When the Falcons let Alex Mack walk at the end of 2020, most everyone figured Matt Hennessy would take over as the starter in the middle. While that did ultimately happen, it was a little surprising that the team drafted a center for the second year in a row when they took Drew Dalman in the fourth round.
The scouting report on Dalman made it clear why the Falcons decided to draft at the position again: he’s an ideal fit for the zone blocking that Arthur Smith wants to reinstall in Atlanta. Let’s take a look at how he did in his rookie season.
5 games played
68 total snaps
4 pressures, 3 hurries, 1 hit, 0 sacks allowed
Rookie year highlights
Week 10 at Dallas - 86.6 overall PFF grade
Week 12 at Jacksonville - 20 snaps, 71.2 overall PFF grade
Obviously, the sample size for Dalman is incredibly small. His rookie year was never going to be a breakout season. On top of that, it’s clear Arthur Smith has a philosophy of sitting rookies as much as possible in their first year. Even still, he did get some snaps during the year and the results were...mixed.
Matt Hennessy had an erratic year as a first time starter. Given the coaching changes, scheme change and having a very bad rookie next to you at left guard, his struggles shouldn’t have been a surprise. Dalman was brought in to help push the 2021 starter in the middle of the season when the coaching staff alternated between Drew and Matt in the week 12 game at Jacksonville. Thankfully, that experiment didn’t last long and Dalman would only see 26 snaps in week 13 against Tampa Bay and one snap against the 49ers in week 15.
Against Jacksonville - using PFF metrics - he played well. He was average in pass blocking and good in run blocking, which was in line with his scouting reports. Facing stiffer competition against Tampa Bay, he was quite bad, though he still fared decently as a run blocker.
In reality, Dalman needed to sit this year and focus on bulking up. His few snaps in 2021 provided a brief glimpse into his potential as a run blocker, though he needs to be less of a liability in pass protection. For the limited snaps he did receive, he was mostly as advertised. He has some upside, but there’s a lot of work to be done before he can be a quality starter in the NFL. We’ll see if he gets there.