Falcons: 4 questions surrounding the 2020 draft class

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A new chapter is here for the Atlanta Falcons. First-year general manager Terry Fontenot is in the process of building his first 53-man roster, but most of the tough decisions are behind him — namely his first draft and free-agent classes. The 2021 rookie class is potentially loaded with starting-caliber players; Kyle Pitts and Richie Grant seem primed to be true playmakers for Atlanta.

Jalen Mayfield, Darren HallDrew DalmanTa’Quon Graham, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Avery Williams, and Frank Darby will be limited for the first year of their careers, but each will have a chance in the future to contribute on a more regular basis as the players ahead of them on the depth chart have expiring contracts. Expecting these rookies to shoulder the load of the team in their first years is irresponsible. It takes a collective effort, which means the new regime will have to squeeze everything they can out of the former regime’s last draft class.

4. Is Matt Hennessy the long-term answer at center?

Fontenot selected Drew Dalman in the middle of the 2021 draft, who mainly projects as a center at the next level. This is especially interesting considering Hennessy was selected just one draft prior to Dalman, which means one recent draft pick will not see the field. From minicamp and OTAs, Hennessy has taken all the appropriate steps to solidify himself as the starting center, but there are still questions about whether he can translate the preparation to the field and produce.

3. Can Mykal Walker be an every-down SAM linebacker?

The Falcons have a little over $8 million in cap space, but after the recent news of Barkevious Mingo‘s departure, Fontenot could seek a cheap replacement in free agency. However, he could choose to rely on Walker as the SAM linebacker with such a small amount of cap space. Walker was the second-highest graded rookie defender, according to PFF, behind only Chase Young. He made the All-Rookie team as well for his outstanding production in limited snaps. Walker is an extremely versatile piece, and now, there’s a direct line for him to see the field more with Mingo no longer a part of the team.

2. Can Marlon Davidson provide any support for Grady Jarrett?

As a scheme fit, Davidson benefits more than anyone in this draft class from this new regime. Gary Emmanuel has already stated that Davidson will begin this year with a new slate after little to no action during his rookie year. During his introductory conference call with the Atlanta media a year ago, Davidson reaffirmed his ability and willingness to move around the defensive front. “I can play it all,” Davidson said. “Whatever they want me to be, that’s what I’m going to be. If they want me at 285, 280 playing a big end on the edge, or if they want to kick me inside, I can do it all.” That is exactly what the Falcons are going to expect out of him this year. He’s the perfect size and length to play a five-technique next to Jarrett as Davidson is a stout run defender but won’t be relied upon nearly as much to get after the passer. This is effectively a redo of his rookie year, but will he show any support for Jarrett?

1. Can A.J. Terrell take a sizeable sophomore leap?

Terrell has all the makings for a high-level corner in the NFL after showing impressive resiliency last season, evident in him being the victim of some tough matchups and incredible catches. However, he was rarely out of position and never lost confidence; Terrell has the makeup to continually ascend and establish himself among the league’s best. However, the fact remains that Terrell will have to take an incredible leap in 2021 for this team to exceed expectations.


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