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Bair: Why Jeff Okudah, Jonnu Smith should be included in player haul from Falcons draft

We evaluate how Terry Fontenot, Arthur Smith used all of the 2023 draft assets available to them, trades and selections alike

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons 2023 NFL Draft class is now complete.

Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith added an elite running back talent in the first round, a lineman on both sides of the ball in the second and third, an All-American cornerback in the fourth and a pair of seventh round picks.


This is the group you'll see listed and graded in all these post-draft evaluations.

RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

OL Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse

DL Zach Harrison, Ohio State

CB Clark Phillips III, Utah (As an aside, I LOVE this pick)

DB DeMarcco Hellams, Alabama

OL Jovaugh Gwyn, South Carolina

In my mind, this list deserves an incomplete. And not because of the cliché (and logical) rationale that we need to wait multiple seasons to see how these players develop.

It's because the list above doesn't include Jeff Okudah and Jonnu Smith.

They're a part of this player haul as well. The Falcons used 2023 draft capital to acquire those guys, which more important than whether or not they were actually pulled from the amateur ranks.


You have to look at the group in totality and evaluate how each pick was used. That's how you get a grasp of what was brought in with the Falcons selections.

It changes how the class is viewed, in my opinion. It now includes an established veteran tight end and a super-talented cornerback working to prove himself. Those guys will help the 2023 product immensely, especially if they find true form and realize vast potential.

Would you rather have Okudah or a shot at a fifth rounder? I'd take a former No. 3 overall pick hungry to prove himself after getting a fresh start, even with but one year left on his contract. I'd rather have Smith that pick No. 245, even if he's more expensive than a rookie. I would fixate too much on the length of their deals, though. Okudah's 24 and Jonnu Smith is 28, and the Falcons have the future cap flexibility to pay them if another contract is earned.

The goal is to acquire good players with the resources available. That's what Fontenot and Arthur Smith worked to do, either by drafting or trading those picks for players.

"They're all assets. We kind of look at it even with guys like that, like with Jeff Okudah or Jonnu," Fontenot said. "It's going to take a draft pick and somebody to go get them. It's more about that. You weigh it.

"If you are using this draft pick, you won't be able to draft a player there, but it's just literally when we really like players, no different than there are some players that we had to move around for some players we were patient with, but when we have passion and conviction, whether we're talking about a free agent, whether we're talking about a draft pick, you have to be disciplined.

"We just really wanted to go get them. So, we just look at it like they're assets to try to get the right results that we want."

It remains uncertain how Okudah and Smith will fare in Atlanta. Same can be said of the draftees. But we know the talent is there. Did they get value with those assets, whether they were given or acquired in a previous deal?


It sure seems so, for the most part. We also know that not every move works out. We can't sit here and applaud the Smith and Okudah moves without bringing up Bryan Edwards, a failed experiment that cost a 2023 fifth-round draft pick. Wouldn't be prudent.

We also must state that the Bergeron move was expense, costing the Nos 44 and 110 overall picks to take a Syracuse lineman at No. 38. If he becomes a solid, steady starting left guard who shores up the offensive line's only opening, totally worth it.

All those things, though, must be considered when evaluating how the draft went.

I care a lot less about perceived value than most when it comes to draft assets. Did you select a talented player who makes the team and locker room better? If he does, it doesn't matter where you got him. There are too many swings and misses around the league, even with high picks, not to relish when you get one right at any level.

Smith likes to drop draft status at the door. It doesn't matter how you got to Atlanta, only that you can help. Odds are strong that several of players in this haul can do exactly that.

Join us as we take a look at the 2023 NFL draft class for the Atlanta Falcons, presented by AmFam.

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