If you asked new Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom or tackle Kaleb McGary, they’d probably give Atlanta’s draft an A+ grade after being selected in the first round by Atlanta on Thursday night.
Of course, they’re biased. Both were selected higher than they were projected to go, which could skew analysts’ grades of the Falcons’ draft efforts so far. SB Nation’s draft guru, Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft, for example, gives the Falcons a B- for their selection of Lindstrom at No. 14, and trading back into the first round to take McGary earns the Falcons a C+.
Let’s dig in and see what the experts think about the Falcons’ picks on Day 1.
Danny Kelly, The Ringer
To be clear, Kelly doesn’t HATE the picks. He just doesn’t like the value for these two particular players.
On Lindstrom, Kelly says he is:
“... a great fit in Atlanta’s zone blocking scheme and is versatile enough to play all three interior spots, plus maybe even right tackle. This selection just feels really early, especially with linemen like Andre Dillard, Jawaan Taylor, Cody Ford, and Garrett Bradbury—all of whom I had ranked significantly higher—still available.” Still, Kelly thinks Lindstrom has the potential to contribute right away.
McGary earns a C+ also because of value. Kelly says:
The former Washington product is as tough as they come, with a well-proportioned frame and plenty of athleticism. The Senior Bowl standout is a nasty run blocker and mirrors well in pass protection on the edge. It’s a bit of a reach per my board (McGary ranked no. 57), so I don’t love the value when paired with the cost to trade up. But the Falcons’ offensive line just got better.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com
Falcons, Round 1: B+
Reuter is looking at the long term for Atlanta. In his words:
Lindstrom will be a decade-long starter in the interior for the Falcons. Surprisingly, GM Thomas Dimitroff did not manage to move up for a defensive tackle like Ed Oliver or Christian Wilkins to meet their top need. Lindstrom is a safe pick and an upgrade over the veteran free agents the team signed, but they could have used another difference-maker on defense. Then they picked McGary, who I figured Dimitroff was targeting in the top 45 to replace former starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder. They gave up a third-round pick (No. 79) and gained a sixth-round pick (No. 203) in this deal, which isn’t a terrible price to pay if McGary protects Matt Ryan as an immediate starter.
Andy Benoit, The MMQB
Chris Lindstrom: A-
Benoit points out that the acquisitions of Jamon Brown and James Carpenter in free agency make selecting Lindstrom so high a bit perplexing. But Lindstrom is a better scheme fit, which is key, and he likes the pick.
Lindstrom, on the other hand, is dripping with athleticism. He’s expected to be an excellent outside zone blocker, which suggests the Falcons will indeed remain an outside zone running team. Carpenter, though not suited for that system, at least survived in it for many years as a Seahawk. Brown also played in it as a Ram and could be moved to right tackle, a position he played effectively during the 2017 offseason in L.A. The Falcons, who entered this draft with few needs and a ready-to-win-now roster, upgraded at a critical position.
Kaleb McGary: B-
The Falcons took two first-round offensive linemen in one draft … and that’s after signing a pair of what looked like would-be starting guards in free agency. Assuming this is it for O-line investments, we now know where the Falcons stand (if not going into camp, then likely coming out of it): Chris Lindstrom will be the left guard and Kaleb McGary will be the right tackle, leaving Jamon Brown at right guard and James Carpenter in a somewhat expensive backup role. OK, it all makes sense now, though if you wanted to nitpick, you could say this is a lot put into one part of the roster, given that Atlanta’s four-man pass rush could use a bit of a boost.
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report
Chris Lindstrom: C-
Lindstrom is an athletic guard who excels on the move. He has the quickness to be an effective pass protector, and he competes past the whistle. He has some leverage and technique issues, including a tendency to lean too far forward, but they can be smoothed out.
The Falcons are getting someone who will compete with newcomers Jamon Brown and James Carpenter to immediately start and replace last year’s revolving door at guard.
That said, Lindstrom is far from the best player on the board, or even the best interior line prospect (hello, Cody Ford). This is a reach from a team with other needs, particularly on defense.
Kaleb McGary: C+
If you haven’t heard McGary’s story, you should read it. Sam Farmer of the LA Times covered it beautifully here. The Cliffs Notes version is a story of a family losing their farm to foreclosure, and while renovating McGary’s grandparents’ home to make it habitable for their family, a fire destroyed the home and one of the RV’s McGary’s family was living in during the renovation process. That’s a lot of adversity for a college kid to face. Tanier says:
Sometimes, both writers and NFL evaluators can get carried away with the “he’s overcome adversity” angle and overrate a player because of his personal history. But you know what? I want McGary on my team because of what he endured and how he came out of it with determination, grace and good humor. Plus, he’s 6’7”, 317 pounds, and can play.
In fact, I like McGary so much that I’ll go easy on the Falcons for trading up to select him when they have critical defensive needs that must be addressed and higher-upside line prospects are still on the board.
But not too easy.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Chris Lindstrom: B
Prisco likes the pick for what it means for Matt Ryan:
When Matt Ryan is not protected from the interior, he has real problems. They got a guy that’s going to be a fixture on the interior there for a long time. I think Lindstrom is a feisty guy. Good solid pick by the Falcons.
Kaleb McGary: C-
Prisco gets the pick was a position of need, but it’s not a sure thing McGary will be a starter.
They don’t have a long-term answer at right tackle. Maybe he goes in and plays right tackle next year. The Falcons said they’ve gotta get better on the offensive line. I like this move paired with Lindstrom earlier.
Staff, The Falcoholic
Did you really think we weren’t going to weigh in with some takes?
As you can see, of our five staffers who responded, most give Lindstrom a solid B. I gave this pick a C, and I was the only one. I did so because, although I like the player and his fit in Atlanta’s system, I question the wisdom of investing in two guards in free agency and giving Brandon Fusco guaranteed money if this was the planned direction. The cap situation is already awfully tight, and that’s a lot of money to have locked up in guards with other needs on the roster.
For McGary, our staff was a bit more split. Trading back into the first round to select a tackle — which is definitely a position of need after the departure of Ryan Schraeder — is understandable. Jettisoning every Day 2 pick to trade back up and select a tackle whose arms are short for his frame is eerily reminiscent of Sam Baker, and I don’t even really want to talk about that. I hope McGary far exceeds our expectations.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Grade the picks in our poll below.
Grade the Falcons’ selection of Chris Lindstrom at No. 14
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Grade the Falcons’ selection of Kaleb McGary at No. 31
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