The Falcons waited until the fourth round to address guard, widely agreed to be one of the most glaring needs on the roster. The player they got was Sean Harlow, who doesn’t have a ton of guard experience, but does have quick feet and run blocking prowess. He’ll get a crack at a starting job at some point, for certain.
That just may not come this year, as the Falcons have more experienced options who will be in the running for the starting job. Here’s a look at Harlow’s short-term and long-term outlooks for these Falcons.
Games Played: 4
Harlow won’t start in 2017, I’d wager, but he’ll get on the field in special teams contexts and perhaps when someone gets injured. That should get him on the field for a handful of games—possibly more if the team finds a special teams use for him—but I’m guessing he’ll be a gameday inactive right off the bat and an active reserve otherwise.
Stat Line: N/A
I’ve repeatedly said that I expect Wes Schweitzer to win the starting job, and he’s still my pick for the gig. Hugh Thornton may or may not make the roster, Ben Garland should be around, and the Falcons have some intriguing UDFAs who will be competing for reserve roles. For all that, Harlow should make the roster unless he falls flat on his face, as he’s a fourth rounder and genuinely does have upside.
If Thornton does stick around, I wouldn’t expect Harlow to be the first man on the field in case of injury. There’s a chance that if injuries do hit at either guard spot, Harlow could get more playing time and perhaps even a start, but I’m not holding my breath.
Long-term outlook: Good
Harlow has to pick up the intricacies of the guard position at the NFL level, improve his pass protection, and fend off competition, all of which probably caps his upside in 2017 unless he’s ready to come out swinging. Long-term, though, I imagine the Falcons would love him to be one of their starting guards, and he’s a good enough athlete to make that work in the team’s current scheme. I’d say 2018 or 2019 is likely his arrival date, but I think he’ll be a solid starter once he gets there, and that would be excellent value for a fourth rounder.