Now entering the Top 10 of Falcons players, guard Justin Blalock comes into the mix. Click here to review the scoring system devised to create these rankings.
Total Score: 76
Player Grade: 65 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 28 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 21 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 30 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +3
One of the things I noticed when ranking Justin Blalock was the sheer lack of quality guards that currently play in the NFL. A lot of teams have a “plug and play” attitude when it comes to guards. Most NFL guards are converted from collegiate tackles, typically guys that lacked the athleticism and/or size to play on the outside in the pros. Blalock counts himself among that type of player, having spent about three-quarters of his career at Texas playing right tackle. Many teams will continue to stick with average or underachieving guards for multiple seasons because there is much less emphasis on the position. One only has to look at the Falcons right guard position to see this at work. Since Harvey Dahl departed the team two years ago, the Falcons have had a revolving door at the position. Such would never happen at either tackle spot, and I doubt a team would allow that to happen at center given that most teams feel continuity starts there.
It’s why Blalock is helped in these rankings, because there just aren’t that many good guards in the league. There are probably 15-20 guards that add significant value to their respective lines, and the rest are simply players that get the job done with little fanfare. I think that could have described Blalock for much of his career. But I now count Blalock among the guys that add value, but towards the lower end.
The thing about Blalock is that he is a well-rounded player. He doesn’t really excel at anything but does everything to a competent level, or slightly above. He’s not a powerful player that will consistently push the pile, nor a player that excels at pulling or blocking downfield, nor is he a great pass protector that can be left on an island against top-notch competition. But he does all of those things to competent to good level, which certainly makes him effective.
Back in 2011, I believed the Falcons would have been better served re-signing Dahl rather than Blalock. And a key reason for that was because when you looked at Michael Turner’s best games in the previous seasons, it often coincided with games where fullback Ovie Mughelli and Dahl also played at high levels. Such a correlation never really existed with Blalock. And frankly, in the four years that I’ve been reviewing games, I’m not sure that there really has ever been an instance where I said to myself watching the tape, “Oh man, Blalock is really kicking ass out there.”
But Blalock is a relatively steady performer, that you know what you’re going to get out of him. That may never be a dominant performance, but the number of really poor performances are also few in number. Off his individual ability alone, I would not consider Blalock to be one of the ten best players on the Falcons. But relative to many of the players that play the same position he does elsewhere in the league, Blalock is highly valuable.