The Falcons don’t have many elite players, but the new regime inherited a couple while acquiring a few more via the draft and free agency. ESPN recently explored the trade value of each NFL team’s most high profile players, and it’s not hard to imagine which were considered the most valuable trade chips.
One first-round pick and change: CB A.J. Terrell. He struggled a bit last season and is playing on the fourth year of his rookie deal, so he’s not quite as valuable as Sauce Gardner or Pat Surtain, who are younger and further from free agency. Terrell was one of the league’s best cornerbacks in 2021, though, and has spent most of his career playing on bad defenses with no pass rush. He would be a revelation playing for a team like the Eagles.
Terrell is one of the ten best corners in the league. He needs a new contract, so that definitely lessens his value, but elite corners don’t grow on trees. It’s hard to argue that Terrell, at this point, is the most valuable trade chip in the organization. He’s young, a great player, and plays a premium position.
One first-round pick: RB Bijan Robinson, WR Drake London. The rookie Robinson has been as advertised so far, as he ranks among the league leaders in rush yards over expectation. There are a number of teams that simply wouldn’t be willing to use a first-round pick on a running back because of the opportunity cost in making that sort of deal, but Robinson is still going to deliver surplus value over the next four seasons if he plays this way.
London’s week-to-week role in the offense can be frustrating, but we’re still talking about a 2022 top-10 pick who grades out as efficient on a route-by-route basis. He has averaged 2.1 yards per route run since entering the league, which is just below Ja’Marr Chase and Mike Williams. The problem is that Chase has run nearly 41 routes per game since the start of 2022, while London is averaging just over 25. It might take an A.J. Brown-style trade to a team that is going to throw the ball and put London on the field more often to unlock the sort of numbers people are hoping to see from the second-year pro, but the talent’s there.
I don’t have a problem with either of these, especially considering Drake London probably hasn’t quite materialized as many had hoped. He’s been good but not good enough, in terms of production, to be the first receiver taken in his draft class. Bijan Robinson, on the other hand, might be worth a bit more depending on how the rest of this year goes.
Missing out: I’ve wavered about TE Kyle Pitts, who had one of the most impressive rookie seasons we’ve ever seen from a tight end, but who also doesn’t look 100% after returning from knee surgery. There are teams that want their tight end to be a difference-maker in the red zone, too, and Pitts has only four scores across 33 games. He likely would be back alongside London if he looks healthy over the second half of the campaign.
G Chris Lindstrom is one of the best guards in football, but he’s also the league’s highest-paid interior lineman, which would cap his trade value. OT Jake Matthews and DT Grady Jarrett are very good veterans, but they’re on the wrong side of 30. Guys over 30 need to be bona-fide superstars (or quarterbacks) to land a first-round pick.
There are a few here that I don’t agree with at all. Firstly, if you don’t think Kyle Pitts is worth a first-round pick, then you haven’t spoken to the right people in the league. Think about what Kyle Shanahan would do with Pitts. He’d surely give up a first-rounder.
That’s not even my biggest gripe. Is there no interest in a 26-year-old, All-Pro safety in Jessie Bates III? The Falcons free agent gem has been the best player at his position in the league, and Jamal Adams fetched multiple first-round picks a couple of years ago. Sure, he was still on his rookie deal, but Bates is worth at least a first-rounder.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire