Fixing a dire offensive line should be near the top of the list for the Atlanta Falcons once the 2021 NFL season ends. There isn’t much to work with along a front five that’s given up sacks and pressures at an alarming rate each week, but the 2022 NFL draft will offer some immediate help.
That’s the idea in the latest mock draft from a leading analytics site. The Falcons get an ideal partner for the lone standout O-lineman on the roster. The one starter among a weak group who hasn’t allowed a sack through 16 games this season.

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Dominant Run-Blocker Could Slide Inside for Falcons

North Carolina State mauler Ikem Ekwonu should be the Falcons’ primary target with the 10th-overall pick, according to Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus.

Treash detailed Ekwonu’s chops as a powerful run-blocker: “Ekwonu is one of the nastiest run-blockers of the PFF College era and boasts a 93.8 run-blocking grade for the 2021 season, the highest mark in the Power Five. Ekwonu laid down a whopping 18 big-time blocks this season, which not only leads every Power Five offensive lineman in 2021 but is also the most in a single season since 2014.”

Falcons’ running backs Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson would both a welcome a player capable of being this dominant on the ground. Davis and Patterson have both had their moments, but Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith would surely like to see his offense improve on the paltry 3.6 yards per rush managed this season.

Yet, more importantly for the Falcons, Treash also highlighted Ekwonu’s growing competence in pass protection: “After posting a poor 55.3 pass-block grade in 2020, Ekwonu improved that to a solid 78.3 mark in 2021.”

It’s not overstating to say the Falcons were a disaster in pass protection during 2021. Matt Ryan “has been sacked 37 times this season and has been pressured 87 times, the most in the league,” per Fox Sports.

Ekwonu would surely improve all of the lowly numbers associated with Atlanta’s offensive line. Even if there’s some confusion about where he might fit best in the pros.

The sophomore plays left tackle for the Wolfpack, but is listed as an interior offensive lineman (IOL) by Treash. It’s a sentiment shared by The Draft Journal’s Jordan de Lugo, who believes Ekwonu may never make the grade as an “elite pass-protecting left tackle,” but he could thrive as a “mauling guard.”

Whichever position is in his future, Ekwonu is ready to test himself in the NFL. He declared as much when he made his intention to enter this year’s draft clear via a statement on his personal Twitter account on Sunday, January 2:

It’s good news for the Falcons, who should keep him near the top of their big board. Smith and his staff should also consider moving Ekwonu inside and making life easier on their best O-lineman.

Chris Lindstrom Deserves Better

Right guard Chris Lindstrom has been the Falcons’ only bright spot up front. He’s consistently produced solid performances each week and at least kept his area within the pass pocket clean.

Lindstrom’s efficiency is in stark contrast to the floundering displays of left guard Jalen Mayfield. The Falcons’ third-round pick in 2021, Mayfield has been a favorite target of opposing pass-rushers.

Falcoholic writer Evan Birchfield tweeted these numbers to underline the contrast between Mayfield and Lindstrom:

Plugging another dominant guard into the starting lineup would soon turn the interior from a weakness to a team strength. It would also allow former Michigan standout Mayfield to slide back outside to his natural position at right tackle.

The Falcons need to get stronger in the trenches to compete in the NFC South, where defenses are loaded up front. Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata bring the heat for the New Orleans Saints, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still have Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea in the lineup.

Even division cellar-dwellers the Carolina Panthers have ample talent along the defensive line. Specifically, edge-rusher Brian Burns and hulking tackle Derrick Brown.

The Falcons need a better remedy for the stud trench warriors they face closer to home. Drafting a linemen early makes more sense than waiting, especially since the Falcons’ mid-round draft picks haven’t exactly yielded much help.

Neither Mayfield nor fourth-rounder Drew Dalman have delivered the goods this season. Ekwonu’s a more high-profile talent who would surely be a safer investment.