There are other, small position battles, but this is the last one that could have real import for the Falcons in 2017. If an injury strikes at tackle, the team will need a capable backup swing tackle who can play on the left or right side. The question is whether they have one, and the roster battle here ought to help clarify that.
Unlike nearly every other position we’ve discussed thus far, there is not clear favorite here. We’ve all latched on to one candidate for reasons we’ll discuss, but it’s possible that the 2017 swing tackle isn’t even currently on the roster, and the Falcons will dip into free agency to address it.
Let’s break it down.
Andreas Knappe: 0 career starts, 2017 UDFA
Daniel Brunskill: 0 career starts, 2017 UDFA
Will Freeman: 0 career starts, 2017 UDFA
Marquis Lucas: 0 career starts, 2016 UDFA
Kevin Graf: 0 career starts, 2014 UDFA
Knappe is the guy everyone’s latching on to, probably because he was pretty solid in college, he was a guy the Falcons considered a priority in this undrafted free agent class, and he’s got the most interesting story. He’ll be the first Danish-born NFL player since Morten Andersen if he sticks around. I also consider Knappe the early favorite out of this list
Brunskill comes into the NFL incredibly undersized for tackle, so chances are Atlanta will have him bulk up or move him inside to guard. He was a well-regarded blocker in college, though, and could impress if he can even get up to 280-plus pounds.
Freeman has good size (6’6”, 300 pounds). I don’t know much about him, but as is the case with everyone else on this list, we will know a lot more once we see them on the field.
Lucas has bounced around a little bit since coming into the league last year. The Falcons signed him this offseason and will likely throw him into the mix at tackle, given how wide open the competition figures to be.
Finally, you have Graf. He’s easily the most experienced player on this list, having been in the league since 2014, but he also has no regular season experience. If experience does count for anything here, Graf would win this thing, but it’s impossible to know whether it will.
This is unlikely to be decided before the very end of preseason, though the list of participants will almost certainly change before then. I’d expect Knappe, Brunskill, and Graf to be the three most likely winners at the moment, and the guys who will get the most run at tackle when the starters come off the field. We’ll see if anyone impresses sufficiently to prevent the Falcons from signing a veteran between now and Week 4.
As mentioned, Knappe is the very tentative favorite, and lacking any grand, deep insight into what the team is thinking, I’ll go with him as the winner. He’d give the Falcons a big, rugged swing tackle who is still young enough to be useful for at least a handful of years. That would be nice, given that Atlanta’s gone year-to-year with their swing tackles for a little bit now, and you can’t count on Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder being perfectly healthy every year.
If Knappe falters, look for Graf or Brunskill to step up. Failing that, the Falcons will surely have an eye on the waiver wire toward the end of preseason, and won’t hesitate to sign an uninspiring backup type if they don’t love their current options after some time on the field. Simply put, there’s no certain outcome here, but Knappe is the guy most worth keeping an eye on for now.