Falcons Rookie Ranked as Top Center in 2019

Matt Ryan

Getty Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Atlanta Falcons dove headfirst into the 2020 NFL Draft knowing exactly what they needed. In the third round with the No. 78 pick, the Falcons landed former Temple center Matthew Hennessy. Atlanta was able to kill two birds with one stone with this guy.

Pro Football Focus graded Hennessy with an 86.9, ranking him at the top in 2019.

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Matt Ryan should be stoked to see that Henessy only allowed 1 sack in his entire career.

Last season, the Falcons added two first-round picks into the offensive line with right tackle Kaleb McGary and right guard Chris Lindstrom. The Falcons have a big need at left guard.

Hennessy’s Collegiate Career as a Temple Owl

Hennessy showed off his versatility early on as an offensive tackle at New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep who then moved on to play at center for Temple where he excelled.

Hennessy only missed a total of four games in his three seasons as an Owl. He started 12 games in his final collegiate season, 11 in 2018 and 12 in 2017. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed pressure on only 1.25% of his true pass sets in the last two seasons.

In 2019  Hennessy earned third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-American Athletic Conference and was a finalist for the Remington Trophy as the nation’s best pivot. Temple also awarded him a single-digit jersey, an honor for team leaders and tone setters at Temple.

Athleticism runs in the family in this pick too. His brother, Thomas, was a long snapper at Duke University and is now playing for the New York Jets.

Hennessy Jumping Into Starting Position

Right now the Falcons have Pro-Bowler Alex Mack as their starting center. Mack will be 34 this year, so the Falcons were obviously looking at Hennessy for the long haul. Head coach Dan Quinn says Hennessy will start at guard “for certain” and compete for the left guard position.

“Let’s see where it plays out,” Quinn said to local media. “To have the traits to know that it’s an interior player, a center and a guard. Having that versatility actually allows you to have more strength to play [multiple positions]. We’ll start him at guard for certain. As far as where Alex goes, he’s still playing at a high level, as far as past 2020, there’s a lot of time before it gets to that.”

With Mack at center last season, the Falcons allowed 50 sacks (not all his fault) and 136 QB hits. Like DQ said, we’ll see how “it all plays out” when Hennessy transitions into the NFL and whose job Hennessy ends up taking.

Draft Grade

Various analysts say that the Falcons missed a lot of talented players when they picked Hennessy, but the truth is the Falcons knew what their needs were and went for it.

Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report wrote:

Hennessy, the brother of the Jets long snapper Thomas Hennessy, is an impressive pass protector on tape, with a knack for mirroring and adjusting to a pass-rusher’s moves. According to Sports Info Solutions, he ranked first among all centers in both blown block percentage in the passing game (0.2 percent blown blocks) and Sports Info Solutions’ proprietary pass-blocking points system. He’s also quick-footed when moving laterally for outside zones or other combo blocks. … Grade: B

Centers don’t get enough credit, he’s definitely worth more than a B.

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