We continue our post-draft 2018 roster preview today by taking a closer look at the center position. You know the Falcons have Alex Mack—who is great, by the way—but what about the depth behind him? I might have the answers for you below.
2017 Production: 16 games started
Arguably the best center in the league, the Falcons paid a sizable sum to acquire Alex Mack’s services prior to the 2016 season. Since then, Mack has been the best offensive lineman on Atlanta’s roster. He’s provided stability and strong veteran leadership to a line that has oscillated from pretty good to middling. Mack is among the league’s best for a reason—he’s adept at both run and pass blocking, and can excel in any blocking scheme. He’s under contract with the team until 2020, when he will be turning 34.
2017 Production: 16 games played, 3 games started (G)
The “swiss army knife of the trenches”, Ben Garland has been a versatile reserve for the Falcons on both the offensive and defensive lines. In 2017, Garland primarily functioned as the #2 center and the top back-up to both guard spots. He’s a solid player as a depth option, but Garland was exposed in the playoffs against top-tier defensive talent. As your primary back-up, though, you could do a lot worse than Garland. The Falcons placed a second-round RFA tender on Garland this offseason, and he will once again be an RFA in 2019.
2017 Production: 8 games played, 3 games started
The only true center that the Falcons brought in as a UDFA, J.C. Hassenauer was the primary reserve player on the interior of Alabama’s stacked offensive line. He started three games in 2017, including the National Championship, where he did not give up a single pressure or sack in 72 snaps. Hassenauer could be a diamond in the rough...or he could be just a camp body. We’ll know more in training camp and the preseason, but it’s clear that Hassenauer has some talent to work with—he was the #1 center coming out of high school in 2014 according to 247Sports and Scout.com.
The Falcons center group is going to be largely the same in 2018 compared to 2017. Alex Mack should provide elite center play that should make everyone around him better, and Ben Garland is a solid reserve option that can take snaps in a pinch. However, with Mack now 32 (and with only two years left on his deal), 2019 could be the ideal time for Atlanta to invest in a developmental center. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons prioritize a C/G hybrid player early in the 2019 draft that can play guard for a year or two, then take over for Mack after his deal expires.
What do you think about the Falcons’ depth chart at center? Any concerns about the state of the offensive line heading into training camp?