On his way out of the door and into Cleveland, now former Pro Bowl Falcons tight end Austin Hooper delivered a message which should be music to the ears of all Falcons fans — he thinks Atlanta guard Chris Lindstrom will one day be the best offensive lineman in football.
One thing Austin Hooper told me on his way out: “I think Chris [Lindstrom] is going to be the best [offensive] lineman in the NFL, eventually. I really think he’s going to be that good.’’— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) March 18, 2020
Lindstrom was a surprise selection by the Falcons at number 14 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. After achieving First-Team All-ACC honors at Boston College, he was one of the best and most polished guards available in the draft. Many thought that he was a reach at 14, however — including Falcons fans at the team’s official draft party:
The Falcons pick at 14 of OG Chris Lindstrom wasn’t exactly what the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was looking for... pic.twitter.com/yygoGqwVV6— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) April 26, 2019
For this pick to end up working out Lindstrom will have to completely solve the right guard position for Atlanta and play it at a Pro Bowl level for a long period of time. Hooper thinks this will be the case and then some.
Lindstrom saw his Falcons career get off to a very unlucky start after he suffered a foot injury which landed him on Injured Reserve in the team’s opening day defeat at Minnesota. He returned in Week 14 and played out the last quarter of the season — the Falcons went 4-0 upon his return.
Right from his first snaps in the Hall of Fame game Lindstrom showcased a bit of nasty and a willingness to play right up to the whistle, something the Falcons offensive line had been lacking in recent years.
On this play, the Boston College alum contributes to a successful double team of his man and immediately looks for more contact after that assignment is complete, never showing contentment until the play was over.
While he was a rookie prone to a few mistakes here and there, Lindstrom carried himself with the poise of a steady veteran upon his return to the Falcons lineup:
RG Chris Lindstrom putting in good work on this pull to turn out the LB and open a nice gain for Devonta Freeman pic.twitter.com/UHErtJfIlU— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 15, 2019
As Matt Waldman breaks it down in this video, Lindstrom is the key figure in this play, springing Devonta Freeman with a wonderfully designed and executed pull block to the left side which created a hole for the running back to run through.
Lindstrom came back for his 3rd career start in Week 14 vs. CAR after returning from injury and rotated every other series. Then he played 100% of the snaps in Week 15 vs. SF. He was very impressive physically/mentally and does not look like a rookie at all. pic.twitter.com/1izDARJ8cQ— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 20, 2019
This video montage from the Scout Academy’s Brandon Thorn showcases why the Falcons were so eager to draft Lindstrom and why Hooper seems to be so excited about his potential development.
Lindstrom never had moments where he looked like a rookie for an extended period of time. He always played right to the whistle, was never afraid to go right at his assignment with incredibly polished technique, and he always remained engaged with his man (sometimes for seconds at a time) until that player was out of the play. He rarely ever seemed to get fooled, which is pretty amazing for a rookie lineman.
Lindstrom graded out as Atlanta’s third-best offensive lineman behind only Jake Matthews and Alex Mack according to PFF. He was third on the team in pass blocking grade, and second behind only Mack in run blocking. The interior of the offensive line seemed to stabilize with his presence upon his return.
When he gets another full offseason under his belt Chris Lindstrom figures to make a big step in year two of his NFL career. The Falcons may have found something special with the 14th overall pick last year, even if not many people seemed to think so at the time.