FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons were looking to bulk up in the trenches after a disappointing season.
They stuck to that plan, even when one potential target after another was snatched up ahead of the 14th pick in the NFL draft.
In a bit of a surprise, the Falcons selected offensive guard Chris Lindstrom from Boston College with their first-round choice Thursday night, adding another piece to a line that needed a big upgrade after star quarterback Matt Ryan took a pounding in 2019.
As it turned out, Atlanta wasn't done. Just before midnight, the Falcons dealt their second- and third-round picks to Los Angeles for the next-to-last selection of the first round, which they used to grab Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary at No. 31. Atlanta also got a sixth-round pick in the deal.
The Falcons were thought to covet a wealth of stellar defensive linemen, but six of those players were gobbled up in the first 13 picks. Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams went to Cincinnati at No. 11, depriving Atlanta of another possible selection. When Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was grabbed by Miami just ahead of the Falcons' pick, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Lindstrom became the choice.
He'll now be charged with protecting fellow Boston College alum Ryan, who was the Falcons' top pick in 2008.
"He's come up to speak with the team a few times," Lindstrom said. "He's a great ambassador for what it means to be a BC man. I'm thankful to be able to play with him."
Ryan will be looking for a lot better protection from the guys up front. He was sacked 42 times and took 108 hits, a career high.
"We were focused on offensive line," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We need to protect Matt."
Atlanta hasn't used a first-round pick on an offensive guard since Bill Fralic was chosen at No. 2 overall in 1985. Lindstrom joins a revamped offensive line that includes two other new guards, free agent signees James Carpenter and Jamon Brown.
"I'm just trying to help the team," Lindstrom said. When asked pointedly if he was capable of starting right away, he deferred. "I'm just trying to come in and work right now and try to be a great player."
The pick was not well received by Falcons fans watching the draft at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Many appeared baffled by the choice, perhaps because many draft analysts projected Lindstrom as possibly slipping into Friday's second round.
At least he comes from good bloodlines. His father, also named Chris, was a lineman at Boston University who went on to play three seasons in the NFL. Younger brother Alec just completed his freshman year on Boston College's offensive line.
McGary is a 6-foot-7, 324-pounder who will get a chance to compete for the starting job at right tackle.
While the Falcons received offers to move up from the 14th pick and were interested in players such as Wilkins, Dimitroff insisted that offensive line was the top priority.
Lindstrom, he added, was the guy the Falcons wanted all along.
"We knew we would have to be aggressive," Dimitroff said. "We're not looking back. We made the choice of Lindstrom. We're not concerned about anyone thinking he's a reach."
Set at quarterback with former MVP Ryan and veteran backup Matt Schaub, the Falcons were hoping several teams ahead of them would go in that direction. The Arizona Cardinals selected Oklahoma's Kyler Murray with the top overall pick, and Daniel Jones of Duke went to the New York Giants at No. 6.
That was it.
After the Falcons selected Lindstrom, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins was scooped up by Washington at No. 15.
Atlanta had its highest spot in the draft since 2015, when the team was heading into its first season under coach Dan Quinn. On the heels of two straight playoff appearances, including a run to the Super Bowl during the 2016 season, the Falcons were ravaged by injuries and slipped to 7-9 a year ago.
Quinn fired all three coordinators in a shake-up that led to the head coach taking over the defensive play-calling duties.
Lindstrom watched the draft from his family's home in Massachusetts.
"It was just my immediate family until I got drafted," he said during a teleconference with Atlanta media. "It sounds like a lot of people just showed up."