The Falcons went with a pick that might’ve been considered a luxury on the first day of the draft. On the second day, they hit needs and priorities instead.
While Bijan Robinson is going to be a marvelous weapon for this Falcons offense, he still needs blockers to pave the way for him, and Atlanta’s hoping they got a good one in Syracuse tackle-turned-left-guard Matthew Bergeron. Even though the team added to their edge rusher group with Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, they scooped up Zach Harrison as a promising player who fits the size and strength profile defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is looking for.
The lines were, in fact, a priority.
Terry Fontenot begins the Falcons' post-draft press conference by saying "We really value the line of scrimmage, that's where games are won and lost." Both draft picks were in the trenches today.— Will McFadden (@willmcfadden) April 29, 2023
For Bergeron, the opportunity is an immediate one. The team confirmed Friday night what we all suspected, which is that Bergeron is going to move from his college tackle position to left guard in the pros. With uninspiring and unproven options competing with him, he’s the strong favorite for the starting job, and I’ve seen a lot of raving about his run blocking in particular. Arthur Smith compared Bergeron to a very good guard, which is encouraging.
Arthur Smith mentions Roger Saffold, who he has worked with before, as a player who swung inside from tackle to guard and has a similar body type to Matthew Bergeron.— Will McFadden (@willmcfadden) April 29, 2023
For Harrison, the chance to develop is there, making him the latest in a line of picks including Desmond Ridder and DeAngelo Malone who will spend their first year easing into the league (the team intended to do this with Jalen Mayfield until injury wrecked those plans). This is good news for Harrison, a player many draft analysts seem to agree has legitimate talent but hasn’t put been able to turn it into elite production, especially as a pass rusher. Ten or so snaps a game in the early going may give way to more if veterans get banged up or Harrison thrives early.
Arthur Smith says there's "not the pressure on him right away" about Zach Harrison. Given the moves Atlanta has made on the defensive line this offseason, it seems like he'll have the opportunity to grow in a smaller role and expand from there.— Will McFadden (@willmcfadden) April 29, 2023
In both cases, Atlanta has picked a player who could be a major factor in the trenches, which is a good thing for a team that has fallen down there far too often in recent year. At worst, Bergeron should be a useful rotational piece, but the fact that the team took him in the third round suggests they see more upside there for 2024 and beyond, when Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree are unlikely to still be with the team. Bergeron, meanwhile, fills the biggest hole on the roster by taking over at left guard, given that the Falcons had no surefire starter there under contract before the draft. There were likely other players you were clamoring for with both of those picks, but most Falcons fans have begged the team to get better along the offensive and defensive lines. If all goes well, they did with tonight’s selections.
What do you think of the Bergeron and Harrison picks?