FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff received a text from Matt Ryan during the NFL draft.
The Falcons’ quarterback obviously approved of the team’s first-round selections of two offensive linemen.
Dimitroff said the message from Ryan was brief: “Thanks. Just thanks and wow.”
For Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn, the top priority of the offseason was to build a better line after Ryan was sacked 42 times last season, the second-highest total of his career. He was hit 113 times, the third-most in the league.
Dimitroff’s first pick was guard Chris Lindstrom of Boston College. He then traded away the Falcons’ second- and third-round picks to add tackle Kaleb McGary of Washington late in the first round.
An improved line also would be key to the team’s hopes of boosting the running game, which sagged last season.
“Make no mistake about it, we knew what we needed to do in this offseason and that was to continue to fortify Matt and the offensive line,” Dimitroff said
WHO THEY GOT
Lindstrom and McGary could form a new starting tandem on the right side of the Falcons’ line. Clearly, they are the key to how this draft will be remembered.
“It may not have been shiny but I don’t think grit is real shiny,” Quinn said taking two offensive linemen in the first round. “I’m real thrilled they’ll be part of this group for a long time.”
Dimitroff went to work on addressing other needs on Saturday’s final day of the draft. Cornerbacks Kendall Sheffield of Ohio State and Jordan Miller of Washington, defensive end John Cominsky of Charleston and running back Qadree Ollison of Pittsburgh each were picked to bolster areas of pressing concern.
The team’s last pick, running back Marcus Green of Louisiana-Monroe, may make an immediate contribution as a return specialist. The versatile Green (5-8, 190) was primarily a wide receiver in college, but the Falcons are intrigued by his big-play potential at running back and on returns.
Cominsky or Green could develop into long-term surprises of the draft class.
After continuing his streak of making at least one trade in each of his 12 drafts as Atlanta’s general manager by adding a second first-round pick, Dimitroff remained inactive on the second day of the draft. Dimitroff traded away his second- and third-round picks but was widely expected to pull off a trade back into the second day. The surprise was he couldn’t deal two or more of his Saturday picks to move back into the second or third rounds.
HOW THEY DID
Atlanta had ample picks to allow Dimitroff the luxury of overhauling the offensive line with two first-round picks. He knew taking a guard so high in the first round would generate some negative reviews, but he and coach Dan Quinn agreed Lindstrom was the right pick. Adding McGary at No. 31 overall meant the Falcons could have two rookies starting on the right side of the line.
Dimitroff may have gambled on some high-upside picks, including Cominsky, who was an option quarterback in high school before gaining 70 pounds in college. Ollison, a power runner, had inconsistent production at Pittsburgh.
It will be judged as a successful draft if Lindstrom and McGary win starting jobs, Ollison can be a complementary running back with Devonta Freeman and Sheffield and Cominsky win roster spots and contribute on special teams.
Dimitroff was successful in filling needs, though there may be room for more help on the defensive line, at linebacker and perhaps at running back from undrafted free agents.
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