Can pair of late round UGA draft picks make an impact for Falcons?

dhh21092579 van vs uga

The Falcons’ 2022 rookie class has passed with flying colors before even stepping onto the field. Across every national network, pundits are fond of Atlanta’s draft haul. Several respectable analysts dubbed Drake London and Desmond Ridder as perfect scheme fits, but the praise didn’t stop there.

Others highlighted the selections of Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone as having great value, especially considering how much the Falcons need pass rushers. Moreover, Arthur Smith may have just received the team’s next bruising running back to pair with Cordarrelle Patterson in Tyler Allgeier.

For the most part, the team’s first six selections all seem to have a clear path to getting on the field and making an impact. However, can the same be said for the Falcons’ pair of UGA sixth-round picks?

Justin Shaffer was the Falcons’ No. 190 overall selection. He was a two-year starter for the Dawgs, including on their National Championship run. Atlanta had to add an offensive lineman at some point in the draft; the unit is one of the worst in the league. The Falcons surrendered 40 sacks last year, and three of the five starters were some of the worst pass protectors in the league. Jalen Mayfield was statistically the worst lineman in pass sets, so the team had to add some form of competition at left guard — enter Shaffer.

He’s a powerful guard that certainly has a shot at unseating Mayfield. Shaffer bodes well in a run-centric offense, though many believe him to be a better gap scheme fit than zone. Still, his run-blocking ability is undeniable. I actually think the former Dawg has a shot at starting, but that’s more an indictment of Mayfield. And I’m not the only one who says he could earn some snaps his rookie year. Chad Reuter believes Shaffer is one of a dozen Day 3 selections who have the potential to push for starting reps.

Moving onto the second Georgia product and the Falcons’ last selection of the 2022 NFL draft, John FitzPatrick. I am actually much more confident that FitzPatrick gets snaps than Shaffer. The latter might steal the starting left guard job from Mayfield, but the former will undoubtedly have a role in the Falcons’ offense.

Atlanta had one of the best blocking tight ends in the game retire this offseason in Lee Smith, and it seems FitzPatrick is the filler because he wasn’t drafted for his pass-catching skills — only 17 career catches. His 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame should be useful for Arthur Smith, who wants to be physical up front in the run game.

Shaffer has the potential to play more snaps, but I believe FitzPatrick is guaranteed snaps. Both could carve out important roles as late-round draft picks.

Photographer: Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: