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Falcons draft prospect watch: Interior offensive line

The Falcons continued their tumble down the draft board after a narrow loss to the Chargers in Week 14. We continue our look at potential fits for Atlanta in the 2021 NFL Draft by taking a look at interior offensive line, where the team may need to replace multiple starters.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Falcons have continued their tumble down the NFL draft order after dropping a close game to the Chargers in Week 14—the last opponent they’re likely to be favored against over the remainder of the year. Now at 4-9, Atlanta has moved up to 7th overall and could potentially climb higher depending on their performance over the final 3 games of the 2020 NFL season. The team has also been officially eliminated from playoff contention, which means the time is now to start looking ahead to the 2021 offseason.

We’ve already covered some top prospects for the Falcons at EDGE, CB, safety, QB, and RB. Let’s continue our look at the offense with the interior offensive line, where Atlanta could be losing multiple starters in 2021. C Alex Mack could be considering retirement—or simply might not be re-signed—and LG James Carpenter is a potential cap casualty.

Here are some of the top interior OL prospects to keep an eye on for the Falcons in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

If the Falcons are looking for a massive upgrade at guard, Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis is by far the most impressive prospect in the 2021 class. Davis has tremendous size at 6’4, 310 and pairs it with quality athleticism for the position. He’s quick, strong, and good with his hands. Davis has been a dominant force as a run blocker, capable of imposing his will with a combination of technique and power. In pass protection, he has an excellent anchor and is rarely beaten off the snap with speed or power.

Davis has exceptional football IQ, and it shows with his play. He’s an expert at diagnosing and picking up stunts, twists, and blitzes. Technique wise, I’ve had a hard time finding much to criticize. Davis is a high-end, scheme versatile prospect who will improve any offense. The main barrier to getting him in Atlanta will be how highly you value the position. Unless the Falcons trade down from the top-10 into the mid-to-late teens, Davis is probably not going to wind up here.

Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

One of the top interior prospects from the 2020 class who elected to return to school, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey was an intriguing target for the Falcons last year as perhaps the top center in college football. He’s been having another strong season and likely takes up that mantle again, though Atlanta would probably be looking at Humphrey more as a guard—or considering moving Matt Hennessy.

At 6’5, 316, Humphrey has exceptional size for a center. He’s a great athlete and is capable of hitting second-level blocks with ease and pairs that with the strength to bully defenders as a run blocker. Humphrey has a strong anchor and uses his hands very well in pass protection, controlling rushers of all shapes and sizes with ease. His best trait might be his leadership, as Humphrey has helmed the Oklahoma line for years with great success. The big question for Atlanta will be: where do you play him? For the likely late-1st/early-2nd rounder it would cost to acquire him, you’d probably prefer to keep him at his natural position.

Josh Myers, Ohio State

Another center prospect that the Falcons might want to consider on Day 2, Ohio State’s Josh Myers has been having a great 2020 season that has really elevated his stock. Like Humphrey, Myers has a terrific build at 6’5, 312—that’s enough size to thrive at any position on the interior OL. Myers is a very good athlete who checks all the boxes for a zone scheme attack—he can pull, hit second-level blocks, and easily maneuver and redirect blockers.

Strength-wise, Myers also looks the part. I was impressed with his ability to anchor 1-on-1 against NTs, and he’s capable of overpowering defenders in the run game. Myers handles the protection calls for Ohio State and clearly has a leadership role on an offensive line absolutely stacked with NFL talent. The same questions apply here as to Humphrey: do you keep Myers at center and move Hennessy, or transition Myers to guard? I’m not sure, but nothing from his tape makes me think Myers will have any issues with that sort of move.

Trey Smith, Tennessee

A bit of a polarizing prospect, Tennessee’s Trey Smith is an absolute mountain of a man at 6’6, 325. Unlike the other prospects on this list, Smith is more scheme-specific and likely needs to go to a power offense to thrive. However, if the Falcons pursue a head coach like Arthur Smith, that scheme change could come to fruition.

Smith, as you might expect from his size, is downright dominant at the point of attack and overwhelms defenders with his strength. He’s a nasty blocker who loves to pancake opponents and remind them of it afterwards. Smith has a fantastic anchor and has some impressive reps in pass protection—if he gets his hands on a defender, it’s over. Athletically, Smith is fairly limited, and he has some medical concerns to consider (blood clots in 2018)—although he has managed to stay healthy over the past two seasons. Smith could be a drastic upgrade for the Falcons on Day 2 if they transition to a more power-scheme rushing attack, and if the team is comfortable with his medical evaluation.

What are your thoughts on the Falcons targeting the interior offensive line early in the 2021 NFL Draft? How would you prioritize the position: would you consider it in Round 1, or would it be more of a Day 2 or later need?