The Falcons are 4-3 and in the thick of the NFC playoff race with nine games to go...and yet people are still asking me who they’ll draft next year. Draft fever: It’s a lifelong sickness.
The positions fans seem most interested in range from defensive tackle to wide receiver to guard, but it’s that last one I’m going to pay some attention to today. Andy Levitre has been above average the last two seasons, but has an expiring contract after the 2018 season. Wes Schweitzer has been solid at worst, but a couple of bad games have colored the perception of him. The depth is largely unproven.
Bleacher Report proposed one move for every team, and while many of them are pie in the sky, a few do genuinely make sense. Unfortunately, the move Bleacher Report proposes for the Falcons really does not, even if it seems good at first glance. They have the Falcons going for guard Justin Pugh. Here’s why:
Andy Levitre is still performing well on the left side, but he's getting up there in age (31), and his contract comes off the books after next season. The long-term assets are available if that's the lens you view it through.
Wes Schweitzer is possibly the worst starter on the Falcons offense at right guard, and sliding a guy like Justin Pugh in there in place of him would be the biggest upgrade the Falcons could make. Given how important agility and ability to play in space are for this blocking scheme, Pugh would fit right in stylistically as well.
Pugh is objectively a very good player, but he’s also a player who will be expensive and has just one 16 game season under his belt. He’d supplant Wes Schweitzer, a player who has had four good games, two lousy ones, and one decent one, and will cost the Falcons virtually nothing over the next two seasons. If given a choice between developing Schweitzer given his caliber of play and inking a soon-to-be 29-year-old Pugh to a big deal, I’m taking Schweitzer. No contest.
My personal feeling, which will not be surprising to anyone who has seen me talk about Wes Schweitzer, is that the team doesn’t need to bother. It’s not that I’d be against the Falcons drafting a guard so much as it is that I’d prefer they tried to continue to develop young talent and keep Levitre around as long as he’s useful. Having Schweitzer grow into the right guard spot—and having Sean Harlow potentially develop into Levitre’s successor—would be an ideal scenario. Spending big money on an oft-injured guard would, in my humble opinion, be far less than ideal.