The Falcons boast one of the worst receiver corps in football as the NFL draft quickly approaches. Given Calvin Ridley‘s suspension, Atlanta obviously needs to add a wideout, which has been the primary catalyst for national pundits like Peter King, Mel Kiper Jr., and Todd McShay mocking the Falcons selecting Drake London or Garrett Wilson at No. 8. I am of the opinion the Falcons won’t be selecting a playmaker to add to the receiving core with their first-round pick.
In the Falcons’ end-of-season presser, the former long-time Saints executive [Terry Fontenot] said BPA (best player available) has a proven track record, and straying from this strategy is “how you make mistakes.” Every year, organizations will reach on prospects because they’re desperate for a player of that particular position; sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t. The Falcons won’t make that mistake. Fontenot will select the highest graded prospect on their big board, regardless of the position. The first-time general manager is on record stating they won’t be afraid to add to a position of strength.
A selection this high in the draft is supposed to be a cornerstone of the rebuild. Finding a difference-making receiver in the later rounds shouldn’t be as difficult as finding a pass rusher or offensive linemen to build the team around. Nobody — no one successful, at least — constructs rosters around receivers. Many have described this class as deep, so, in theory, Atlanta should be able to find quality pass catchers with their other selections.
I just don’t see Wilson, London, or any other receiver prospect being ranked in the top eight of the team’s big board. For what it’s worth, I think Jameson Williams should be the pick if it is a wideout at No. 8. However, I don’t buy it. The Falcons will find an offensive lineman, defensive back, or EDGE defender with their first selection — Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Travon Walker (long shot), Sauce Gardner, Kyle Hamilton, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson II, or Derek Stingley Jr.
Obviously, the Falcons still need to add a playmaker to give the recently signed Marcus Mariota more to throw to than just Kyle Pitts, who will undoubtedly see double coverage until Atlanta finds a consistent threat to put next to him. There are still plenty of opportunities for the Falcons to find a receiver, given their five picks in the first 82 selections.
Now, second and third-rounders aren’t necessarily expected to make an immediate impact, but that would be fine for 2022. The Falcons can lean heavily on Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson in the passing game, especially if Atlanta selects an immediate contributing running back to lighten Patterson’s load as a runner.
“Appreciate what CP did for us last year [and] what he’s gonna do for us in the future,” Arthur Smith said Tuesday, “He’s gonna move around at a lot of spots.”
The Falcons re-signed Patterson to a very palatable two-year deal worth $10.5 million. He’s vital to Smith’s offense and gives Atlanta a versatile chess piece. Outside of Pitts, he was the only consistent weapon last season. Patterson set career highs in receiving, rushing, and total touchdowns — 618 rushing yards (4.0 YPC), six rushing touchdowns, 548 receiving yards (10.5 YPR) and five receiving touchdowns. He is a fan favorite, and the Falcons got him back on a very reasonable deal.
Patterson will obviously be a big part of the Falcons’ offense in 2023, but his usage will depend on what Atlanta needs from him. He can be more pass-centric if the Falcons can find a productive rusher to pair with Mike Davis. Obviously, Patterson is still valuable as a runner, but the roster may dictate him to be more of a receiver in 2022.
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