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Scott and Tori break down the 2023 Falcons NFL Draft class

We discuss Bijan Robinson, the overall draft class and their favorite pick from Days 2 and 3

The 2023 Falcons draft is complete.

Terry Fontenot, Arthur Smith and their staff made six selections over three days, including the addition of Texas running back Bijan Robinson at No. 8. They traded up to land Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron in the second round, and Ohio State's Zach Harrison in the third.


Day 3 wasn't action packed, after the Falcons traded most of those picks before or during the draft. Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III was a fourth-round selection and then, after a super long wait, Alabama defensive back DeMarcco Hellams and offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwyn with consecutive picks in the seventh.

Fontenot found connective thread between these picks.

"We took smart tough, highly competitive football players who fit what we're about," he said.

What are the Falcons about? Being physical, aggressive and relentless. They worked to bring in those types of players regardless of position.

So, with the NFL Draft in the rearview, Scott Bair -- it's weird referring to yourself in the third person – and Tori McElhaney will answer three pressing questions about these proceedings, where the Falcons worked to upgrade their roster.

Question: What are your initial thoughts on this draft class?

Scott: Smith said prior to the draft that the Falcons didn't feel desperate, required to address any particular position. That's a fair statement considering what was accomplished in free agency, and you could see that play out in the NFL draft. The Falcons draft didn't feel forced.

They had the freedom to unapologetically take Robinson in the first round, even with Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson at the position. Robinson is an elite talent, one of the best players in this draft class. Positional value be darned. The Falcons got an excellent player who is a near perfect fit with Smith's offense.

They were able to focus on fit, which played out in every round. They got a versatile mauler in Bergeron. They got a hulking end in Harrison who fits with a revamped defensive line. Defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen likes physical and aggressive ballhawks at cornerback. That's Phillips to a tee.

Hellams is tough as nails and welcomes special teams assignments. Gwyn's a workout warrior who can play center or move to guard.

If I were to have one critique, I'm a bit surprised the Falcons didn't address the receiver position. I think they're still lacking there, even with Kyle Pitts expected to flex outside a ton. If they forced a pick to get a wideout, though, that wouldn't gone against their draft philosophy of finding the best talent who is also a great fit.

We have zero idea how these players will turn out, but I like the talent and player type brought in. It will be interesting to see them work during the offseason program and find out how they transition to the NFL game.

Tori: To me, the Falcons did exactly what they said they were going to do: They found tough players, and they prioritized the line of scrimmage. Atlanta ended up with six picks, three of the six will be found closest to the ball, and then there's one who will be carrying the ball. The other two picks were defensive backs, which makes sense as Atlanta saw last year defensive back is a position that's depth is necessary. 

I think Arthur Smith said it most poignantly in his final draft press conference on Saturday evening: Depth at the line of scrimmage, particularly at offensive line, is one you have keep at a certain level because of the nature of the position. Last year, the Falcons cycled through not two, not three, but four different players in just as many weeks at left guard. So, it shouldn't be all too surprising that the Falcons got not one, but two offensive lineman in the draft, and the plan is for both Matthew Bergeron and Jovaughn Gwyn to get their early reps inside, too.

Question: What are fair expectations for Bijan Robinson in Year 1?

Scott: They're going to be high. That's a stone cold lock.

Want proof? There were a few analysts saying on Day 3 that Robinson was a favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

That's a bold statement. There's no way I'm going that far.

I do think he'll make a profound and immediate impact on the 2023 Falcons. I'm confident his skill set will translate to pro game and his fit with Arthur Smith's scheme will help maximize his ability.

I'm not going to predict stat lines or anything, but I believe Robinson will be active in the passing game and rushing on third downs and in the red zone. I also think Tyler Allgeier will play a significant role in the rushing attack, allowing both players to avoid super heavy workloads. That's a good thing for those guys.

From Allgeier to Kyle Pitts to Drake London, there's enough talent in Atlanta to take some pressure off Robinson. He won't have to be a savior here. But it's fair and appropriate to assume he'll play a major offensive role in 2023. You can expect some rookie mistakes to be made. You can also expect some dynamic plays and a significant impact on the Falcons ability to win games.

Tori: I expect nothing short of a 1,000-all-purpose-yard season, and I'm not joking. You see I said all-purpose yardage not a 1,000-plus rushing yard season. That's because I do believe Arthur Smith is going to have Robinson play a much bigger role than just getting the ball handed off to him in the backfield. The words "offensive weapon" has come up in every Robinson-centered conversation I've had with scouts, assistant coaches and even Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith since the moment he was drafted. 

We saw what "offensive weapon" meant for Cordarrelle Patterson in his first year with the Falcons. We saw what that tag meant for Kyle Pitts in his rookie year, too. Patterson had 1,166 all-purpose yards in 2021. Pitts broke 1,000 yards receiving as a rookie tight end. Even Tyler Allgeier – who does give the Falcons a more traditional running back look - in his rookie year broke the 1,000 yards rushing mark in 2022 after the Falcons drafted him in the fifth round last year. This is the track record Robinson can actively see as he joins Atlanta. So, I don't think it's unreasonable to believe Smith will find a way for Robinson to join the 1,000-yard club, in whatever capacity that looks like.

Question: Who was your favorite pick not named Bijan?

Scott: I love the Clark Phillips III addition, especially after hearing him speak to the press on Saturday. The Utah cornerback is con-fi-dent. I mean, wow. He has unflappable belief in his ability to transition well to the next level, and despite being relatively undersized.

Phillips has a response to his doubters, too: scoreboard. He led the Pac-12 with six interceptions, and four of his nine collegiate interceptions were returned for a touchdown. He's always around the ball and is strong enough to handle NFL receivers. He can play inside and out, and has a real chance, in my opinion, to be another one of Fontenot's Day 3 draft steals.

Tori: Zach Harrison, and I say this because I don't think we've seen the best version of Harrison quite yet. Harrison is a guy who was a highly touted recruit out of high school but didn't start living up to his five-star status until recently. That shows me a player who was willing to go back to the drawing board to get better. He could have wallowed in his early missteps as a young college player, but he didn't. He went back to work, and I find that admirable. I also think that means there is a lot still left on the table for him. 

And I get it that his sack numbers don't pop off a stat sheet, but his pressures are more important to me right now than sheer sack numbers. The Falcons have said for years at this point that they need players who can actively affect the quarterback and get him off his spot. Harrison has shown he can do that. If that translates to the professional level, he could be a really nice addition to the Falcons rotation in a couple of years, especially considering Ryan Nielsen's own track record developing young talent.

Join us as we go into the War Room for the Atlanta Falcons' picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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