And, we're back. This year's NFL Draft was a fun one. It was productive as heck for the Falcons, who have been lauded this week for their eight-man haul addressing several needs.
Needs are often associated with positions – the Falcons addressed roster weaknesses over the course of three days – but there's more to it than that. The Falcons also needed certain traits lacking at every spot, especially speed and athleticism. They got plenty of that. They also upped the toughness quotient and competitive drive on a team that will often be an underdog this season.
Those are all pluses. Now it's time for the coaches to develop these prospects into pros, and we'll be keeping a close eye on that as we move forward.
Before we focus on what's next, let's answer your questions about what happened in this edition of Bair Mail:
Dave White from Woodstock, Ga.
The Desmond Ridder selection at 74 will be seen in later years in the same light as the Seahawks getting Russell Wilson at 75. I believe Ridder will be our QB for years to come after sitting and learning this year. Hoping the 2 edge rushers are able to make a difference soon. I'll be interested to read your thoughts on Ridder and the other draft choices over the coming days.
Bair: Desmond Ridder was the second quarterback off the board after Kenny Pickett 54(!) picks earlier, creating great value for the Falcons at that spot. I'm not sure they were committed to the idea of taking a cornerback, but the delay in signal callers falling off the board allowed Terry Fontenot to bring the Cincinnati alum in without the pressure of being a top pick.
If he works out, jackpot. If he doesn't, it isn't a huge loss. Third round picks don't pan out all the time. And, as Steve Wyche and Tori McElhaney pointed out in the Falcons Final Whistle podcast, Ridder can be used as a trade asset if Marcus Mariota balls out and establishes himself as the Falcons starter for seasons to come.
But, I digress. Back to your optimism about Ridder being the team's quarterback of the future. We obviously don't know how that will turn out, but I love his confidence and moxie and arm strength. I could throw charts and graphs at you showing he's more accurate than analysts claim, but I'll stick to my favorite stat: 44-6. That was his record with the Bearcats. He never lost a game at home. The Falcons needs guys who know how to win. That carries players through rough patches.
While I'm not ready to make any bold predictions – or Russell Wilson comps – I think it was a smart pickup and it will be interesting to watch him develop this offseason and into the future.
Join us as we review the Atlanta Falcons' full draft class for 2022.
Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.
While I was hoping for an edge rusher at number 8, Fontenot chose a wide receiver. I must admit I was hoping for a vertical threat downfield, that will have to wait. It does look like the defense added depth, but the lack of attention to the offensive line is concerning. One of the big guys was still available when London was picked. Play in the trenches win ball games. The Falcons signed Mike Davis to be the guy, but he never could find an opening in the line. The question is Fontenot drafted the back out of BYU why should fans feel he will fare any better Scott?
Bair: Thanks for checking in, Barry. There are a couple of topics here about the No. 8 pick.
1. Drake London is a deep threat. He just doesn't run by you. He jumps over you, or boxes you out.
2. I don't think you could've gone edge rusher at No. 8, considering the top three were gone and the next one didn't go until 26. There was obviously a gap behind the top three and the fourth among most teams.
3. Taking London started a crazy WR run that depleted the position group more than any other in the first round. If the Falcons wanted an elite receiver, that was the spot to get one. And they chose someone who fits their scheme well.
4. They didn't address the offensive line, but they've done so with two first-round picks, two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick since 2019. While that didn't solve the team's issue up front, the roster isn't in a state where it can be remedied by one quality draft. They added value where they could get it, and will continue doing so in future seasons. I know that doesn't satisfy your desire for an improved line in 2022, but the Falcons will need some time to get the roster right.
David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa
The post-draft dust is settling. Anything surprise you or was the draft as you anticipated? I don't feel any pick was forced or too much of a 'reach'. The optimism around the players that were drafted seem more optimistic than previous years. Maybe that's because the need was great across all areas. Every player has a better than average chance to make the club and make an impact. Your take?
Bair: I really like the draft class. And I say that after it didn't play out like I suggested it should. They snagged a quarterback – I said skip – and they only added one receiver – I said they needed two – but Fontenot and Smith added athletic, tough, competitive dudes at every turn, from No. 8 through No. 213.
I like the Drake London fit, Arnold Ebiketie's ability to make an instant impact and Troy Andersen’s athleticism. I normally take a wait-and-see approach to later picks, but I'm genuinely interested to see how Tyler Allgeier and even John Shaffer fit into this scheme. Deangelo Malone's another intriguing prospect. It'll be a fun group to watch develop over the summer.
Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.
One of the more eventful drafts in recent memory has come and gone. I was very pleased with how front Office executed this draft. Considering how the board fell and how much scrutiny they've been under recently. What was your overall grade/ impressions for this draft? Anything that surprised or shocked you? Not including the obvious Nakobe, Hamilton, and Willis and company sliding,
Bair: I know the quarterbacks weren't worthy of a first-round frenzy, but I still thought we'd see three or four go early considering team lose their minds of grabbing a good one. There was great QB restraint here, which set the Falcons up to take Desmond Ridder at No. 74.
In terms of grades, I generally don't give them. It takes time to know what you've got in a draft class. Go back and look at initial draft grades. They rarely match to a larger body of NFL performance. So I won't pass out a letter grade, I believe there's plenty of reason to be optimistic about this crew.
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