The Atlanta Falcons just pulled off another surprise, swapping their second and third round picks to the Rams for pick #31 and selecting Kaleb McGary. They also picked up a sixth rounder in the swap, not that you’re overly enthused about that.
The Washington tackle comes to the NFL is a strong, mobile and capable player, but many scouts think he’ll fit best at guard over the long haul. Given that the Falcons cannot have just signed two guards and then drafted two of them, though, I bet McGary is coming in to take over at right tackle, relegating Ty Sambrailo to swing tackle duty.
McGary was considered a potential first rounder, making this pick a bit less surprising than Lindstrom, but he was not the tackle I would’ve expected Atlanta to grab, especially with those concerns about his ability to handle speed off the edge and his medicals (heart arrythmia, which he reportedly has been cleared to play with). There’s little doubt he’s more talented than Sambrailo, though, and maybe just a smidge more doubt that he’ll be a real upgrade over him in 2019. Long-term, the Falcons have now secured two high-upside linemen who both will have fifth-year options, which is smart roster building if both of those guys work out.
I’m less certain McGary will than Lindstrom, and I’m very wary that the Falcons have forced themselves go get a tackle after the huge run on them late in the first round. I don’t know the team’s board, so the hope here has to be that McGary was their guy all along and this isn’t Sam Baker 2.0. If he is and those concerns about his footwork and lateral agility prove to be overblown, McGary will be a long-term starter at right tackle, and the Falcons will suddenly be stocked with above average-to-great tackles and at least one guard. We have to take several leaps in time and leaps of faith to get there, though, so for now let’s just settle with “McGary is supposed to be good.”
Regardless, this has been a bizarre night for the Falcons, who now have zero day two picks and won’t, barring a move back up into the third round, get to touch their defense until the draft’s third day. We knew that the offensive line was a big-time priority as Matt Ryan gets older, especially after a pretty mediocre year in 2018, but this is a team without a single proven, elite pass rusher, with some of its core stars coming back off of injury, and potentially gaping holes in 2020 when the likes of Vic Beasley, Jack Crawford, Adrian Clayborn, Tyeler Davison, and De’Vondre Campbell hit free agency.
They are putting all their eggs into the “we got hurt and Dan Quinn is a better coach basket,” and counting on what admittedly should be one of the league’s elite offenses to make up any deficiencies there. To say that’s risky given how lethargic the defense was a year ago would be underselling things, and I say that as someone who genuinely appreciates how much star power the team has assembled on that side of the ball.
This all had better work.