Days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, it was impossible to figure out who the Falcons were going to take with their first pick. Rumors were being tossed around everyday, mostly about the Falcons trading up for Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, or Greg Robinson. Others had the Falcons trading down and grabbing a safety. My least favorite of them all had to be the Falcons favoring Taylor Lewan over Jake Matthews. When the dust settled, the Falcons ended up holding their ground at number six and happily selected the player they truly wanted all along: Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews.
Since the conclusion of the draft, we’ve gotten an early look at how these top prospects are faring with their new teams. Did the Falcons make the right move by standing pat and drafting Matthews? Let’s check in on the other top players considered by the Falcons and see.
Drafted 11th overall by the Titans, Lewan looks like he’ll be riding the pine for much of his rookie year. Tennessee already has the talented Michael Roos at left tackle, and they just inked Michael Oher to a four-year deal to start on the right side. More than likely, Lewan will step in for Roos when he retires. Lacking experience on the right side, Lewan isn’t having an easy time adjusting to the mental aspect in his effort to become a more versatile tackle. Barring an injury, it looks as if Lewan will be groomed for the future while learning the ropes in 2014 — not exactly what the Falcons would’ve needed this season.
Mack was about as clean of a prospect you could imagine entering the draft. A personal favorite of mine, Mack’s elite athleticism and relentless motor would have been a perfect addition to the Falcons’ new 3-4 base defense. If there was a knock on Mack, it was that he came from a small school in Buffalo and rarely played against NFL talent. Mack ended up going to the Oakland Raiders the pick before the Falcons’ selection, and as expected, his head has been spinning while trying to learn the playbook and nuances of an NFL defense. If Mack can’t wrap his brain around the complexities of NFL schemes, he’ll never reach his full potential and could wind up being the next big bust in Raiders’ history.
About as raw of a tackle prospect you could imagine, Robinson’s transition to the NFL hasn’t been a smooth one. Robinson would’ve been a huge boost to the Falcons’ anemic rushing attack, but the Rams selected him with the second-overall pick and immediately moved him to guard. Why? Because Robinson should have no problem dominating in the run game as a rookie, but he needs serious work on his pass protection before being allowed to play offensive tackle. Robinson’s potential is out of this world, but he’s been frustrated by the early difficulties he’s faced in the NFL. The new playbook, speed of the NFL, and position change have Robinson stuck in the common “paralysis by analysis” that many rookies face. Once he gets comfortable, Robinson should develop into a very good starter. If he doesn’t, the Rams may have just drafted the second coming of Jason Smith.