In general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith's second offseason, they will have the luxury of having one of the best opportunities to build through the draft in the league. The Falcons will have eight picks in the 2022 NFL draft, including four selections in the top 74 picks, giving Atlanta the eighth highest draft capital in the NFL.
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The Jets, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Lions, Broncos, and Ravens are the only teams with more draft capital.
The Falcons' place at eight comes largely because of one of the first big moves of Fontenot's time in Atlanta. Fontenot traded one of the best players in Falcons' history in wide receiver Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans for a 2022 second-round pick and 2023 fourth-round pick.
Jones' battled injuries in 2021, finishing with career lows in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. The second-round pick will be No. 58 in this year's draft, giving the Falcons two choices in the second round. The Falcons could use these picks for two players who likely would be expected to contribute in year one or use them to move into the first round and select a player that they are in love with. The options are endless as they could also trade back or even package these picks to get a player around the league.
While having many picks looks like a great idea and strategy on paper, having draft capital is not always an indicator that a team will become successful.
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The Buccaneers, for example, used a second-round pick in 2016 on Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo, who struggled and was waived by the team after a season.
Every NFL team passed on Seahawks Pro-Bowl receiver DK Metcalf before being taken with the 64th overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft. There were some players who were selected ahead of Metcalf that teams should feel comfortable about, like 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel or Titans receiver A.J. Brown. Still, others like Eagles receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry were clearly missteps.
The Rams will not pick in the first round until 2024, after trading future first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, and even Brandin Cooks and Jared Goff, who are no longer with the team. That makes seven straight drafts without a first-round pick.
They also traded their second and third-round picks in 2022 for Von Miller. general manager Les Snead has embraced their strategy, even proudly drinking from a mug that read "F*ck them picks." The process paid off as the Rams won Super Bowl 56 over the Cincinnati Bengals.
There's also the strategy of trading capital for higher picks.
The Chicago Bears traded their No.3, No. 67, No. 70, and No. 111 draft selections to the San Francisco 49ers for the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, which became quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who is no longer with the team.
In that same draft, the Kansas City Chiefs traded their No. 27 overall pick, a third-round pick, and a first-round pick in 2018 to the Buffalo Bills to move up to No. 10 to select Patrick Mahomes. Since Mahomes became the starter, the Chiefs have been to four straight AFC Championships, with one Super Bowl win and two appearances.
So while draft capital is an exciting start to look at, it doesn't matter unless teams are making the right picks, or in the Rams' case, the right trades. Fontenot has revamped the Falcons scouting department and continues to ensure that the Falcons are getting value with those selections or making other moves to maximize that capital.
And time will tell if the Falcons made the right decisions in the 2022 draft.