Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot’s first Falcons draft class is rapidly dissipating

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The Falcons have had some success drafting under the new regime. The three first-round picks seem to be great selections. Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Bijan Robinson can go toe-to-toe with any TE-WR-RB trio in the league. However, what makes front offices Super Bowl champions is the drafting and developing of every pick that isn’t from the first round.

Eventually, clubs have to start hitting on the second, third, fourth, and fifth-rounders. The Falcons have hit on a few — Ta’Quon Graham and Tyler Allgeier, in particular. However, much of the new regime’s first draft class isn’t developing as Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot had hoped; in fact, much of the 2021 class is dissipating.

Kyle Pitts, the highest-drafted tight end in history, has done nothing but deliver, even with a lees-than-stellar sophomore campaign. Richie Grant was the second-round pick and finished the 2022 campaign with 123 tackles in his first season as a full-time starter. Playing next to Jessie Bates III should also benefit him tremendously.

The aforementioned Ta’Quon Graham is an ascending talent who proved valuable playing next to Grady Jarrett last year. Drew Dalman is another who is ascending but needs to improve his pass protection dramatically if he wants to be the long-term center. Avery Williams also seemed to be establishing himself, especially as a punt returner but suffered a torn ACL this offseason.

However, three other selections might’ve played their last snap with the Falcons. Jalen Mayfield and Frank Darby are no longer with the club; the former cut and the latter was waived with an injury settlement. Ade Ogundeji was on the outside looking in, but an injury resulted in him landing on the IR. Darren Hall looks like he could squeeze out a roster spot, but his future is cloudy.

The most devastating one is easily Mayfield. The Falcons spent a third-round pick on the Michigan tackle then tried to turn him into a guard out of necessity when Josh Andrews suffered an injury.

The experiment went terribly, especially in pass sets. Many described it as one of the worst seasons ever for a rookie offensive lineman. Some had hoped for a bounce back campaign last year, but an injury kept Mayfield out for the entire season. This offseason didn’t bring anything better for him, either. He switched back to tackle but didn’t look any better and was eventually demoted to the third-team offense, where the writing was on the wall.

NFL teams can’t hit on every draft pick, but this third-round pick from the Falcons hurts. Quinn Meinerz went later in the third round and looks great for the Broncos, and everyone knows about Trey Smith, who the Chiefs landed in the sixth round. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

Ogundeji has started a lot of games for the Falcons but the production never matched the opportunities. Even though he was injured, his roster spot was in jeopardy. Darby was in a similar spot as Ogudeji and an injury cut his season short.

The Falcons, like other clubs, will never bat 1.000 in the draft. The club hit on several 2021 draft picks, but nearly half didn’t make it to their third season, which isn’t encouraging.

Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

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