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OL targets for the Falcons in the 2021 NFL Draft

With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at some top targets for the Falcons at positions of need. Next up is OL, where Atlanta has a giant hole at left guard and very questionable depth on the interior.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Draft is fast approaching, which means it’s time to discuss some priority targets for the Falcons. Atlanta has been carefully adding veterans in free agency to bolster several major roster holes, but the team still has significant gaps in the roster. Up until the draft, I’ll be detailing some of my top prospects for the Falcons at several positions of need. If you missed any of the previous entries in the series, you can find them below:

EDGE | Safety | CB | RB | OL

Finally, we take a look at the offensive line—which for the Falcons is primarily focused on the interior. This is one of the thinnest units on the roster, with a giant hole at left guard and no depth behind 2020 third-rounder Matt Hennessy at center. While the team has three spots more or less locked down with Jake Matthews at LT, Chris Lindstrom at RG, and Kaleb McGary/Matt Gono at RT, the rest of the depth chart is a mess.

The Falcons will be adding an interior offensive lineman at some point in the 2021 NFL Draft—and I’d expect it to be earlier than later.

Athletic testing numbers are taken from Kent Le Platte’s Relative Athletic Scores. Be sure to check out his site and follow him on Twitter (@Mathbomb) for updates on athletic testing!

OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

Projection: Early 1st Round

The buzz on Penei Sewell to the Falcons at 4 has cooled off considerably as of late, with Kyle Pitts and QBs like Justin Fields and Trey Lance seemingly higher on Atlanta’s board. There’s still a decent chance that the team chooses Sewell at the top, however, and it’s easy to see why he might be enticing. Sewell has all the traits you look for in a potential franchise LT, and he’s incredibly young at this stage of his career: Sewell will be just 20 years old when the 2021 season kicks off.

Sewell is a very good athlete and pairs it with impressive size for the position at 6’4, 331. His power and nastiness at the point of attack are perhaps his best traits, as Sewell is capable of dominating opponents up front. As a pass protector, he plays with good balance and has a very strong anchor. It’s hard to pick holes in Sewell’s game, but as you might expect for such a young player, there are still some technical things to clean up—like some footwork issues in pass pro and being more consistent with his hand usage.

Sewell would be an interesting fit in Atlanta, as he’d likely be asked to play left guard in 2021. If improving the offensive line is Arthur Smith’s biggest priority, Sewell provides the highest upside of any prospect in the draft.

G/T Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

Projection: Mid 1st Round

It’s no secret that I love Alijah Vera-Tucker. If the Falcons were picking in the teens, he’d be one of the top players on my board. In my opinion, Vera-Tucker has an elite ceiling on the interior and could easily wind up the best overall offensive lineman in this class. At this point, however, the only way Atlanta is getting him is with a trade down. The door is still open for that to happen, but it seems less likely than other options at this point.

Here’s how I described Vera-Tucker in a previous mock draft.

Vera-Tucker spent the majority of his college career at left guard before transitioning to left tackle for 2020. He was capable in this role, but his best fit is still on the interior due to a lack of ideal length. Vera-Tucker is an excellent athlete who also brings size (6’4, 300) and strength. He’s a strong pass protector who can handle both speed and power, and is a nasty, determined run blocker. Vera-Tucker’s addition would give the Falcons a pair of outstanding young guards to surround second-year center Matt Hennessy. His versatility at tackle—if needed—is also a big boost to his value.

C/G Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

Projection: Late 1st-Early 2nd Round

Speaking of players I love, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey is one of my top picks for the Falcons at 35. It’s not quite as exciting as a dynamic RB like Travis Etienne, but Humphrey tested out as an elite athlete and has star potential on the interior. With the state of the offensive line going into the draft, I expect Atlanta to consider an interior OL very seriously on Day 2. If they elect to go the early route and Humphrey is still on the board at 35, I’d view this as a tremendous selection.

Here’s what I wrote about Humphrey’s skillset in my most recent mock draft.

Humphrey’s blend of size (6’4, 312), athleticism, power, and experience make him an ideal player for the Falcons to target. While he’s spent the vast majority of his career at center, Humphrey is more than capable of playing left guard in 2021 if Atlanta chooses to keep Hennessy at the pivot. I love Humphrey’s nastiness at the point of attack, and he’s one of the most technically sound offensive linemen in the class. This would be a slam-dunk selection at 35, as Humphrey would immediately address the biggest weakness on the offense and give Fields a young and very talented offensive line to grow with.

