Despite the fact that the Atlanta Falcons did not set off any massive fireworks with a blockbuster draft day trade prior to making their first round selection on Thursday night, the immediate reaction of many (myself included) was simple.
That went well.
The Falcons stayed put with the sixth pick and still were able to land a blue-chip prospect, as they selected Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Prior to Atlanta reaching the point where they were “on the clock”, top-flight pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who was the object of affection for many fans, immediately went off the board to the Houston Texans, and the consensus number one offensive tackle (Auburn’s Greg Robinson) followed suit with the number two pick.
With that “status quo” in the early going, it looked as if the Falcons could have their hands tied a bit when their pick arrived, but fortunately, the decision was simplified when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. That pick, and the Buffalo Bills vaulting to number four in order to grab Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, allowed Thomas Dimitroff and company to sit back, grab their popcorn, and take either Buffalo pass rusher Khalil Mack or Matthews when their pick was up.
While Mack would have been the “splashier” selection, Jake Matthews has been a player that I have coveted since the beginning of the process, and as mentioned in the title above, this is a “home run” selection in my view. First, the Falcons weren’t forced to give up any additional value in order to select him, and that is huge for a depth-starved roster. The casual fan would certainly overlook this point, but any package to move up would potentially hamstring the deeper portions of the roster, and as evidenced by 2013, injury issues could quickly derail the process.
Secondly, Jake Matthews is the epitome of safety, and in the top-10, that is a coveted asset. Regardless of where Mike Smith and company choose to deploy him in year one (he has played both right and left tackle during the past two seasons), he has been durable to the point where he made 45 consecutive starts in college, and is incredibly sound from a fundamental standpoint. Many have described Matthews as a perennial Pro Bowl candidate, and judging by his considerable bloodlines, that doesn’t seem to be a stretch.
I will be honest and state that Jake Matthews does not have the same “upside” as players like Clowney and Mack, but it would be a difficult task to find a player in this class with a higher floor than he possesses, and this Atlanta Falcons roster desperately needs someone who can play effectively from day one.