Early Bird Report: Chris Lindstrom and the Falcons among the draft's top player-team fits

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes why Chris Lindstrom landing in Atlanta is among the best fits between a player and a team.

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With their first pick of this year’s NFL Draft – No. 14 overall – the Falcons believe they got a player who can really improve their team in Lindstrom. Given recent reports that Lindstrom would have been taken by the Minnesota Vikings at No. 18, it’s hard to consider the pick a reach anymore.

The value discussion should be tabled at this point, anyway. If Lindstrom turns out to be a solid, reliable offensive lineman for the next decade it won’t matter when he was selected. And one thing is clear: He is a really solid fit for what the Falcons do offensively.

The Ringer’s resident draft expert Danny Kelly agrees, including Lindstrom in his recent piece about the best player-team fits from this year’s draft.

“I didn’t love the overall value the Falcons got with Lindstrom, as using the 14th overall pick on my 44th-ranked player felt a little bit rich,” Kelly writes. “But there’s no denying his near-perfect fit for the Falcons’ outside zone–heavy run game: Lindstrom is one of the premier athletes at the guard spot in this class—he tested out in the 96th percentile in SPARQ among NFL offensive linemen at the combine—and his quick feet and ability to keep his balance will be crucial for the types of blocks he’s asked to make in Atlanta. This wasn’t a super sexy pick, but Lindstrom brings toughness, reliability, versatility, and most importantly, elite athleticism to the team’s offensive line.”

To see the rest of Kelly’s best team fits from the draft, click here.

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

NFL.com: NFL’s top 10 offenses entering the season

For much of Matt Ryan’s tenure as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, Atlanta has been one of the top offensive teams in the league. Entering the 2019 season, that again appears to be the case.

Most of Atlanta’s key offensive pieces, including Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Jake Matthews are back in the fold for the upcoming season and that continuity should once again be worth trusting in. NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling trusts in the Falcons’ offense, and he named them the fourth-best offense in the NFL heading into the 2019 season.

He breaks down and assigns a grade to each position group on the Falcons’ offense, and Atlanta’s receiving corps leads the way, earning an A entering the fall.

“Ridley was an instant-impact player, recording 821 yards and 10 touchdowns on 64 receptions as a rookie,” Wesseling writes of the Falcons’ receivers. “If he takes another leap in his second season, Ryan might have the luxury of throwing to the NFC's most unstoppable receiving corps. Sanu has been a model of reliability since leaving Cincinnati, while Hooper emerged as a dangerous outlet receiver in his third season.”

To see the rest of the grades Wesseling assigned to the Falcons’ offense, as well as the rest of his top 10, click here.

ESPN: 2019 NFL power rankings

Draft season is complete, as is the bulk of free agency, so we’ve got our clearest picture of what NFL teams will look like heading into the 2019 season to date. Under that frame of thinking, ESPN has released an updated set of power rankings that includes projected wins for each team as well as playoff chances.

ESPN is using its Football Power Index ratings to determine these power rankings, which is a metric that combines predicted efficiency for each phase of the game as well as other analytics such as expected points added per play. It might sound confusing, but that’s fine. You’re really just here to see where they ranked the Falcons, aren’t you?

Well, ESPN ranks the Falcons ninth in their recent power rankings, and Atlanta is the fourth-highest NFC team on this list below the Saints, Rams and Bears. The Falcons are projected for 8.4 wins and have a 41.8 percent chance to make the postseason. Beat writer Vaughn McClure provided his thoughts on where the team improved the most this offseason.

“Offensive line. The Falcons really invested in the line both through the draft and via free agency,” McClure writes. “They drafted Chris Lindstrom No. 14 overall as a guard with toughness, then followed by trading back into the end of the first round to select tackle Kaleb McGary. The Falcons also signed a dependable veteran guard in James Carpenter along with guard Jamon Brown. Lindstrom and Carpenter should start at the guard spots, and McGary has the opportunity to start at right tackle if he outperforms Ty Sambrailo.”

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

NFL.com: Projected 2019 All-Rookie NFL Team

For the first time since 2008, when Atlanta selected both Matt Ryan and Sam Baker in the first round, the Falcons made two first-round picks in the NFL Draft. By drafting Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, the Falcons are hoping to sure up their offensive line for years to come.

NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter believes Lindstrom and McGary could make an early impact for Atlanta as well. In a recent piece in which Reuter projects his 2019 NFL All-Rookie Team, both Lindstrom and McGary were listed for the offense.

“McGary and Lindstrom will work together to solidify Atlanta's offensive line, much in the same way (Quenton) Nelson and second-round pick Braden Smith did for the Colts in 2018,” Reuter writes.

If that does indeed turn out to be the case for the Falcons’ two first-round rookies, Atlanta’s offense could once again become a dominant unit in the NFL. Despite averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground in 2018, the Falcons still had a top-10 total and scoring offense. Even a small boost on the offensive line could make them even more dangerous.

To see the rest of Reuter’s projected All-Rookie team, click here.

ESPN: Biggest roster hole for all 32 NFL teams

The Falcons selected two cornerbacks in this year’s NFL Draft – Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller – yet ESPN still believes the position is Atlanta’s biggest remaining hole.

In a recent piece detailing the top remaining need for each NFL team, ESPN’s Andrew Potter provided his thoughts for the NFC South and why cornerback is Atlanta’s most glaring need at this point.

“The Falcons came into the offseason with two major goals: plug glaring holes in the defensive front seven and rebuild their offensive line,” Potter writes. “Veteran free agent Tyeler Davison and the returning Adrian Clayborn help immensely with the first of those, whereas the team spent massive amounts of draft capital on the second. That leaves cornerback as the most obvious area of uncertainty: Isaiah Oliver made only two starts in his rookie season but is now first in line to start opposite Desmond Trufant. The vital nickelback spot is a contest between a recently converted safety (Damontae Kazee), a career backup with one start in three years (Blidi Wreh-Wilson), and two developmental late-round rookies in Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller. Even if one of those players develops quickly into a worthy starter, depth in the secondary remains a clear issue. Atlanta only needs to look back a single season to see just how important that can be.”

Atlanta took steps to add to their depth in the secondary in the draft, but the Falcons are relying on a lot of youth at the position. Still, Kazee is an example of how things can break the right way with young players, but there is still risk involved.

To see the see the top remaining need for every other NFL team, click here.

CBS Sports: Ranking all 40 trades in the NFL Draft

The Falcons made three trades in this year’s NFL Draft, each one to move up in the draft order. But how do those three trades stack up compared to all of the other trades made during draft weekend? CBS Sports’ R.J. White ranked all 40 of the trades made in the draft, and the Falcons fared pretty well overall. In White’s opinion, Atlanta had the 32nd-, 26th- and ninth-best trades in the draft.

The lowest rated trade was the Falcons’ decision to move up in the fourth round to grab Kendall Sheffield, the 26th-rated trade was Atlanta move to grab John Cominsky and the team’s best trade was the move back into the first round to draft Kaleb McGary.

“While Kaleb McGary wasn't as big of a steal as the three players we just mentioned, the Falcons got him for a steal rather than overpaying in the deal, and that's before you factor in landing the fifth-year option,” White writes. “It would have been better if an impact defensive lineman had been there to grab, but the Falcons deserve credit for the value of this trade anyway.”

To see how White rated the rest of the trades in the draft, click here.

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