the eight-best tackle in football in their scoring system and is just 23 years old. There's further upside here, and though Matt Ryan hasn't exactly enjoyed a clean pocket all season, it's got to be some small comfort knowing edge rushers aren't going to be hitting him on his blind side all that often.
The Falcons are likely to overhaul their roster and their offensive line a bit this offseason, because the play hasn't been universally great. It's comforting to know they'll have one of the league's best tackles on the left side for a long while yet. When we're considering Vic Beasley's somewhat lackluster 2015 campaign, it's worth remembering that not all of these guys are impactful in their first seasons.