The Atlanta Falcons used their first pick of the 2019 NFL Draft – No. 14 overall – to address a pressing issue, selecting former Boston College offensive guard Chris Lindstrom.
While the move received generally mixed reviews, some lauding the Falcons for getting an NFL-ready player at a position of need and others commenting that it was a first-round reach, it is one that should conceivably make Atlanta a better team entering the fall. That is, after all, what a first-round pick should do.
So, what exactly is it about Lindstrom that makes many believe he's ready to be a starter for the Falcons during his rookie year? Well, he possesses exactly the qualities Atlanta looks for along the offensive line and he's got stellar experience as a starter coming out of college.
Lindstrom was a starter for all but three games during his career at Boston College, and he played both right guard and right tackle. Playing in the ACC, Lindstrom played against high-caliber competition such as Clemson and Florida State.
It's notable then that Lindstrom earned All-ACC honors in his final two seasons at college. As a player, it's Lindstrom's athleticism and toughness that flash on film.
Against a player like Clemson's Christian Wilkins, one of the top prospects in this year's draft class who went one spot ahead of Lindstrom, he has the smooth quickness to mirror the pass rusher.
According to Pro Football Focus, Lindstrom allowed zero sacks and just four quarterback hurries on 363 pass-blocking snaps in 2018. Matt Ryan, meanwhile, was sacked 42 times last season, tied for the eight-most in the league.
So, Lindstrom's athleticism as a pass blocker should be an asset to a group that struggled to keep Ryan upright in 2018. In addition to raw athleticism, Lindstrom also displayed a toughness and desire to dominate his opponents at any given turn, even seeking out action to do so.
The quickness that Lindstrom uses to his advantage as a pass protector also is a tool for him in the run game as well, particularly in a zone-based blocking scheme. The Falcons deploy such a zone scheme, which requires an offensive lineman to make blocks on the move and prevent a defender from crossing his face.
Lindstrom fared quite well at doing just that in college. Against Miami, Lindstrom made the first move against his defender to win position and absolutely stonewall him at the line of scrimmage. By allowing no penetration on the play, Lindstrom let his running back keep his true track towards the outside.
Another key aspect of a zone-blocking scheme is having linemen who are comfortable moving in space against lighter and quicker defenders. Lindstrom is not only capable of doing that, he excels at it.
The player Lindstrom pancakes on the play below is Trajan Bandy, who was an All-ACC cornerback last season as a sophomore. That is to say, it's no joke.
Of course, it's fun to imagine what a player like Wilkins or Ed Oliver could have done as a part of the Falcons' defense, but Atlanta took a smart approach to their first-round pick. The Falcons selected the best player at his position, which also happened to be an area of need.
Atlanta's signing of three guards in free agency should indicate just how pressing the Falcons viewed that position after a tough season up front in 2018. Lindstrom, as a rookie, might just be the best guard the Falcons have added this offseason.