The Falcons made Matt Hennessy their third round pick for any number of reasons, but the #1 is that he is very obviously the long-term replacement for Alex Mack. The stellar veteran is a potential Hall of Famer and has been nothing short of great for Atlanta since joining the team in 2016, but this is the final year of his deal and his play has been slowly but steadily slipping over the last couple of seasons. As much as it pains me to say it, he won’t be back in 2021.
That’s a full year away, however, which raises the important question of where Hennessy is going to play this year. A.J. Terrell and Marlon Davison are slam dunk starters—Terrell will be the #1 or #2 cornerback and Davidson will soak up a ton of snap on the defensive line, even if he’s not a starter in name—but Hennessy’s path to a job is a little less clear.
It won’t be a center, more than likely, because the Falcons cutting Mack at this point wouldn’t make a ton of sense. With Chris Lindstrom locked in at right guard, that means Hennessy’s only real shot at a starting job is at left guard, where he’ll be competing with James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, Justin McCray, Matt Gono, and Sean Harlow. I expect the addition of Hennessy to push Harlow off the roster entirely, potentially spark a Gono move back to tackle (where I think he should nail down the swing tackle job), and potentially push one of Carpenter or Brown off the roster as well. Remember, the Falcons already have Jake Matthews, Mack, Lindstrom, and Kaleb McGary, so with Hennessy’s addition there are likely only 3-4 spots up for grabs.
Can Hennessy win the left guard job? While it’s way too early to say, I do think he’ll be given every opportunity to do so. His competition is not exactly stellar there, with McCray looking like a better run blocker than anything else, Carpenter coming off an abysmal year, and Brown falling out of favor with the coaching staff in 2019. It’s fair to say that if he impresses early he probably has a leg up on that group, especially because the only contract that’s effectively impossible to move on from this year is Brown’s.
When 2021 rolls around, though, the center job will be Hennessy’s to lose. Even if he winds up parked on the bench in 2020, that makes this a nice selection, assuming he’s as good as he’s billed to be.