Editor's note:This is the eighth story in a 10-part series counting down the top 10 Atlanta Falcons players our writers believe are most likely to have a breakout season in 2020. The definition of breakout, for the purpose of this list, is a player who shows sudden significant improvement.
Chris Lindstrom was the 14th player selected in the 2019 NFL Draft and since then, the Falcons guard has taken just 309 snaps and played in just five games. Without a full season game-wise under his belt yet, the 6-foot-3, 307-pound Lindstrom is still very much a work in progress as he continues to learn and adjust to the pro game.
After surrendering 42 sacks in 2018, the Falcons made Lindstrom their top pick in an effort to solidify the offensive line. Lindstrom possesses excellent lateral quickness and was considered one of the most athletic offensive linemen in his draft class.
TOP 10 BREAKOUT SEASON COUNTDOWN
- July 13: No. 10 Takk McKinley
- July 14: No. 9 Isaiah Oliver
- July 15: No. 8 Todd Gurley
- July 16: No. 7 Matt Hennessy
- July 17: No. 6 Russell Gage
- July 20: No. 5 Kendall Sheffield
- July 21: No. 4 Foye Oluokun
- July 22: No. 3 Chris Lindstrom
- July 23: No. 2 Calvin Ridley
- July 24: No. 1 Hayden Hurst
Body of work
While Lindstrom has only started five games in the NFL, the Falcons have to be encouraged by what they've seen from the former Boston College standout.
After suffering a broken foot in a season-opening loss to the Vikings on the road, Lindstrom ended up missing 11 games before returning in Week 14 for a home game against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 8. Despite beginning the season with a 1-7 mark, the Falcons finished the second half the year with a 6-2 run. Lindstrom played in the final four games – against the Panthers, 49ers, Jaguars and Buccaneers – and the Falcons went 4-0.
Winning four straight games to close out the season certainly instills confidence, but the Falcons offensive line still surrendered 50 quarterback sacks, struggled to consistently run the ball (they ranked 30th out of 32 teams in the run game) and ranked 24th in the league among all 32 units, according to Pro Football Focus. Lindstrom and fellow first-round pick Kaleb McGary graded out with marks of 66.6 and 53.0, respectively.
Poised for a breakout
The good news for the Falcons is that Lindstrom is healthy and has had a full offseason under his belt heading into his second season. Same goes for McGary, who was also drafted in the first round (No. 31 overall) with Lindstrom and started all 16 games as a rookie.
The Falcons will now head into the season with two offensive linemen poised to play their second seasons in the NFL vs. beginning the year with two unproven rookies on the right side of the line – and that's significant. At least it is to Dan Quinn. The Falcons head coach constantly talks about how a player's biggest leap forward usually takes place between their first and second years in the league.
There are more positive signs related to the Falcons offensive line heading into 2020 – factors that should also help Lindstrom make that second-year leap that Quinn often speaks of.
The Falcons still have left tackle Jake Matthews and center Alex Mack, two of the best at their respective positions, returning in 2020. Atlanta also went out and traded for tight end Hayden Hurst on the first day of the new league year and then signed running back Todd Gurley in free agency. Those two moves alone should ensure the Falcons offense remains plenty potent with the likes of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in their arsenal.
Once again, however, the spotlight will be on the offensive line. And we think everything aligns nicely for Lindstrom to make that leap and enjoy a breakout season in 2020.
We are counting down the top 10 Falcons players our writers believe are most likely to have a breakout season in 2020. The definition of breakout, for the purpose of this list, is a player who shows sudden significant improvement.