FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When the Falcons took Matthew Bergeron with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, my first, honest reaction was, "Hmm?"
My second was, "The Falcons really traded away their No. 44 and No. 110 overall picks to move into Indianapolis' 38th slot to take... a tackle?"
This pick perplexed me because weren't the Falcons in good shape with their tackles? They extended Jake Matthews' contract last year, and then signed Kaleb McGary to a three-year deal this year. Atlanta even has depth behind Matthews and McGary, too, with Germain Ifedi back and Josh Miles with the Falcons on a one-year deal. Why did they need another tackle? And why did they need him so badly they traded up to get him?
And that's what Bergeron is. He's a tackle. For four years, he's been a starting tackle for Syracuse. He never played guard. He never played center. He's a tackle. Or is he?
According to the Falcons, they do see position flexibility with Bergeron despite the lack of college experience playing inside. They saw it at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama a few months ago when Bergeron took some of his snaps during the week at guard.
"I think it's important for a lineman to be able to show that versatility that you have the ability to play multiple positions upfront," Falcons offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford said.
At this point, it's merely speculation that the Falcons ultimate vision for Bergeron includes an eventual move inside. Because wouldn't that make more sense?
To move up in the second round, trading away two picks only to draft a guy who could very well be a reserve tackle behind two seasoned veterans who helped the Falcons to a top-3 rushing offense in 2023? That doesn't seem realistic. What does is seeing something in Bergeron that could help the Falcons immediately, which is at... you guessed it: Left guard.
Left guard is a position that has been in flux for years. The Falcons had a good thing going for a little while with Elijah Wilkinson last year, but he was only on a one-year deal and ended up missing a good chunk of games because of injuries. The other half of the 2022 season involved a revolving door at left guard as injuries continued to plagued the position. The good news for the Falcons during that time, though, was that they really didn't miss much of a beat in that left guard rotation.
As it stands now, though, the only position seemingly up for grabs on the offensive line is - again - left guard. Matt Hennessy could be someone working to win that spot, having made the move to left guard after Drew Dalman was selected as the starting center after training camp last year. There hasn't been much of an update on Jalen Mayfield, who missed all of 2022 with a back injury after starting at left guard for the Falcons in 2021. So, could the Falcons plan be to move Bergeron inside to complete against the likes of these two lineman, and potentially others? It's not out of consideration because the Falcons do see Bergeron possessing a skillset that could benefit him inside.
We take a look at Matthew Bergeron in action prior to being selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2023 NFL Draft, presented by Wells Fargo.
"With the tackle experience and the movement skills you can pop him in at guard and he's plenty smart enough, he's plenty tough enough to get it done," Falcons national scout Tokunbo Abanikanda said, "and in a pinch if we have to put him back in at tackle, right or left - which he's comfortable playing - there will be no issue. The position flexibility is huge and I think we'll get a lot of value out of Matthew."
This, and even some national draft analysts think that Bergeron could be better positioned at the professional level at guard.
"(Bergeron) has NFL starting talent," The Athletic's Dane Brugler said in his 2023 draft guide, "although his skills might be maximized inside as a zone-blocking guard."
And there lays the potential vision for Bergeron, who's nastiness is something the Falcons covet. With Bergeron, they do believe they're getting more of what they want at offensive line.
"We're just getting nastier. We're getting bigger. We're getting more physical. We're getting more finish. We're getting more drives," Abanikanda said. "This guy slides right in."
... At whatever position the Falcons ultimately choose to slide him into.