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Question of the Week: Which new Falcons are you most excited to see during OTAs and minicamp?

Scott and Tori select a veteran addition and NFL draft pick they can't wait to watch work in red and black

We're at a point in this Falcons offseason where the #fullsquad is starting to take real shape.

Most new and incumbent veterans have participated in the offseason program, which has now entered its second phase. Rookie minicamp is coming up next weekend, with NFL Draft picks and undrafted free agents entering the fray.


Rookies will join the experienced the following week, with OTAs on the horizon. By the time we hit June's mandatory minicamp, we'll see every healthy Falcons player on the field and working together.

That brought up an interesting question discussed in Tori McElhaney's office. Which Falcon are we most interested to watch work this spring? There's so much new out there that there will be options aplenty, both from recently signed free agents and NFL Draft picks.

That's why Tori and I will pick one player from each category that can't wait to see operate Falcons schemes in the latest Question of the Week:


Veteran addition

Tori: I think I have to go with Jonnu Smith, which I realize to some is probably a hot take since the Falcons picked up guys like Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata and Jeff Okudah, all who have better name recognition than Smith. But hear me out… I doubt we will see a lot of live action from Kyle Pitts as he continues to work back to 100 percent, so that may mean more Jonnu Smith sightings through OTAs. And I'm cool with that.

We know Jonnu Smith's production didn't live up to his contract in New England, but don't for a second think that means all hope for a tight end with Jonnu Smith's skillset is lost. His best years in the league came when fellow Smith - Arthur Smith - was calling plays for him in Tennessee. There are some player/coach combinations that just fit, that just work, and I think this Smith and Smith combo works for both parties. Arthur Smith loves an athletic tight end. Jonnu Smith loved playing for a play caller who leans heavily on his tight end arsenal.

I don't want to get too hype about it considering we still have so much time before Week 1 of the 2023 season gets here, especially when we know Pitts is going to enter the fold again at some point, but I just think there is real potential here for us to see Jonnu Smith on the rise again.

Scott: I, too, am skipping some of the bigger names in this free-agent class. I'm super curious to see Kaden Elliss at work. He's fresh off a breakout year where he had seven sacks and three QB hits on just 20 pressures, meaning he was super efficient when he did come forward and attack. The passer rating against him was also below 100, without a touchdown allowed to his credit.

While I harbor zero illusions that Ryan Nielsen will show us any hints this spring about the defense we'll see in the fall, we'll get a grasp of Elliss athleticism and how he works with Troy Andersen, another athletic freak operating in the middle of the defense. That pairing will be key in so much of what the Falcons do. I'm super intrigued to see how he fits in, helps run the show and enhances the talent of those around him.

NFL Draft pick

Tori: I mean the answer is Bijan Robinson, but not really. OTAs are not the time for a lot of live drills and 11-on-11 scrimmages with the full pads on. That's not what this part of the season is. It's a bit more laid back. So, you're not going to see Robinson in the way you want to. You're not going to see him breaking tackles. You're not going to see him running at 110 percent. You may see him catch a few passes from Desmond Ridder, but that's kind of it. That's why Robinson isn't the player I'm most looking forward to seeing. It's the Falcons fourth-round pick, Clark Phillips III.

I have seen Robinson in person. I know his build and I know the athletic prowess of which he gives off. I haven't seen Phillips in person, yet, but I want to. I've watched some tape on this guy and while small - only 5-foot-9 - he's super fun to watch. He has a knack for being where the ball is, and he plays so much bigger than his frame. He never shied away from facing some pretty good receivers in college (cough, cough, Drake London, cough). The word that best describes Phillips in my mind is, "moxie," because he seems to have it in excess.

I am quite excited to see that moxie in full force.

Scott: Here's the problem with going second in the QoW order. Sometimes the best options get picked. That's the case here, where my affinity for Phillips III grows with every highlight I watch. He was my easy pick, for reasons Tori mentioned about. Plus, it's tough to evaluate linemen without pads or live tackling. The offseason program doesn't feature legit contact at all, and for good reason. Keep the guys healthy with games that count still a million miles away.

All that said, I'm still picking a lineman. And for good reason. Second-round pick Matt Bergeron has played tackle most of his football life, save a Senior Bowl practice and a few moments beyond that. The Falcons believe he can play inside at guard and thrive there, with reasons aplenty supporting their projection. It'll be interesting to see him work inside, even if he begins working with lower-level units while learning the scheme, system and, obviously, the guard. position.

Matt Hennessy's going to fight hard for the starting left guard spot. Jalen Mayfield could look to redeem himself there. Nothing will be given at that spot, but the Falcons traded up to get a player they truly believe in. Arthur Smith says Bergeron's a mauler. I'd like to see some of those traits come out as we work through the spring and summer.

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

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