With Calvin Ridley suspended for the season, have you taken a look at the Falcons' wide receiver depth chart? It's not good, probably the worst in the league. And oh yeah, they traded away the best quarterback in their franchise's history, with Matt Ryan headed to Indianapolis for a third-round pick. I don't know if this is a full rebuild for coach Arthur Smith & Co., but it's at least a reset on offense, and it's not like this defense is littered with stars, either.
That reset on offense starts with a new No. 1 receiver in Drake London (8), a 6-foot-4 weapon who will make life easier for his quarterback. I'm a big fan of London, who will be great in the red zone and is a sweet fit in the same offense as dynamic tight end Kyle Pitts. How are teams going to cover both in the red zone?
I thought the Falcons had one of the best Day 2s in the league. Quarterback Desmond Ridder (74) looked at times in college like a future All-Pro and at other times an undrafted free agent. He is my fourth-ranked signal-caller, but I thought he'd go in Round 2. I wouldn't be surprised if he started a handful of games as a rookie and wrestled the job away from Marcus Mariota. Arnold Ebiketie (38) is an underrated edge rusher. Troy Andersen (58) is a fit I projected to Atlanta in my two-round mock draft a few weeks ago. DeAngelo Malone (82) can get early third-down snaps as a situational edge rusher. On Day 3, running back Tyler Allgeier (151) doesn't have a ton of straight-line speed, but I expect him to make the team because of his toughness.
What drops this class slightly is that I would have taken Malik Willis over Ridder, but this is still a really good group.
Day 1: The Falcons receiving corps badly needed an infusion of talent, and London should provide a nice boost. A lot has been made about his ability to separate because of how much of his production came in contested-catch situations (FBS-high 17 contested catches in 2021). But that's not all he brings to the table — he can create separation underneath, and he was productive after the catch for the Trojans. His 22 missed tackles forced after the catch last year — in just eight games before injury — is a top-five mark in this class.
Day 2: The Falcons ranked dead last in team pressure rate last season (21%). They needed to give Grady Jarrett some help along the defensive front, specifically off the edge. Ebiketie earned 88.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grades in each of his final two seasons at Penn State to go along with 80th-plus percentile finishes in every athletic testing drill, save the bench press. It's not hard to see why the Falcons would make the move up for him.
Troy Andersen can be a special player for Atlanta. He was recruited to Montana State to play linebacker but was forced to start at running back and quarterback his first and second years in college because he was the best option they had at both positions. He didn't play in 2020 because of COVID-19 and then finally got the opportunity to play off-ball linebacker full-time in 2021. He's a freaky athlete who is still learning the position, but he has as high a ceiling as any of the off-ball linebackers in the 2022 class.
Desmond Ridder was seen as a fringe first-round quarterback, but the NFL evidently doesn't like this class. He is a steal at No. 74 overall. He has the best processing of any of this year's quarterbacks and boasts legitimate speed and athleticism with a solid arm. His accuracy is an issue (adjusted completion rate of just 72% for his career), but he has real starting potential on a team with no long-term starter in place.
A massively experienced player with five seasons of college production under his belt, Malone can rush the passer and bring power to the table despite being undersized. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl and has added some bulk during the pre-draft process. He had 180 total pressures across five years in college, never grading lower than 74.8 overall.
Day 3: Tyler Allgeier has a very NFL-translatable game with his size and decisive running style. He averaged 4.4 yards after contact per attempt for his career at BYU and will bring his tough rushing style to Arthur Smith's downhill run scheme.
Join us as we review the Atlanta Falcons' full draft class for 2022.
The combination of London and Kyle Pitts should give a needed boost to the Falcons' passing game. General manager Terry Fontenot addressed the team's other major need on Day 2, strengthening a poor pass rush with Ebiketie and Malone, while also landing an athletic second-level defender in Andersen and smartly nabbing a potential future starter in Ridder.
Allgeier's a solid pick but they could have met other needs with their first Day 3 selection. Shaffer lumbers a bit but can move the line of scrimmage. FitzPatrick wasn't used enough at Georgia but has the potential to be a fine pass-catcher. Their defensive tackle group could use a strong undrafted free agent addition.
There's plenty to like but also room for questioning. Taking WR Drake London at No. 8 was acceptable, although some would argue Garrett Wilson should have been the first receiver off the board. Getting pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie in the second round was justified. The Falcons were wise to end the draft's QB drought in the third round by choosing Desmond Ridder. He could become an alternative to new starter Marcus Mariota, but many will wonder whether Atlanta should have gone with Malik Willis.
It was a great weekend for the Falcons. London is far more than a big body at receiver, and it's easy to get excited about the idea of him and Kyle Pitts winning above the rim against opposing defensive backs. Ebiketie is an intriguing pass-rusher who fills a need, and Andersen is one of the most athletic linebacker prospects we've ever seen. Those picks alone have the makings of a strong class, but this group reaches another level with the potential value in scooping up Ridder in the third round. The Cincinnati product, who many considered a possible Day 1 pick, can sit behind Marcus Mariota before getting his chance to emerge as a long-term option at quarterback.
There were some genuine home runs for the Atlanta Falcons in Las Vegas. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, if their plan all along was to take Desmond Ridder in this 2022 NFL Draft class, then the selection of Drake London is a genius move given how Ridder used Alec Pierce and Josh Whyle in Cincinnati.
Landing Arnold Ebiketie was excellent value for a player many thought might sniff the first round. Between Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone, one of them is going to be the pass-rush star Falcons fans have been yearning for. Troy Andersen was a slight reach for me, and John FitzPatrick doesn't remotely move the needle even as late-round investments go. However, I think Falcons fans should be happy with how things panned out, especially given how the board fell early on.
We take an inside look at the Atlanta Falcons' war room during the 2022 NFL Draft.
Throw those red-zone fades after pairing leapers London and Kyle Pitts as the past two years' first-rounders. Two pass-rushers in the first three rounds was smart. Stole the second quarterback, Ridder, at No. 74 to play a similar style to starter Marcus Mariota.
Considering how important this draft likely is to their anticipated resurrection – including less-than-face-value picks they got for WR Julio Jones (2nd) and QB Matt Ryan (3rd) – the results feel a little ... meh? WR Drake London at No. 8 might be the next Mike Evans, moving the chains and terrorizing the red zone. But he's unlikely to be a game breaker, and those kind of receivers seemed to be on the table. And there simply appear to be a lot of bets on upside here with a one-year wonder like Penn State DE Arnold Ebiketie and mid-rounders lacking Power Five bona fides. One was QB Desmond Ridder. Maybe the Cincinnati star blossoms while marinating behind Marcus Mariota ... or maybe he becomes part of a roster that may still lack the foundational pieces it really needed to add.