Early Bird Report: Changes up front could spark Falcons' revival

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the possibility that the draft sparks a Falcons resurgence as well as a new post-draft power ranking.

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After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015, the Falcons are hoping to make a return trip in 2019. It appears they believe the key to doing that centers around protecting quarterback Matt Ryan and stronger production on the ground.

At least, that’s the message the team sent in last weekend’s draft, when the Falcons selected two offensive linemen in the first round. Atlanta is hoping the addition of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary will add both athleticism as well as grit and toughness up front on the offensive line.

“Make no mistake about it: We knew what we needed to do this offseason and that was to continue to fortify that line and make sure that we were protecting Matt,” Dimitroff told reporters after the draft. “And we weren't going to run into what we ran into last year.”

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure wrote at length about how an upgraded offensive line could spark a Falcons resurgence, which you can read here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

NFL.com: Post-draft power rankings

How did the NFL Draft affect the national perception of the league hierarchy? NFL.com released a new version of post-draft power rankings to reflect the changes to each team in the draft. The Falcons, despite doubling down on arguably their biggest need, dropped one spot from No. 16 in the post-free agency power rankings to No. 17.

“Mixed reviews on the Falcons' draft decisions, as not everyone was in like with the selection of Christopher Lindstrom at 14th overall,” NFL.com’s Elliott Harrison writes. “My colleague -- and the ultimate draftnik -- Lance Zierlein felt the former Boston College guard was a second-rounder. The Falcons then selected offensive tackle Kaleb McGary 31st overall, which should provide some oomph in the ground game. Atlanta has now retooled the O-line so completely that every projected starter up front is a former first-round pick. Wow. That's never happened before in the common-draft era, in case you were wondering (hat tip to Adam Schefter). You weren't? Cool.”

To see the rest of NFL.com’s post-draft power rankings, click here.

ESPN: Biggest question for each team following the draft

The 2019 NFL Draft has officially wrapped, and the Falcons added a number of players at positions of need. But what remains the biggest question facing the team moving forward?

In a piece covering the top remaining question for each NFL team following the draft, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure wonders if the Falcons are really set at right tackle.

“Sure, they traded up back into the end of the first round to take Kaleb McGary out of Washington, but coaches and scouts around the league believe McGary is "raw" and incapable of handling top pass-rushers right now,” McClure writes. “The Falcons signed Ty Sambrailo to a three-year extension after he replaced the released Ryan Schraeder at right tackle, but Sambrailo is viewed around the league as more of a backup. Stay tuned.”

To see what the biggest remaining question is for other NFL teams, click here.

ESPN: McShay’s best value picks for each NFL team

The Falcons drafted seven players in the NFL draft, but which did ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay deem the best pick. McShay makes sure to discern that best pick doesn’t necessarily mean the best player but rather the combination of team needs and value at the time of the selection.

McShay tabbed the Falcons’ best value pick as their first pick of the NFL Draft, guard Chris Lindstrom.

“The Boston College product turned heads with his 4.91 40-yard dash at the combine, and once you add in his length, you can see why he excels in pushing speed rushers past the pocket,” McShay writes. “He has very good lateral mobility as well, and he is very good when blocking at the second level (Atlanta's run game was 27th in rushing yards in 2018). Combined with the team's pick of Kaleb McGary at No. 31, the Falcons did a nice job targeting a need.”

To read McShay’s top value picks for every other NFL team, click here.

CBSSports.com: Assigning Marvel Endgame heroes to NFL QBs

This past weekend, Marvel’s “Avengers Endgame” was released in theaters and smashed box office records for biggest opening weekend. To celebrate the worldwide phenomenon, CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin paired each of the NFL’s 32 starting quarterbacks with a character from Endgame. For Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Benjamin assigned female superspy Black Widow.

“Ryan isn't the biggest QB. In fact, he's pretty slender by NFL standards,” Benjamin writes. “He's also worked for a lot of different people, changing offensive coordinators five times in 10 seasons. And while he's not consistently ranked among the game's best, he's proven to be deadly when surrounded by the right weapons, like Julio Jones. In the same vein, Natasha Romanoff certainly isn't the scariest when it comes to size, but she's endured career fluctuation as a former spy and is incredibly opportunistic in combat.”

To see which Avengers Benjamin paired with other NFL quarterbacks, click here.

NFL.com: Ranking all 32 NFL general managers

During Thomas Dimitroff’s run as general manager, the Falcons have experience greater success than at any other time in franchise history. He’s responsible for drafting Atlanta greats such as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and he’s had big free agent signings with Tony Gonzalez and Alex Mack.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal ranked every general manager in the league, and he views Dimitroff among the elite. Dimitroff is fifth on Rosenthal’s list, ahead of other notable general managers such as Seattle’s John Schneider and Los Angeles’ Les Snead.

“The 2018 season went horribly awry in a number of ways for Dimitroff, but this rank attempts to take the longview, like general managers do,” Rosenthal writes. “Dimitroff's track record with two different head coaches is impressive, although it's fair to question whether the Falcons have rewarded some of the wrong players lately. Devonta Freeman's post-contract injuries are mostly bad luck, but cornerback Robert Alford's extension proved premature and the organization's continued loyalty to Vic Beasley hasn't borne fruit. Still, there's too much talent on this roster to stay down for long.”

To see the rest of Rosenthal’s rankings, click here.

NFL.com: Ranking every QB draft class of the Millenium

The Falcons have drafted a quarterback in the first round only twice over the past two decades, but both Michael Vick and Matt Ryan became franchise-altering players.

It’s rarely ever so easy for NFL teams to draft a quarterback, the position that has become the defining one in the league. Some quarterback draft classes offer very little, while others are ripe with talent. One year may be loaded with top-tier talent, and another filled with quality depth.

No two quarterback classes are made the same, and with the NFL Draft just days away, NFL.com’s Marc Sessler ranked every single draft class since 2000. The Falcons are represented well on the list. Ryan’s 2008 class is ranked sixth, while Vick’s 2001 class is ranked fourth.

“Both Michael Vick and Drew Brees changed perceptions of how the position could -- and should -- be played,” Sessler writes of the 2001 class. “Vick's rare scampering ability and off-the-charts athleticism refocused the league on the potential of running quarterbacks. It's impossible not to wonder how Vick's career would've progressed without his dog-fighting scandal and subsequent prison stint -- though he did make one more Pro Bowl with Philly in 2010. Brees, meanwhile, serves as a constant reminder that shorter quarterbacks aren't always a minus. In his case, Brees has operated as a top-three superstar ever since he landed with the Saints in 2006, winning a storybook Super Bowl for New Orleans and making that offense a treat to watch every fall. He's an easy Hall of Fame selection and an icon under center.”

To see the rest of Sessler’s rankings and what else he had to say about each respective class, click here.

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