We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After taking stock of WR, we now turn our attention to the offensive line. The Falcons have had a lot of turnover up front over the past several years with the addition of four new linemen in 2019: first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, and veteran free agents Jamon Brown and James Carpenter. Meanwhile, All Pro center Alex Mack is nearing retirement, leaving only LT Jake Matthews as a long-term certainty along the OL.
Today we take a closer look at second-year player Kaleb McGary, who will look to improve upon an up-and-down rookie season at RT in 2020.
RT Kaleb McGary
Contract: $2.33M cap hit in 2020, rookie contract through 2022 ($2.56M APY), possible fifth-year option in 2023
Career Production: 16 games played, 16 games started | 53.0 overall PFF grade | 6 false starts | 13.0 sacks allowed | 1 fumble recovery
2019 Production: Same as above
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (#31 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2019-present)
If the Falcons’ pick of Chris Lindstrom at 14 in the 2019 NFL Draft was surprising, the trade-up for Kaleb McGary at the back-end of the first round was shocking. Not necessarily because of the position—OT was considered a primary need and a favorite for one of Atlanta’s top picks—but because of the trade and the player. Put simply, McGary wasn’t really considered a first-rounder by most draft analysts—myself included—and the trade-up for him was puzzling based on who was on the board at the time. My personal choice at 14, Florida OT Jawaan Taylor, was still on the board at 31.
The trade-up for an OT might have been prescient, however, as 4 tackles were taken before Atlanta would have picked in the second round. While McGary’s tape was a bit of a difficult evaluation—he has a non-traditional, ultra-aggressive pass-blocking style, among other things—his athletic testing and size certainly supported his early selection. McGary is an absolute mountain of a man at 6’7, 317, and he combines that size with standout athleticism. He’s explosive, fast, and has exceptional agility for an OT. His one weakness is a lack of ideal length—despite his height, his arms are quite short at under 33”.
McGary’s on-field demeanor and attitude immediately stand out. It’s obvious why Dan Quinn would value him highly, as he’s a tremendous competitor with a nasty mean streak. McGary is all about physically dominating his opponent and his ultra-aggressive style complements this. That style also lends itself to mistakes, particularly against savvy opponents as we saw in 2019. McGary had flashes of strong play and a few excellent games—his shutdown of Cam Jordan in New Orleans immediately comes to mind—but his overall performance in his rookie season was inconsistent at best.
McGary allowed 13.0 sacks, committed 6 false starts, and posted a below-average 53.0 PFF grade in 2019. Those numbers absolutely cannot continue if the Falcons hope to improve their offensive line in 2020. However, it’s important to note that McGary missed most of training camp and preseason in 2019 with a heart condition. With a full offseason under his belt and a year of starting NFL experience, we should be hopeful that McGary can improve in his second season in Atlanta.
Projection: Kaleb McGary will be a key player to watch in 2020, as his play will likely determine whether or not the Falcons will have an improved OL this season. I expect McGary to improve in his second year, particularly as the season goes on. By the end of the season, I believe we’ll view McGary as an average NFL starter with the potential to continue improving in the future.