C/G Landon Dickerson, Alabama

Projection: 2nd Round

Another option at 35—or perhaps in the event of a 2nd round trade down, like what Eric Robinson did in his final mock draft—is Alabama’s Landon Dickerson. When he’s been on the field, Dickerson has been an elite interior offensive lineman. There are few holes in his game and he’s got the size and athleticism to succeed at both center and guard. The questions are with his health, and whether or not the Falcons will clear Dickerson medically. If the team is comfortable with him, then Dickerson makes a lot of sense to bolster the offensive line.

Here’s how I described Dickerson’s talents in a previous mock draft.

Dickerson has tremendous size (6’5, 333) and is a dominant blocker at the point of attack. He overwhelms opponents with strength and length, and if that should fail, he can lean on exceptional technique and hand usage. Dickerson is a natural leader with a nasty disposition on the line, and his versatility at center is another plus should Matt Hennessy struggle. The concerns with Dickerson are injury-related: he’s missed a ton of time over the past few seasons, with multiple ankle and knee issues. He’ll need to clear medical checks for Atlanta to consider him, but it’s rare to find an offensive lineman this talented on Day 2.

G Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

Projection: 2nd Round

Yet another 2nd round offensive line prospect for the Falcons, Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis is a bit of a puzzling evaluation. After a dominant 2019 where Davis looked like a potential top-20 pick, he struggled a bit in 2020. Davis was still good, but he wasn’t the transcendent talent he appeared to be earlier in his career. I think that potential is still there, and Davis certainly has traits worth taking on Day 2.

At 6’3, 315, Davis possesses good size for the interior. He didn’t test at his Pro Day, but he looks like a quality athlete on tape. Davis is currently a better run blocker than pass protector. He’s got great power at the point of attack and has a nasty, fiery demeanor. He needs to play with better balance and with more consistent hand usage to unlock what should be a high ceiling in pass pro, but he’s still solid in this area. Davis is a worthy second-round selection and would be a massive upgrade over what the Falcons have had at left guard.

C/G Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater

Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

If the Falcons are looking to take a swing on a high-risk, high-reward prospect later on Day 2, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz could make a lot of sense. A Division III player who has spent his entire career at left guard, Meinerz burst onto the scene with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl. At nearly 6’3, 320, Meinerz clearly has NFL size and wound up testing like an elite athlete with an impressive 1.73s 10-yard split and 7.54s 3-cone.

The best part of Meinerz’s game is his attitude, as he’s a tremendous competitor who is always looking to dominate the competition. His power as a run blocker is exceptional, as he frequently embarrassed the competition he faced in D3. Meinerz’s aggressiveness in both run blocking and pass protection can be a double-edged sword, as he is susceptible to getting off-balance and can lunge and miss with his hands. Technically, he’s also a bit of a mess, as he played in a unique scheme in college. Meinerz is more of a project than the other prospects on this list, but his ceiling is sky-high and could be worth the risk for the Falcons.

C/G Josh Myers, Ohio State

Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

While Meinerz offers an exciting ceiling as a potentially dominant guard but is a bit of a mess right now, Ohio State’s Josh Myers is perhaps the opposite. Myers is a two-year starter at center and brings excellent size to the position at 6’5, 310. That size gives him the versatility to play guard, as well, but he’s much more experienced at the pivot. Myers is experienced and technically sound in nearly all aspects of his game, making him an ideal rookie starter in the NFL.

I like a lot of things about Myers’ game. He’s competitive and smart, with the capability to be a leader on the offensive line. As an athlete, he’s got plenty of lateral quickness and can handle both inside and outside-zone concepts. In terms of strength, Myers is solid and has the ability to get push as a run blocker and hold his own in pass protection. However, he’s not elite in any one area and his best reps come as part of a double-team. He’s not going to be a liability, but I’m not sure he’s ever going to be a high-impact player either. The ceiling for Myers is probably an average NFL starter, but he’s ready to contribute right away—and that’s good value in the third round.

G Aaron Banks, Notre Dame

Projection: 3rd-4th Round

If the Falcons miss out on the earlier prospects and find themselves still needing an interior offensive lineman in the third round or perhaps even the fourth round, Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks could be a good fit. At 6’5, 325, Banks offers excellent size for the position and clearly has the build of an NFL guard. He’s powerful at the point of attack, with enticing upside as an impact run blocker and solid pass protector.

I like a lot about Banks’ game. He’s got a thick lower half and anchors very well in pass protection. Banks is very difficult to move off the line of scrimmage and plays with a mean streak in the run game. As a multi-year starter, he’s experienced in terms of technique and hand usage and has few problems there. The issues with Banks have to do with his athleticism: he’s merely average in this area, and that limits his effectiveness in space and outside zone concepts. This late in the draft, there are no perfect prospects. If the Falcons are looking to run more power and inside zone concepts under Arthur Smith, Banks’ athletic limitations might not be an issue.