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Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder expectations, Bijan Robinson, Arnold Ebiketie, positional value and adding receiver help

We discuss all that and more in this Friday mailbag

Editor's note:The statements and opinions regarding players and/or potential future players in the article below are those of the editorial staff and are not of the Atlanta Falcons' football personnel unless noted in a direct quote.

We've got a Friday mailbag coming your way. We're still in post-draft mode, which is the last stretch before we start seeing the latest Falcons working on the field.


Rookie minicamp is coming up next weekend, with OTAs kicking in after that. It's a fun time of year, especially with so many new faces on the roster and prominent in the lineup.

Let's set the stage for what we might see then and what we're looking forward to in the offseason program in this Friday mailbag. Don't fret, draftniks. We'll hit some major NFL Draft topics, including some dissenting opinion, in the latest mailbag.

David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa

I'm feeling that the draft yield (and off-season signings) was to take some of the pressure off of our developing quarterback -- a high end back and an O-lineman that can adapt to guard and/or tackle. Drafting a first-round edge rusher or linebacker wouldn't have helped our new QB. While the Matt Ryan era was high powered in the air, this new era will likely be a ground-game attack. Nothing against Ridder's arm, but I don't think he will be expected to throw 300 yards a game. I think that's good. Do you concur?

Bair: I think you've nailed it, David, in that the Falcons have tried like heck to build up the team around Desmond Ridder. That happens on offense and defense, so I'm not just saying that because the first two NFL Draft picks were a running back and a guard. I just don't think the Falcons look at the draft like that.

They're focused on the who, not the what. They took Bijan because he's Bijan, not cause he's a running back. They coveted Matt Bergeron, which has been made clear after the draft. While defenses keeping points down helps a quarterback, going back to your point now, that's an indirect benefit. Having a top-level guard and an elite running back is a direct benefit.

I think the Falcons are set up to run the ball and with overwhelming force, considering what they have up front and in the backfield. They'll end up trusting Ridder more than many think, though, and welcome his aggressiveness trying to push the ball down the field. Back to your point one more time, they will take advantage of him throwing the ball around but they don't need it to be successful.

In terms of expectations for Ridder, the base line is this: He need to take care of the football, run the offensive operation well and make throws when his team needs it. He proved capable of all those things last season. There's high confidence he can do those things again, maybe more, with a vastly improved supporting cast.

Max Barber from Powell, Tenn.

More comment than question: there's so much negativity from so-called football experts about the Bijan Robinson pick, that it makes me ever more confident in Coach Smith and GM Fontenot thinking regarding this decision. Clearly, this multidimensional talent fits well within Coach Smith's vision for offensive player versatility, and will no doubt strengthen our offensive scheming with a very young QB. My two cents …

Bair: The Robinson pick was about talent and fit. As Kyle Smith said earlier this week, who over what. The talent is evident, right? The fit with Arthur Smith is as important as anything in the equation to take him at No. 8. Smith likes positionless football. Robinson can play anywhere. He's not a running back. He's a weapon.

Also, for those who question the positional value of taking a running back that high and point to the percentage of first-round backs who get a second deal or last a long time, Robinson is working with Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson. His workload won't be as sky high as others drafted to be a savior.

I know you didn't ask me this directly, but I like the pick. I like it because of the talent and because Arthur Smith will use him as well as anyone in the league.

J.C. Daniel from Savannah, Ga.

Scott, I have a question not asked since the draft: with our D line free agents and Zach Harrison in the third round, how do you think #47 Ebeketie will do in his second season? Can he get to the QB more often with a better cast? Does he remain a starter? I like him a lot and I think Harrison will surprise. Go Falcons!

Bair: Great question, J.C. I'm not sure I have an absolute answer for you, though. We're all still waiting for clues of Ryan Nielsen will run this defense and set up its rotations in the front. It sure seems like the defensive line got bigger (like the Saints line, which Nielsen used to coach), and Arnold Ebiketie isn't quite the same size. That said, he won't be downgraded on spec. I mean, he's still 256 pounds. That isn't small. He could certainly be a third-down pass rusher or a sub-package guy. Ultimately, we're in wait-and-see mode when it comes to how they deploy Ebiketie, but he's too talented (and too recent a top draft pick) to expect anything less than a major 2023 contribution at this point.

Mac M from College Station, Tex.

I guess your response was about as much as we expected on the question about not drafting hometown guys. Obviously, everyone is ticked at skipping Jalen Carter, but I see bigger issues. They did not have to take Carter, but Bijan, as sure of a thing as he looks, is still a luxury pick from a team who had 1,000-yard rookie a season ago and many other holes. With Christian Gonzalez, Nolan Smith and plenty of O-line left, it doesn't make sense to me. Not to mention the panic move up to go get Bergeron in the 2nd when O-line talent was dwindling cost us a 3rd. If they knew wanted to address o line and weren't taking Carter there was plenty of talent available. Whereas staying at the original 2nd round had Keion White or Brian Branch fall in their laps. I just don't like what I'm seeing from this front office, in FA too.

Bair: I don't have much to comment on here, but I did want to include a dissenting opinion regarding the Falcons draft. Mac's opinion is fair and well written and deserved to be published.

John Ryan from Breckenridge, Colo.

Between draft & free agency I think things are looking up. Couldn't agree more w/ your assessment of the Jeff Okudah and Jonnu Smith acquisitions and their place in putting all of this together. My question now is WR. What do you feel will be the plan moving forward? Seems like we still need some combination of veteran experience, proven performance to lift the passing game. Do you get any sense for a logical trade out there- I've seen names tossed around but quite frankly none that make a lot of sense. And if not, what free agent leftovers/potential post draft cuts can you see as potential fits?

Bair: This question comes at an excellent time, John, because Tori McElhaney just wrote a story about roster holes and included receiver as an area where they could look for depth or an upgrade at the receiver spot. And, yes, I believe that even after the Penny Hart signing. OverTheCap says they have roughly $9 million in effective cap space (removing the cost of the draft class). They don't have a ton to work with, but I might consider a veteran like T.Y. Hilton or someone older who can at least provide experience even if there isn't much gas in the tank.

I'd also kick the tires on a trade for Corey Davis, someone Arthur Smith knows well and is currently with the New York Jets. If there isn't someone who can help from a leadership perspective or provide an instant upgrade, might as well let the younger guys duke it out. I'd bet they'll have Kyle Pitts outside a ton, so that Pitts-London pairing, plus Mack Hollins, could well be sufficient in its own right.

Call for questions

Let's get another mailbag rolling for Monday. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in the next Bair Mail edition.

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in that work for the 2023 season.

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