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Pre-Draft position breakdown: Guard

With the draft fast approaching, it’s time to take one final look at the roster to determine the Falcons positional needs. Today we examine guard, where the team swung and missed in 2019. Is the need great enough for Atlanta to invest a Day 2 pick in 2020?

Atlanta Falcons v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

With the 2020 NFL Draft coming up quickly, it’s time to take one final look at the roster before the rookies arrive. The Falcons were fairly active in free agency, addressing some of their most pressing needs and creating some new ones. Over the next week or so, I’ll be taking a look at several of the positions on the roster to determine if the Falcons need to invest resources there in the draft.

Today, we’ll kick things off with guard, which should have been fixed in 2019 with the addition of two high-priced free agents and a first-round pick, but wasn’t. Is the position still a significant need in 2020? Let’s take a look.

Current Depth Chart

STARTERS

LG: Jamon Brown, James Carpenter, Matt Gono

RG: Chris Lindstrom

While right guard is totally settled with second-year player Chris Lindstrom, left guard is completely up-for-grabs. Last year, the position was manned by a hodgepodge of players including two highly priced free agents (Brown and Carpenter) and Wes Schweitzer. Brown and Carpenter both dealt with their own share of injuries, and both underwhelmed in a pretty big way as starters.

The pressure is on for one of these two players to seize control of the starting job. If not, both will be cut in 2021. My money is still on Jamon Brown, who is still pretty young and could have had some growing pains transitioning from the right to the left side. Carpenter is probably the more consistent pass protector, but he offers little to nothing in the run game. The dark horse is Matt Gono, who seems to be the favorite for the swing tackle role, but also could be in the mix to start if Brown and/or Carpenter falter.

DEPTH

John Wetzel
Justin McCray
Sean Harlow

The Falcons have solid veteran depth at the position, but none of these guys are players you’d be happy starting in an NFL game. John Wetzel offers some G/T flexibility and a ton of experience. Justin McCray also offers some of the same versatility. Sean Harlow is a fourth-round pick from 2017 who has been on and off the roster over the past several years. He’s never managed to make an impact in the preseason or regular season, and I expect he’s been brought back as a camp body in 2020.

Is there a draft need?

Left guard is still pretty unsettled as neither Brown or Carpenter inspire much confidence as a starter. You could certainly call left guard a draft need if the team was chasing a starter on Day 2. However, the amount of cap space spent on those two players combined with the Falcons lack of draft capital in 2020 makes spending a Day 2 pick on the position seem fairly unlikely.

The more reasonable offensive line pick, on the other hand, is a center (who could probably play guard in 2020). Atlanta has nobody behind Alex Mack on the depth chart at this point, and the veteran’s contract expires after this season. The Falcons would be wise to take a young, talented center to groom behind him in 2020. But with only six picks—and just three of those in the top-100—I’d expect the team’s other needs to supersede center and/or guard at this point. A trade-down that adds a Day 2 pick, however unlikely with Dimitroff’s history, would be the best way to address that need.

What are your thoughts on the guard position for the Falcons heading into the 2020 NFL Draft? Do you expect the team to add a guard at some point, or is a late free agent signing more likely?