Bijan Robinson is an attraction. His talent makes for appointment viewing, especially now that he's moving from the University of Texas to a Falcons offense that seems like a perfect fit for his skill set. Will he live up to his No. 8 overall NFL Draft slot? Will he become an overnight sensation and then sustain success over a longer term? Will he prove as elusive in the pros as he did in college?
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We all have so many questions, but there's a virtual consensus that Robinson will put his stamp on the Falcons 2023 campaign.
An instant impact seems assured.
That's why we removed Robinson as a variable in our Question of the Week. If we ponder which rookie will make the biggest impact, the answer is always Robinson. That's why we've got to look a little deeper and identify someone else from the lower rounds who will leave his mark. The Falcons have received solid rookie contributions in recent seasons, especially last year. It could be argued that Tyler Allgeier was the best and most consistent rookie overall, and the BYU product was taken in the fifth round.
Now it's time for Scott Bair (hey, that's me!!) and Tori McElhaney to make their selections. Feel free to bookmark this story and compare end-of-season production to predictions and then tell me how right I am.
Scott: This question is pretty specific to the upcoming season, which limits my choices some. But I wrote the dang question, so there's no one else to blame but me. Way to go, Scott (Insert eyeroll emoji here).
Why does that matter? I have a sneaking suspicion that Zach Harrison's five-star talent and NFL-ready size and strength will develop quickly under Ryan Nielsen's tutelage. The Falcons defensive coordinator is well known and respected for getting the best of his talent, and Harrison seems like a player who could be a better pro than collegian with the right coaching. He'll have it here in Atlanta, but it will likely take some time to get Harrison going. It might end up as a longer-term project, which pushes me back a round to an All-American from Utah.
Clark Phillips III will have a chance to play right away, in the slot especially, though Mike Hughes might have something to say about that. That said, analysts believe Phillips has smarts and instincts to make plays on the ball and succeed at this level. It's always tough, and maybe a bit unfair, to assume a Day 3 pick can make an instant impact. If there's anyone who does, though, it's a strong and aggressive player like Phillips. He has been successful at every stop and will push to play quickly this summer. If he can adjust over the summer and into the fall, the Falcons might've found themselves a steal.
Tori: I knew - just knew - that Scott was going to choose Phillips. I knew because Scott has made it no secret that he loves the Phillips pick up in the fourth round, and hey, I get it. It's intriguing. However, I'm going the way of a little less flash and a little more substance. That's right, I'm talking about the super sexy topic of offensive line play. (Hold for applause).
It's really hard for me to believe that the Falcons traded picks away to move up higher in the second round to get a player who won't see the field. I get it that Matthew Bergeron has never played a game at guard before, though the Falcons believe he has the skill set to. He was exclusively a tackle in college, but if the long-term plan is for Bergeron to morph into a solution at left guard (a position that has experienced a revolving door of players over the last few years), then I say by all means, put him out there.
I tend to think you learn best by doing. Call it a trial by fire or drinking water out of a fire hydrant, but the most I ever learned in my own profession wasn't in a classroom, it was out on the field or in a locker room. It was doing the job until the job became second nature. I wouldn't mind seeing the Falcons follow a similar line of thinking for Bergeron.
And look, I am not saying to throw this kid to the wolves. But if he's in a good spot early in his development there's no reason not to try him out. In the meantime, the Falcons have Matt Hennessy who played a little bit of left guard last season. If he starts the season but Bergeron finishes it, perhaps that's not a bad idea.
Join us as we take a look at the 2023 NFL draft class for the Atlanta Falcons, presented by AmFam.