Grading the Atlanta Falcons' First Round Selection of Jake Matthews

By Greg Sulik
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps no team in the draft had less mystery surrounding their first round pick than the Atlanta Falcons. They were either going to trade up for Jadeveon Clowney, or stay at No. 6 and take the best offensive tackle available. Wisely choosing not to mortgage the remainder of their draft, the Falcons went the latter route and landed Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews.

Matthews was regarded by many as the safest tackle in this draft, and he will immediately step in as a starter, though it remains to be seen which side he will begin his career on. Matthews is part of one of the best bloodlines of NFL talent there is, as his father is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and his cousin is Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews.

Matthews is undoubtedly the most polished and pro ready of any of the tackles in this year’s draft, and his technique is far more advanced than many NFL veterans. Matthews combines those skills with his excellent athleticism to be a high level pass protector, which is exactly what the Falcons need. Atlanta allowed the 10th most sacks in the league last season, and the last thing they need is to watch Matt Ryan get dragged to the turf 44 more times. Matthews should immediately improve this area.

Matthews is solid in the run game, though he still needs to add strength. He has good technique and is not afraid to finish people, which will quickly endear him to Steven Jackson. The added strength will come in time, as Matthews is only 22 years old. He has the work ethic and commitment to keep improving, and he should be an anchor at left tackle for the Falcons for the next decade.

This pick is exactly what the Falcons needed, and they landed the most pro ready tackle in the draft. The Falcons are team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations despite their fluky 2013 season, and they needed a player who could contribute immediately. Matthews might not have the highest ceiling of any tackle in this draft, but he is by far the safest bet and should be an outstanding player for a long time.

Grade: A

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St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson

Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ryan Shazier

San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett

Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmie Ward

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