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Bair: State of Falcons, NFL Draft context shows Drake London was right pick at right time

London's selection started a receiver run

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons are not one player away from forming a complete roster. There are many more holes to fill, probably more than can be addressed in one NFL Draft.

Don't think that's news to anyone inside or outside the Falcons facility.

This weekend's goal is to keep adding quality talent that fits both scheme and locker room culture. Do that enough, with a disproportionate amount of hits over misses, and a damn good team will emerge.


Drake London is not a franchise savior. He's a piece to the puzzle, albeit a prominent and likely productive one.

This was the first of five premium Falcons picks in this draft, all set in the top 82. He'll be part of a larger class of higher-end talents who will be charged with helping turn things around.

For those clamoring for an edge rusher or offensive tackle or quarterback or [insert your desired position here] at No. 8, think about this from a broader view.

Did they need a receiver? Yeah. Probably more than one. Did they have a chance to get the receiver they wanted? They quite literally had the pick of the litter. That couldn't be said at edge rusher, cornerback or tackle. Nothing they could do about the seven picks before them, even if some of those guys might've been enticing had they fallen.

Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith were able to add the talent they wanted at a position needing a complete overhaul, someone who fits their scheme and the way Arthur Smith likes to play offense. Oh, and he was the best player left on their board.

"He plays a lot of positions," head coach Arthur Smith said. "He has everything you want in terms of mental makeup. He's wired the right way. We're excited as hell that he's an Atlanta Falcon."

Smith and Fontenot got their guy, someone who fills a major need and checks tons of boxes.

Atlanta Falcons have drafted USC wide receiver Drake London at the eighth pick.

Now let's think about this pick in the context of Thursday's opening round. The Falcons heard from a few teams about moving down in the draft, but none with offers they seriously considered.

If they wanted London, they couldn't have gotten him much lower anyway, because something Smith predicted before the draft played out after London went off the board.

Offensive tackle Charles Cross went to Seattle at No. 9, followed by three straight receivers, including trades to come up and get Jameson Williams and Chris Olave. Starting with London, six receivers were taken in the next 11 picks.

"Arthur brought it up and we kind of predicted that probably was going to happen, that there was going to be a little run on those guys," general manager Terry Fontenot said. "That's kind of how that happens. There was a defensive run and then the receivers started to go."

Oh, and A.J. Brown got traded, making him the latest in a run of star receivers shipped to other teams in a volatile receiver market where salaries have skyrocketed. There was tons of quality available, ready to work on rookie contracts.


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Context plus talent made London the exact right pick at the exact right time.

Want a top-shelf receiver? The first round was the place to get one.

The Falcons read the room well and plucked an elite prospect when they could.

Could this be a No. 1 receiver in the vein of Roddy White and Julio Jones? He has so much work and production ahead to even think about that.

There's one thing we can say definitively: there's potential to reach great heights. Whether he realizes it is a complete unknown.

We do know London is physical, strong and fast. He has the tools to compete at this level and should pair well with offensive weapons Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson.

He has another trait, which Smith pointed out several times in a Thursday night press conference, that made him attractive to the Falcons.

Versatility. He has played outside and in the slot. He has done things at USC he'll be required to do here. They know that from the tape. They know that after working London out privately and meeting with him twice.

"We've seen him go inside the numbers," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys in these offenses who only play one position or only play on one side. It does give you a lot of confidence in ways you can move personnel groups. We've seen him run the routes we're going to ask him to run inside. We've seen him make contested catches outside. We're very confident in the player and what we're getting."

"…He's a really valuable offensive weapon for us."

There was a serious divide among the fan base about which position to use the No. 8 to address, but everyone should be able to see receiver was the right move at the right time.

And, on a team with so many needs and premium positions lacking talent, the main goal at No. 8 should've been simpler. Don't miss that high.

Then keep stacking picks and filling needs and building a competitive team good enough to earn lower picks.

"Hopefully, once we get this thing rolling," Fontenot said. "We won't pick in the top 10 anymore."


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