Falcons 2024 draft class receives Mel Kiper’s worst grade

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With the NFL Draft in the rearview, the Falcons are the talk of the town, headlined by their head-scratching decision to take Michael Penix with the 8th overall pick.

The selection has been met with a swarm of negative comments. From draft pundits to Falcons fans, very rarely do both sides agree. It just so happens that both agree they hate the pick.

It was less to do with Michael Penix the prospect and more to do with the circumstances in which it happened. Mel Kiper did an excellent job breaking it down in his annual draft grades, givingĀ Atlanta the worst grade of the 2024 cycle — Grade: C.

With the No. 8 pick, I long considered the Falcons as owning the biggest pivot point in Round 1. Would they trade down to make a deal with a team moving up for a quarterback? Would they stay put and take the first defender off the board? They had options, all of which could help a defense that had just 16 takeaways last season, which ranked 29th in the league. With the addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins, this is a team built to win the NFC South now, but it had to draft significant contributors on the other side of the ball.

And then Atlanta’s selection was turned in on Thursday night, and there were mouths agape in the crowd here in Detroit. Look, we can debate Michael Penix Jr.‘s (8) talent all we want, but the Falcons had a chance to improve their defense with the best prospects still on the board and didn’t take it. Instead, they chose a quarterback to sit behind a guy to whom they just gave $100 million guaranteed. I just don’t get the logic here, and it’s not like Penix is raw, either. He turns 24 in May and has played a ton of football. It was one of the most shocking picks I can remember in Round 1.

I think the worst thing about the Michael Penix pick is that the Falcons won’t be proven right or wrong for years to come unless they somehow miss the postseason this year or Cousins goes down with an injury.

Vindication, either way, will not be had until Penix starts a regular season game. So, we can debate this until our hearts are content, but it’s rather pointless at this juncture.

What isn’t pointless is looking at the rest of the Falcons draft, most of which addressed the defensive side of the ball. Kiper loved Atlanta’s next three selections, all of which bolstered the defensive front.

GM Terry Fontenot got much better value on his next three picks. Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro (35) is a stout run-defender, but Fontenot had to give up his extra third-rounder to move up eight spots to get Orhorhoro. Atlanta doubled up at the position with Brandon Dorlus (109), who I thought could sneak into Round 3. Fontenot also snagged edge rusher Bralen Trice (74), who had 16 sacks over the past two seasons. At least the Falcons helped their needs here.

It’s not very difficult to grade this one in the moment based on the value of what Fontenot did in Round 1, even if I like a few other players in the class.

The Falcons have championship aspirations but had a ton of holes on the defensive side of the ball coming into the draft. Other than cornerback, they were filled. However, relying on Day 2 and Day 3 rookies to be significant contributors is risky for a club with hopes of competing in the postseason.

It’s been done, but the runway is extremely narrow. There’s not much room for error. We’ll see how the 2024 draft class shakes out.

Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire

 

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