Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the 10th best player in center Joe Hawley.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 67.5/100
Last year’s rank: 17th
Player Grade: 55/100
Teams he is starter: 19 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 15 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +4
Positional Bonus: +3
It’s a make-or-break year for Hawley given that 2015 is the final year of his contract. His performance this year will obviously determine whether or not the Falcons opt to re-sign him after the season.
Hawley has flashed the ability to be a long-term starter for the team, but really needs to show it this year. He started the final seven games of 2013 at center, performing relatively well. He began 2014 well, but was lost for the season four games in.
He’s still recovering from the season-ending injury and the fear is that it may limit him from reaching his full potential this year. It’s probably a major reason why the Falcons have been mixing newcomer Mike Person in at center in the hopes that he could potentially supplant Hawley there before the season is up.
Hawley will have to do his best to stave off Person or any other contenders for his job with solid play this year. If Hawley’s knee holds up, then there is a good possibility that he can reach that level of quality.
The Falcons are moving to a zone-blocking scheme this year, which is a scheme that Hawley should fit well. While he’s not quite as mobile as Todd McClure, who shined in a nearly identical version of the scheme from 2004 to 2006, Hawley is capable of seeking out and attacking linebackers on the second level. Hawley certainly has the mean streak to be an effective cut-blocker and is effective at getting position in the run game.
This is really the final chance for Hawley to cement his status in Atlanta. Taken as a fourth-round pick in 2010 to eventually supplant McClure as the starting center, Hawley had to wait two years on the bench before really getting that opportunity. He did start several games at right guard in 2011, but it was very clear that he was miscast in that role given not having the sort of feet, strength and power to match up at guard.
Then in 2012 the Falcons drafted Peter Konz and it seemed that Hawley’s hopes of becoming the team’s starting center were dash. But after a year and a half of Konz struggling, Hawley asserted himself again. Now he’s had the same amount of time to solidify his status and thanks largely to injuries has yet to do so.
He must do so in 2015, otherwise there’s a very high probability that he’ll be playing for someone else in 2016.