The 2014 NFL Draft is loaded with standout offensive tackles, with no fewer than four projected as first-round picks in the initial set of mock drafts from NFL Media analysts. That should be welcome news to quarterback Matt Ryan, as the Atlanta Falcons should be in the market for an upgrade after finishing this season tied for 20th in sacks allowed.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff gave ESPN.com his early assessment of the consensus top three players at the position. And while there were no earth-shaking revelations, his remarks confirm the schools of thought regarding Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, Auburn redshirt sophomore Greg Robinson, and Taylor Lewan of Michigan.
» Regarding Matthews, Dimitroff said: "Think about it: He is a such a technique-sound individual. He has such an understanding of the game, being from a historic NFL football family. He's just so well-rounded in so many ways on and off the field that he's going to be a guy who is going to turn a lot of heads. A guy like that has the potential to go No. 1 in this draft, if he turns the right heads."
Matthews (6-foot-5, 305 pounds) looks to be one of the safest picks in the draft, having played both left and right tackle for the Aggies. Good bloodlines certainly don't hurt his cause, as Matthews is the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
» On the fast-rising Robinson, Dimitroff said: "Another fantastic athlete. He's got such natural ability. He's a little younger. As the season went on, he really started to dominate at that level. It's always a very important thing to see a guy who still has a little bit of development to show how much upside he has. It's about his athleticism. It's about his upside. It's about his ability and his range on the football field."
Robinson (6-5, 320) was a dominant run-blocker for the Tigers' spread-option offense and would certainly help the worst rushing attack in the NFL (1,247 yards this season; 3.9 yards per carry average ranked 24th). But for all his exceptional athleticism, Robinson is still raw in pass protection and will need time to develop that aspect of his game.
» And when it comes to Lewan, Dimitroff said: "He's a tough, tough dude with a lot of upside. He's a very technique-sound guy as well. Has the ability to play both sides."
Lewan (6-8, 315) is something of the forgotten man after the Wolverines struggled through a largely forgettable 2013 season, but showed off his skills against rival Ohio State. Much like Matthews, the floor for Lewan should be that of a dependable starter.
And the Falcons should have their pick from, at worst, two of the top three and perhaps the entire crop.