You've already read about how the Falcons decided on Drake London with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But what about the rest of the draft class? How did the Falcons find them? How did they land on them? Through conversations with area scouts and position coaches, those stories unfold. Every Tuesday for the next seven weeks, we'll attempt to tell those stories for every 2022 draft pick by the Falcons.
Arnold Ebiketie and Troy Andersen's stories were already told last month, while Desmond Ridder's began June anew. Now, we dive into the story of DeAngelo Malone, who pleased the Falcons well before they ever saw him in person.
By Tori McElhaney
Some times you have to see a player in person to feel their presence. You have to see how they move, how they carry themselves on the field or in the locker room before really coming to a conclusion about who they are and what they can provide. That wasn't necessarily the case for DeAngelo Malone, the Falcons No. 82 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
His college tape - and the production displayed there - was enough to catch the eyes of decision-makers in Atlanta.
It caught their eye through the screen, though, and that's telling. Before Malone was the MVP of the American team of the 2022 Senior Bowl, he was high on the Falcons wish-list because of the production that followed him year after year before he ever entered into draft discussions.
Malone's stat line through five years at Western Kentucky is one of the best you'll see at that level. He holds the school record for career sacks (34) and he was No. 2 in tackles for a loss (60). He also had nine career forced fumbles. According to Ted Monachino, Malone is someone he would describe as "ultra productive," and he doesn't use that term lightly.
"DeAngelo Malone is a special football player," the Falcons outside linebackers coach said. "... He's a guy who you can build a lot of things around, and you can do a lot of different things with."
It begged the questions: How did a 198-pound, two-star recruit coming out of high school become one of the most productive edge rushers in school history? Why did he thrive at Western Kentucky? How did they use him? And why did it work?
Falcons area scout Benjamin Martinez said the answer is actually really straightforward. As the focal point of Western Kentucky's defense over the last few years, the coaching staff simply "allowed (Malone) to do his thing."
"(They) kept it simple for him to pin his ears back and go," Martinez said. "... You don't just fall into all of those numbers that he's had, so he's doing something right."
Asked the same question, Monachino said Malone's role was a pretty standard one because of his ability to attack off the edge without much of a show. A lot of the time it was just: 'DeAngelo, line up and sic 'em,' Monachino said.
"Which is what you want to do with a guy who can win on his own," he continued.
And that's what Malone did a lot of throughout his college career: He won his matchups.
Monachino said it's fun to turn on Malone's tape because it's a bit different in this way. You don't have to search for what Malone can be as his career progresses. You see the guy he can be in just about every play.
"You don't have to watch the whole season to see him be a great edge setter in the run game or be a good pass rusher on third down or to see him play in coverage," Monachino said. "It's an easy evaluation when you find a guy like this that can do all the things - physically - that we ask our guys to do."
So, what are the Falcons asking Malone to do? Well, they want him to maintain the speed of which he played with in college. Throughout the entire pre-draft evaluation process, that's what stood out most to evaluators.
As Dane Brugler wrote in his draft guide for The Athletic: "(Malone) is a quarterback hunter with the athletic traits and God-given acceleration to make plays."
The Falcons could use some of that God-given talent of which Brugler noted Malone provides. In real terms, Monachino explained this acceleration best.
"He's very explosive and twitchy and you see that in a short space," Monachino said. "He doesn't take long to build up to that speed and he's playing at that tempo almost consistently throughout every game that you watch."
So, Malone intrigued the Falcons early on. And upon traveling to Western Kentucky this past summer, Martinez said he saw immediately that Malone could provide something the Falcons needed.
"He's got those explosive qualities," Martinez said. "He's got some juice on the edge, and that's the name of the game."
Juice. Speed. Acceleration. Those are the words that come up over and over again with Malone. He already has all of this at his disposal. Now, Monachino said it's about getting Malone up to speed mentally.
What used to be productive and effective at Western Kentucky probably won't work as well in the NFC South. He's going to be asked to do a lot more in this defense even as a rookie, simply because of the overall construction of the outside linebacker position in Atlanta.
Monachino wants to refine Malone's skills in his first year, noting it's about "adding to their tool box" as players and not "reshaping them." He believes this reshaping can happen sooner rather than later for Malone.
"It's going to be one of those things that the light is going to come on quickly with him," Monachino said.
The Falcons could envision a productive future for Malone when they first flipped on his tape. That's not something that happens for just anyone.
Perhaps, it's why they drafted him.
"He's going to be in the rotation," Martinez concluded. "They're going to come in waves but he's going to provide a juice that we need."
The rookies and vets are out at Flowery Branch working together as a team for the first time.