The NFL Combine is fast approaching. In less than a week, the first groups of players will begin arriving in Indianapolis to begin their interviews, weigh-ins, and medical check-ups. We won’t get our first glimpse of on-field work until Friday, March 2, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start doing a little advance scouting to get a better grasp on this year’s class.
We begin with the offensive line: a position group that the Falcons are very interested in, particularly in the early-to-mid rounds of the draft. Atlanta may be in the market for a starting guard, and is almost certainly interested in adding depth behind All-Pro C Alex Mack. Here are some of the most intriguing OL prospects that will be attending the Combine next week.
BRIAN ALLEN, C, Notre Dame
The 6’1, 300 pound Allen was a multi-year starter at center for Notre Dame. He’s a powerful player with a competitive and nasty streak that could be a very good run blocker. However, Allen appears to be fairly limited athletically, and his lack of ideal size could force him to play center at the NFL level.
JAMES DANIELS, C, Iowa
Daniels is a phenomenal athlete at the center position who started every game over the last two seasons at Iowa. At 6’4, 295 he’s a little on the lighter side—but for a zone-blocking scheme, he should be just fine. He’s played guard in the past and should be able to transition back there without too much trouble, but there are questions about how well he can hold up against NFL size and strength.
BILLY PRICE, C, Ohio State
A player that I am currently in the process of scouting, Price looks the part of a high-level NFL starter at either G or C. He’s got great short-area quickness and can straight-up bully defensive linemen at times. Price will need to improve his discipline and hand usage, but he would be a great fit in Atlanta and could potentially start Day 1. His stock is on the rise, however, and a good Combine performance will likely solidify him as a first round pick.
FRANK RAGNOW, C, Arkansas
Ragnow is a popular name among Falcons fans, and for good reason. He’s an impressive run blocker with great size at 6’5, 309. The biggest question surrounding Ragnow is whether or not he is athletic enough to play in a zone-blocking scheme—which, in case you aren’t aware, the Falcons utilize. Assuming he performs well enough at the Combine, Ragnow could be a target on Day 2 should the Falcons go elsewhere with their first round selection.
WILL HERNANDEZ, G, UTEP
Those of you that are clamoring for the Falcons to get bigger at the guard position have met your perfect match in UTEP’s Will Hernandez. The 6’2, 348 lb behemoth is actually a pretty good athlete for his size—which is important in the zone blocking scheme. Questions about his discipline and lack of desired length may push him into the second round, but Hernandez has the makings of a very good NFL starter.
QUENTON NELSON, G, Notre Dame
One of the best interior offensive linemen that I’ve ever scouted, Quenton Nelson is the full package. Prototypical size at 6’5, 329—and he carries it extremely well. Phenomenal run blocker and good pass protector with well-developed technique. Athletic enough to make all the blocks in space. Nelson is, quite frankly, fantastic—but there’s virtually no chance he falls out of the top-15. Still, keep an eye on him just in case.
BRADEN SMITH, G, Auburn
Another name I’ve seen floated around in mock drafts, Braden Smith is an interesting interior offensive line prospect. He’s got great size at 6’6, 303, but has some concerns about his athletic ability—which matter more to a zone-scheme team like Atlanta. Smith has been a little inconsistent, but has looked like a top-tier run blocker at times in his career. There’s a lot of variability in his stock right now, which the Combine should help solidify.
ISAIAH WYNN, G, Georgia
A player I’ve already scouted for The Falcoholic, Isaiah Wynn is one of my top choices for the Falcons if they stay at 26. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with athleticism and nastiness. Wynn is a well-rounded player that should come in and provide a dominant presence in the run game while being an above-average pass protector. His athletic testing at the Combine will likely cement his status as one of the top interior linemen in the draft.
CONNOR WILLIAMS, T, Texas
The Falcons aren’t really in the market for an early-round tackle, but I’ve occasionally seen whispers of teams believing that Williams’ best fit is actually at guard. At 6’6, 320 he’s got plenty of size for the interior but simply lacks the arm length that NFL teams desire on the outside. Williams looked like an elite prospect in 2016, but his game regressed a bit in 2017 and he was injured for much of the season. That could cause Williams to fall a bit, which could lead to a team like Atlanta scooping him up to play on the interior.
Who are some of your top OL prospects heading into the NFL Combine? Are you in favor of the Falcons drafting a guard in round 1, or would you prefer they looked to address the position later in the draft?