Terry Fontenot has stated numerous times leading up to last year’s NFL draft and again at the conclusion of the 2021 season that the Falcons would be using a best player available strategy during the 2022 draft.
Essentially that means the Falcons don’t have a single target for the eighth overall pick; instead, Atlanta will make a decision based on how the board falls. For instance, the Falcons could end up with a wide receiver, quarterback, safety, or some other position that isn’t a glaring need because Fontenot believes when teams reach for players to satisfy needs is when mistakes happen.
The highest-graded prospect on the Falcons big board that is available when they’re on the clock will be the one taken eighth overall. At least one draft pundit believes a top-three prospect could end up sliding to the Falcons.
Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network believes Aidan Hutchinson, who many believe will be one of the first three players taken in April’s draft, could slide because of his… arm length?
Arm length matters in the trenches. It’s not a reason to rally against a prospect on its own, but in a tightly contested EDGE class, it could make a difference (for some teams) between Aidan Hutchinson and somebody else.
Hutchinson is rumored to have sub-33-inch arms. Still, he’s a worthy top-10 pick, and a team like Atlanta could be the beneficiary if he falls. Hutchinson’s a stellar athlete at 6’6″, 260 pounds, with violent, twitchy hands, and a motor that runs hotter than the sun’s corona.
NFL teams undoubtedly have preferences when it comes to certain positions, but sometimes players force teams to make exceptions to those tendencies. We saw Rashawn Slater, whose short arms scared some off, have one of the best seasons of the 2021 draft class; it is sometimes better to consider the actual play and not the measurables, which I’m sure most NFL teams already do.
However, if Hutchinson fell, that would be an absolute steal. He’s an athletic 6-6 and 260-pound edge rusher with an impressive motor and twitch. He was the nation’s top defensive end, a season that ended in him winning the Ted Hendricks Award.
Those short arms didn’t struggle sacking quarterbacks this season; Hutchinson set the single-season sack record for the Wolverines with 14 sacks. Sure, teams prefer players of a particular position to carry a specific weight, stand a certain height, and run a certain speed; however, Hutchison’s arm length shouldn’t scare teams away.
Terry Fontenot prefers his players along the defensive front to actually have long arms, but if Hutchison fell, he’d absolutely scoop him up. Fontenot’s first draft netted Ade Ogundeji and Ta’Quon Graham, who both measured in the 90th+ percentile in arm length. Obviously, the former Saints executive clearly has a type. With both defenders measuring 35+ inches, Fontenot prefers length across the defensive front, but I can guarantee you Hutchison would change that precedent.
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