Now that the Falcons have their 2022 rookie class in place, let's take a look at the outside perception of the individuals of said class.
Drake London, not the "best option" at No. 8 with Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams on the board.
Arnold Ebiketie, a one-year wonder with Penn State.
Troy Andersen, didn't have a single star coming out of high school and didn't play at the "right" level to produce league talent.
Desmond Ridder, can't win outside his conference.
DeAngelo Malone, average build and made a name in the CUSA.
Tyler Allgeier, a walk-on at BYU who played linebacker before moving to running back.
Justin Shaffer, not the best Georgia lineman left on the board at the time of his pick.
John FitzPatrick, doesn't have the offensive production that pops.
You want to know what all of these players have in common? They have a chip on their shoulder because of everything listed here. On draft boards... in grades of the picks... someone, somewhere brought these things up about these players as a reason why they won't pan out in the league.
You want to know who actively looks for players with something to prove? Players who have a chip on their shoulder? Players who - in their past - have worked to prove people wrong at one point or another?
Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith.
We take an inside look at the Atlanta Falcons' war room during the 2022 NFL Draft.
That's the blueprint, the makeup, the ethos of the players they want to build around in Atlanta.
It may not be something Fontenot and Smith would openly admit. It may not even be something they're cognizantly thinking about when they're pouring over their big board in the war room. It's a theme, though, that has reverberated through the organization this offseason.
Think back to the players they brought in throughout free agency already. They've signed so many veteran free agents on one-year deals. Those deals are called prove-it deals for a reason. These players signed them for a reason. They feel like they have something to prove in order to - perhaps - set themselves up for a bigger contract at a later date.
The Falcons signed these deals out of necessity. They did not have the cap space to sign long-term deals. So, they signed players with a chip on their shoulder. The Cordarrelle Pattersons, Isaiah Olivers, Auden Tates of the world.
What's interesting, though, is that as we moved forward into the 2022 NFL Draft, the Falcons were still looking for that same mold in the players they drafted. Atlanta had eight picks. All eight of the individuals they ended up drafting - from the top to the bottom - exemplify the same theme.
"That's our culture," Arthur Smith said, "and that includes guys who love football and are competitive, guys who have functional football intelligence and will continue to work to improve. That's what we're looking for with these types of players."
According to Terry Fontenot, the Falcons believe they found what they were looking for.
"We want guys who get on the football field and fight and compete. When you're looking for those types of guys, you can see that in every single one of them," he said.
Fontenot took it a step further, though. In his eyes, it's not just this draft class that personifies this chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. He likes to think it goes much, much deeper than that.
"Our head coach has a chip on his shoulder," Fontenot said. "You look at our building, at the staff, and we all have something to prove. We want people like that. We want a locker room like that."
So, no. It's not a stretch to draw this conclusion about the Falcons strategy.
It's not a stretch because it's exactly what they're doing.
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