The offseason is here for the Atlanta Falcons, and that means it’s time to go full-throttle into free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. With my colleagues taking the lead on the free agency front, I’m going to be focusing my efforts over the next few weeks on the draft. Atlanta secured the 8th overall pick for 2023, the second year in a row that the team will hold that selection.
The next event on the Draft Season calendar is the Reese’s Senior Bowl—a showcase of the top draft-eligible seniors (or players who graduated early) that takes place in Mobile right around the first week of February. To get everyone ready for the week to come, I’ll be breaking down the top players to watch for the Falcons and the league at large.
Next up in the positional previews is the interior offensive line, where the Falcons have arguably the best player in the NFL in right guard Chris Lindstrom but opportunities to upgrade at both left guard and center.
Interior offensive line
While the offensive tackle class is very good, the strongest position at the Senior Bowl might actually be the interior offensive line. Mobile has the top center prospect (John Michael Schmitz) and top guard prospects (Andrew Vorhees, Cody Mauch, O’Cyrus Torrence) in attendance, along with a number of the top Day 2 players. Here are some of my favorite guys.
O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
A massive riser after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette to Florida prior to the 2022 season, O’Cyrus Torrence has vaulted himself into the conversation as the best interior offensive lineman in the class. A massive road grader at guard, Torrence comes in at an imposing 6’5, 347. He’s an absolute mauler in the run game and Torrence is a dominant force at the point of attack. All his best traits stem from his size and power, including in pass protection. That being said, Torrence’s size limits his functional athleticism, and his aggressive nature often leads to lapses in technique. His testing at the Combine and week at the Senior Bowl will be significant in determining if he’ll be a fit in a zone-scheme attack like Atlanta’s.
John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
One of my favorite targets for the Falcons early on Day 2, the Senior Bowl is lucky to have the top center prospect in the class in Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz. Here’s how I described his game in my first mock draft:
A more perfect offensive line name does not exist. Schmitz is a dominating blocker with a ton of experience, including 23 starts at center. His run blocking is exceptional, with plus strength for power plays and sufficient athleticism for a zone scheme attack. His anchor and ability to identify and set protections make him a consistent and reliable pass protector, as well. Schmitz is a bigger center at 6’4, 320, which could also give him guard flexibility. The one concern here is a lack of high-end athleticism, though I believe he’s got more than enough to execute the concepts Atlanta likes to run.
Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
A former left tackle at North Dakota State, Cody Mauch is likely to transition inside to guard at the NFL level due to a lack of length. Nonetheless, Mauch is an impressive player with a good frame at 6’6, 300. There aren’t many flaws apparent in Mauch’s game. He’s an outstanding overall athlete with the skills and knowledge of positioning to excel in a zone blocking scheme. In pass protection, Mauch has a strong anchor, quick feet, and uses his hands well. His power at the point of attack doesn’t necessarily pop off the tape, and the transition to guard will bring some growing pains, but Mauch has the look of a high-end interior starter. If he excels on the inside at the Senior Bowl (it’s unclear if he’ll be playing tackle or guard), that could significantly help his draft stock.
Andrew Vorhees, USC
One of the top interior prospects who has experience at both guard spots and at tackle, USC’s Andrew Vorhees just looks like a plug-and-play starter at the NFL level. With a name like Vorhees, you have high expectations for physicality and aggressiveness—and he more than answers the call. Vorhees is without a doubt one of the best run blockers in the class, and he’s got the athleticism to succeed in a zone blocking scheme. His power extends to pass protection, where his strong hands and anchor make him difficult to move. There are some issues with leverage and against elite speed rushers, but honestly, it’s hard to find too much to complain about in Vorhees game. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him as one of the top guard targets for Atlanta in the second round.
Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan
If the Falcons miss out on John Michael Schmitz, there are a number of other good center prospects in this class. Olusegun Oluwatimi is high up the list as a four-year starter who’s played well at both Virginia and Michigan. Oluwatimi has a good frame for the position at 6’3, 310 and his athleticism immediately stands out. He’s got the movement skills to thrive in a zone blocking scheme like Atlanta’s, and combines that ability with highly developed hand technique. Oluwatimi is a technically-refined pass protector who has an advanced understanding of protection calls and has been a consistent and effective leader on the offensive line. He does have some issues with power rushers, and I think his overall strength at the point of attack is average at best. Still, Oluwatimi offers an enticing package of traits and would have his strengths maximized in the Falcons offense.
Other players to watch:
Wanya Morris, Oklahoma
Steve Avila, TCU
Emil Ekiyor Jr., Alabama
McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga
I hope you enjoyed this entry in our Senior Bowl 2023 preview series. I’ll be in Mobile to cover the Senior Bowl for The Falcoholic from Tuesday, January 31 through Thursday, February 2. Stay tuned for the first of our skill position previews on offense, starting with wide receiver and running back on Sunday.