The Falcons rode their high-scoring offense to the Super Bowl last season.
Nine of the Super Bowl starters are set to return, while the Falcons must find a replacement for right guard Chris Chester, who retired, and fullback Patrick DiMarco, who signed with Buffalo during free agency.
The Falcons, who have three picks in the top 100 of the coming NFL draft, have heavily scouted offensive linemen.
They could elect to tab Chester’s replacement with the 31st pick in the draft, which is set for Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.
Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp or Indiana’s Dan Feeney could fill the opening along the Falcons’ offensive line.
Robinson’s play was spectacular in his career with the Crimson Tide, but he had to explain to teams why he was arrested last summer.
“We address the elephant in the room first, which is the incident I got in last summer,” Robinson said of his interviews with teams. “I explain it to them, and I tell them exactly what happened. I’m 100 percent truthful with them, and then we move on and we talk ball.”
The prosecutor eventually elected not to pursue the charges of possession of a stolen gun and possession of marijuana.
“First and foremost I want them to understand I didn’t want to let that incident define me as a person,” Robinson said. “I respect myself and my family and university at the time and my teammates. I put that past me.”
Robinson, 6-foot-6 and 322 pounds, earned the starting left tackle spot as a freshman and started all 14 games in 2014. He started all 15 games as a sophomore and all 15 as a junior. Last season, he earned a spot on the All-SEC first-team, was an unanimous All-American and won the Outland Trophy Award, which goes to the nation’s top lineman.
He elected to leave school with a season of eligibility left.
Robinson said he would not fight a position change.
“I’m open to whatever a team needs,” Robinson said. “If a team needs me to play right tackle or guard, I feel like that doesn’t do anything but add value ultimately if you can play more than one position.”
“I played a little right tackle in high school. If that’s what they ask of me, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Robinson has never played guard.
Lamp was a two-star recruit coming out of high school and was overlooked by bigger programs. He picked Western Kentucky over Ohio, New Mexico and Florida Atlantic.
He made 51 starts for the Hilltoppers, 48 at left tackle and three at right guard.
Lamb is agile and plenty strong. He lifted 225 pounds 34 times at the scouting combine. He had a stellar performance against Alabama that impressed several NFL scouts.
Lamp, who’s had several meetings with the Falcons during the pre-draft process, said he could play in their outside zone blocking scheme.
Feeney was a three-star recruit and picked Indiana over Illinois and Western Michigan. He started 12 games at right guard as a freshman. He suffered a foot injury and took a medical redshirt in 2013.
Feeney returned in 2014 and started all 12 games at right guard. In 2015, he was named all-Big Ten and last season he started only nine games after suffering a concussion.
“Yeah, I mean I guess it was a little scary,” Feeney said about missing time because of the concussion. “But it’s just like another injury. You’ve got to nurse it back to health and get back on the field as quick as you can.”
Feeney doesn’t believe that he has a long-term health issue.
Feeney helped to clear the way for now-Falcons running back Tevin Coleman to rush for more than 2,000 yards in 2014. Also, over his four years, Feeney gave up just four sacks.
He performed well in the Senior Bowl.
“Yeah, it was huge, going to the Senior Bowl,” Feeney said. “It definitely helped me prepare (for the combine). It’s almost the same stuff; just more intense now. You have more meetings with teams, coaches, position coaches and stuff like that. Being able to go to the Senior Bowl and get a taste of it before it actually happened, I think that was a big advantage.”
A list of the top 10 offensive linemen in the 2017 NFL draft can be found on AJC.com.