Falcons fans, meet Matt McCants.
McCants is a tremendous offensive line talent, and started for the final three years of his college career. According to sources at CBSSports.com and National Football Post, McCants has tremendous athleticism in the passing game, which allows him to move well laterally against speed rushers off the edge and and recover well all while maintaining his balance. McCants is not overwhelming in the run game, but he does a good job pulling, and is more than serviceable in that aspect of the game. He is a great football player at LT, and can truly help an NFL team at some point.
As with any prospect, there are some negatives. When a defensive end bull-rushes, McCants can become overwhelmed at times. His frame (6’6″, 300 lbs.) makes him very tall but a little light for the position. However, it is believed that there is a potential positive to his drawbacks. Most scouts believe that he can put on the necessary bulk through weight training, and gain the strength and weight to anchor those large defensive ends and prevent them from bowling him over. With the weight and physical therapy programs that most teams (Atlanta included) have at their disposal, a slight lack of bulk is not a reason to not draft what could be a great talent.
Now, how exactly does he affect the Falcons? How could the Falcons get him? First, I think that the Falcons could get him in the 4th round. Many draft projections and player projections that I have read say that McCants will probably get drafted in the 3rd-5th round. The problem here is that the Falcons are without a 4th round pick, and a 3rd round pick may be a reach for this player. I really, really think that McCants could be very special given a season or two to develop, and would be a bargain starting LT. Maybe the Falcons trade back (their 3rd for a pair of 4th rounders) or trade up (a 5th and 6th for a teams 4th rounder) or maybe, just by luck, he is around in the 5th round. Or maybe the Falcons would take him in the 3rd. I only know for sure that it would be imprudent to draft him in the 2nd round.
I have been calling for the Falcons to sign current free-agent Marcus McNeill. Lets say he signs a 3-year contract. At then end of that contract, he would be 31, and thats assuming he stays healthy. What if he (or any free-agent LT we sign) is in and out of the starting lineup for a season or two? Maybe we let McCants bulk up, learn the game while on the roster, and then start perhaps the 2014 season. By that time he could be an elite starting LT, the Falcons would no doubt be a much better team, he would not be extremely expensive as the Falcons drafted him. Justin Blalock and Tyson Clabo would be getting older but still under contract and playing very well; what better cornerstone for your offensive line than a 25-year old franchise LT? By the same token, what if McCants never pans out, and a 4th or 5th round pick is used on him? The Falcons would come out of that situation smelling like a rose, as McCants is a low-risk, high-reward prospect.
My basic message here is this: signing McCants would not be detrimental to this franchise, and the only thing that could happen is that he is terrific. If he ends up being a bust, you probably won’t end up seeing it on the playing field; you’d probably not hear his name much after draft day. Take a flyer on McCants.
What do you think of McCants? Does the Falcons situation afford the luxury of drafting a lineman; or are the picks that we have in this draft so very valuable that they cannot be used except on the most obvious talent? Let us know.