Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder, Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, A.J. Terrell leading Falcons team strength

Rookie discussion dominates this Wednesday mailbag

We're starting to learn more and more about the Falcons NFL Draft class, a group that clearly has fans excited. If you haven't already check out Tori McElhaney's series on how the Falcons found these picks – the links are listed below – before you see what they do lining up with veterans during the offseason program.

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That's the primary source of interest from you all right now, with most of the mailbag questions focused on the team's youngest players.

We still have to see how they develop and what kind of impact they can make in 2022 and beyond. That's for then. The start of Wednesday's mailbag starts right now:

Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.

What's up Scotty? So I've just listened to the Final Whistle pod. I agree with a lot of what you and Tori said about the QB competition. However, I might be the biggest supporter of Desmond Ridder behind Ridder himself. Based on everything that I've seen, that I've read and, from what I've learned, I am super confident that Ridder will win the job in training camp. I've said for weeks I have nothing against Mariota.

Bair: I guess we'll agree to disagree there, Chris. Well, sort of. And that's okay. Me thinking Mariota will take charge this summer and thrive in this system doesn't mean I don't like Desmond Ridder as a talent and a leader. My favorite stat of his: 44-6. That's his record at Cincinnati.

I just think him winning the job out of camp is unrealistic, though not impossible – that clause was for those of you ready to alert freezing cold takes – during this rookie season.

He's a leader and a producer. All he must do is point to 44-6. And, if you're right that he emerges as the long-term answer at quarterback, then the Falcons got an absolute steal and altered the course of the franchise in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The rookies and vets are out at Flowery Branch working together as a team for the first time.

James Haynes from Dalton, Ga.

So do you see any scenario where all three NFL draft picks start on defense this year, or do you think they will take it slow with them? I feel the only way you learn is by playing. What are your thoughts on it, Bair?

Bair: In terms of the starting lineup, as three-down players? I do not. Arnold Ebiketie could definitely be that every-down presence off the edge. Never say never, but Troy Andersen might need some development time to be an every-down presence, though his speed may work well in sub packages. Same thing can be said for DeAngelo Moore as a pass rusher, where he could at least help in a rotation.

You can be a significant contributor on defense even in a more limited role. And I'd also point to something I just wrote about Richie Grant and the Falcons' long-term vision for him and all their young players. Not every player needs to be an immediate starter. It's okay if they grow into a larger role over time. That's the fair expectation for rookies as opposed to expecting all of them to step in and start.

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Bill Whitten from Killen, Ga.

Scott, does this team have an identity? What's is the strongest part of the team? Offense line? Defense line? Passing attack? Receivers? Please share your thoughts on the area we fans should feel most positive about on this season.

Bair: How are things, Bill? Thanks, as always, for the question. It's way too early for the team with so much turnover to have an identity. Arthur Smith wants to build a big, physical football team. They're working on that.

I would say there's a theme, and that's playing with a collective edge, with the old chip-on-the-shoulder mentality. These draft picks, these veterans on prove-it deals all want to show they're deserving of playing time, a bigger contract or R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The Falcons plan on fighting for that each week.

Regarding the team's strength, I think it lies in the defensive backfield. A.J. Terrell's one of the very best. Casey Hayward might be one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the country. Isaiah Oliver has found a spot in the secondary. Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins have potential. The back end could be pretty good, especially if the Falcons can generate even an average amount of heat up front.

Rick Bowers from Kalispell, Mon.

Hello Scott, from way up in chilly Montana! Hate to see all of the negative press we get. I guess that comes with the territory considering what has happened in this off season. That leads me to my question. We have some very interesting rookie prospects coming from a Montana transplant from a long time Georgian.

Who of our rookies will be the WOW factor this season? Could it be one or more than one?

Bair: Rookie with the wow factor?!? Good term. That's a fun one, and doesn't lock me down into picking a top contributor. In terms of major impact, Drake London’s the guy. I think he could step in and be the top pass catcher in right away. I think Justin Shaffer's a dark horse in terms of major impact, if he pushes to start in 2022.

When it comes to wow factor, I’m going with Arnold Ebiketie. The Falcons haven't had a steady pass rush in some time – they only had 18 sacks last year – so someone who creates havoc would really help bring production and some entertainment to the defensive effort.

There's also this from NFLN's Mike Girardi, which should get fans excited about how the Penn State product plays.

Call for questions

Let's keep the mailbag full, with another edition coming up on Friday. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in the next installment.

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Falcons Final Whistle

Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – Breaking down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair and Tori McElhaney. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.

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