Feels like we've been talking about the NFL Draft since time began. It's only been since free agency slowed down in late March. It was all about players the Falcons could take at No. 8 overall and beyond, with dreams of generational talent landing safely in Atlanta.
We're switching gears ever so subtly here, changing subjects from the draft to the drafted. We know which players the Falcons selected. Now we'll analyze how they fit into the Falcons schemes.
Bijan Robinson's the pick most of you want to discuss in this Monday mailbag, which makes logical sense. That storyline has tentacles, and we'll address those as well as we work through the offseason program.
Let's get right to it, then, and answer your questions in the latest edition of Bair Mail:
Kevin Fitzpatrick from Conyers, Ga.
I like to think of the Falcons using Bijan Robinson like a modern-day Marshall Faulk. Once upon a time no NFL defense had an answer for him.
Bair: I like the LaDainain Tomlinson comparison a bit more that Marshall Faulk but, no matter which guy we reference, these Robinson comps are gold jacket players.
I think he's going to be an excellent player at the NFL level with heavy production in Arthur Smith's offense. He's a perfect fit for what the Falcons like to do, which is why the front office was set on drafting him at No. 8 overall.
I know many of you hate this pick for positional value and other, more pressing needs. Tarron Tubbs and Roman Mundy, I hear your criticism of the pick and I'm not ignoring it. You wanted the Falcons to go in a different direction, either edge rusher or cornerback, it seems. I've seen the discussion of positional draft value and running backs being low on that scale due to decreased odds of them reaching a second contract.
The most important thing to me: Did you hit or miss? Robinson seems like a virtual lock to be awesome at the professional level. He'll make this team better over the next five years of his rookie contract, assuming they exercise the option. You want more? You might get it. Or you might not. But making a bad pick at another position means you don't get much of anything at all. This is an excellent player and an excellent fit. That's why I like the pick when others clearly don't.
Geoffrey Cobb from Brooklyn, N.Y.
How does the drafting of Bijan Robinson affect Cordarelle Patterson? The Falcons did not draft a wide and receiver and I wonder does Robinson's presence mean Patterson get fewer carries and more plays split out as a wide receiver.
Bair: Cordarrelle Patterson spend most of his offensive snaps as a traditional running back in 2022. That was a requirement after Damien Williams got hurt early in Week 1, but before Tyler Allgeier established himself as a hard-charging NFL tackle breaker.
Patterson was more of a hybrid player, with 177 snaps played as a receiver somewhere in the formation and 294 starting in the backfield. We could see more of that type of split, or something that slants more towards a receiver. That's where the Falcons need help, even if Kyle Pitts plays a ton out there, too.
Patterson will remain a vital offensive cog, but it's fair to assume that his carry counts will drop with Robinson and Allgeier performing steadily.
Head coach Arthur Smith was asked about Robinson's impact on Patterson on Thursday. Here's what the head coach had to say on the matter.
"[Robinson] and CP are different football players," Patterson said. "I know what you are talking about – they are unique where you can line them up, but their skill sets are different, so they're not the same player. We didn't take Bijan thinking he is CP. They do have a lot of versatility. No different than Kyle [Pitts] does. Kyle can play in the core, the slot or play outside, and then Jonnu [Smith] too. Jonnu can play a lot of different places as well. Just another explosive player that we can add to our offense. We're really fired up that we were able to get him at eight."
Clifton Knight from Orlando, Fla.
Hello Bair, love the forum and love reading the questions and responses. This is my first time writing and over the past couple of decades the same exact question comes into my mind. ''Why don't the Falcons draft talent from our Georgia schools''? Philadelphia has managed to snatch up six UGA players via the draft and trade, and I love what they are doing. I just wish Atlanta was doing the same thing. What are your thoughts?
Bair: The Falcons have taken 11 players from Georgia in their history, a total that ranks third behind LSU and USC. I don't think that stat suggests the Falcons don't take Georgia players. They took two last year. They signed a popular Bulldog in Lorenzo Carter and then re-signed him again this offseason.
They haven't taken one high in a while, and their have been opportunities in the last two drafts. I think those upset with the Bijan Robinson pick – there are a lot of you screaming in my mentions – aren't mad about the Texas running back. They're upset the Falcons took Robinson with Jalen Carter available.
Look, they loaded up at defensive tackle this offseason. It's a legit team strength, so the need for Carter wasn't there with Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata already there. And then there are some well-documented red flags. The Falcons weren't in a position to get Nolan Smith, even as he fell deep into the first round before Philadelphia snatched him up. I don't think the Falcons would ever shy away from a talented player because of where he went to school. That said, I also don't think they'd take someone just because he went to that school. If the talent, fit and opportunity line up, they'll take anyone who can help them win and fill a need.
Chris Stall from Reno, Nev.
Out of our draft picks, who do you think will be the biggest surprise performance wise?
Bair: I'm going with a Day 3 pick who I like more and more every time I watch him play. Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III isn't a big dude at 5-foot-9 but plays tough and aggressive football. He says he's a man cover corner with a zone specialty, doing tons of film study to gain an advantage when making plays on the ball.
He'll compete to be the Falcons primary slot cornerback, though Mike Hughes will have something to say about that. I still think Phillips III has a bright future ahead whether he plays inside or outside. It's going to be fun watching this All-American ballhawk work and develop at the professional level. I'm not trying to call my shot or anything here, but I think he's going to be successful here.
Call for questions
Let's get another mailbag going for Wednesday. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in that Bair Mail.
Join us as we take a look at the 2023 NFL draft class for the Atlanta Falcons, presented by AmFam.