Day 2 draft fit for Falcons described as a ‘ballhawk’ cornerback

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Iowa State at Cincinnati

Terry Fontenot has done his best work in free agency with mixed returns in the draft since taking over as Falcons GM.

Every major free agent contract and extension has worked out for Atlanta, and Fontenot’s first-round picks could be regarded in that same manner. Hell, his Day 3 picks have been quite good too.

Drew Dalman has turned into one of the better centers in the league. Tyler Allgeier broke the franchise’s rookie rushing record in 2022, while Clark Phillips and DeMarrco Hellams supplanted highly drafted players last year as starters.

However, Fontenot’s work on Day 2 hasn’t been great.

From his first draft class, the Falcons took Richie Grant in the second round and Jalen Mayfield in the third. Grant’s starting job is the one Hellams took last season, and Mayfield is no longer on the roster.

From the 2022 cycle, it’s more of the same with Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, Desmond Ridder, and DeAngelo Malone. Ebiketie finished with six sacks last year, and the expectation is that he shoulders the load of the pass rush in 2024, whether that’s fair or not. Andersen suffered a season-ending injury in his sophomore season, so the jury is still out. Ridder was traded, and Malone took two (2) total defensive snaps last year… not great.

Last year’s draft class was better, though. Matthew Bergeron started every single game and progressed very nicely as the season went on, while Zach Harrison assumed a rotational role and made the most out of his opportunities.

Hopefully, the 2024 second and third-round picks resemble that class more so than the first one. Pro Football Focus came up with Day 2 fits for every team, and the Falcons’ is a cornerback who is described as a ballhawk.

Atlanta Falcons: CB T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

Iowa State’s T.J. Tampa would bring length and a physical presence on the perimeter of Raheem Morris’ zone-heavy defense. He’s a ballhawk who forced 21 incompletions over the past two years. Adding him to a secondary that already includes A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates III would cause plenty of headaches for opposing quarterbacks.

Tampa is projected to be a second-round pick, and if the Falcons could find a starter opposite A.J. Terrell there, it would be a resounding success. 21 interceptions in two seasons is an eye-popping stat, especially for an Atlanta defense that struggles to force interceptions.

What do you think about T.J. Tampa?

Photographer: James Black/Icon Sportswire
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