We've reached the end of our series on Falcons Building Blocks, a weeklong analysis focused on young players capable of leading this team into an era of sustained success. These guys must be working on a rookie contact, under 27, thriving with potential for better down the line.
Let's review the five-man list:
- WR Calvin Ridley
- RG Chris Lindstrom
- CB A.J. Terrell
- TE Kyle Pitts
- LB Foye Oluokun
That's a talented group, but it comes with this level of concern about the roster as a whole: listing five building blocks was easy but seven or eight would've been pretty tough. Receiver Russell Gage is the biggest and most glaring omission considering last year's production and an expectation that he'll become a major player in this year's offense. He's certainly deserving and fell victim to the fact that six isn't a round number. Let's get this straight: Gage could have a big season with a solid payday coming shortly after. He's an emerging talent effective in the slot, especially, an important and valued position in the modern NFL.
Adding right tackle Kaleb McGary seemed like a stretch at this stage. A solid 2021 campaign, however, would change things a bit. Tight end Hayden Hurst has more to prove, with plenty of opportunity likely coming his way in head coach Arthur Smith's offensive scheme.
Looking at the list as a whole, all but one is a first-round NFL Draft pick. That's both a good and bad thing. It's an obvious plus that the Falcons have hit consistently with early selections. There's so much value and star power associated with the first round, but those picks aren't slam dunks. There are several busts every year NFL front offices regret. It's tough to say Atlanta has felt that sting the last couple of years.
The first-round-heavy crew could also be viewed as a detriment that the list, or today's Gage-like honorable mentions, doesn't include more middle-round selections.
The Falcons need more young depth and talent mined from the draft's lower rounds and developed from within. In short, they need more Oluokuns and Gages. They especially need better from the second and third rounds under Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot.
That's still possible with these recent draft classes, including Fontenot's initial draft salvo. It sure seems like linebacker Mykal Walker's on the right track. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins might find his footing as well as a few others.
Fans would hope 2020 second-rounder Marlon Davidson could qualify as a building block next season, with Richie Grant, Jalen Mayfield and maybe Darren Hall under serious consideration in a year, maybe two. Part of that is picking the right players. Development's just as important for Smith's staff.
Smith and Fontenot will work to put their stamp on this roster one offseason at a time, but they can't accelerate the process of bring their type of player to the roster. They have to draft stack quality draft classes each April/May to improve roster strength with young and affordable talent and then rewarding their own. That's how the best teams do it, supplementing free agents to fill specific spots. That's how the Falcons can do it, too, by forming a solid foundation while forcing us to expand the Building Blocks list from five to 10 or more this time next year.
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