No organization is going to hit on every single draft pick; it’s just unrealistic. In reality, hitting on 50% of prospects would likely land you in the Hall of Fame as a general manager. And the Falcons new regime’s draft classes are impressing thus far in the preseason.
Kyle Pitts was the first selection of the Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith era, but he was always going to work out. The highest drafted tight end in league history took the NFL by storm last season en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. And in just a handful of snaps in the preseason, Pitts is flashing the superstar qualities. Against the Jets, he blew by Bryce Hall for a 52-yard catch and pass from Marcus Mariota.
However, building a sustainable winning culture means hitting on more than just draft picks in the first ten selections. And a few pieces from the new regime’s draft classes are inspiring confidence.
Ridder has absolutely exceeded expectations through only a few months as a pro and shined bright against the Jets Monday night.
Ridder was equally, if not more impressive, going 10-of-13 for 143 yards on three drives, two of which ended in field goals that were marred by penalties. I say it was potentially more impressive because Ridder was playing with backups, who were doing everything they could — Jalen Mayfield and Rick Leonard in particular — to keep the Falcons out of the endzone with poor blocking and penalties.
Ridder is doing everything the coaching staff is asking of him. He looks poised in the pocket, never flinching while delivering accurate passes into tight windows on time. Although Mariota hasn’t done anything to relinquish the starting job, the rookie is making a case to be the starter. It won’t happen because Mariota is playing good ball right now. Still, it’s indicative of where the Cincinnati product is at in his development because he could start if Atlanta needed.
Ogundeji only recorded two tackles, one for a loss, in a handful of snaps against the Jets, but he was consistently pressuring Mike White or flying around the ball. Only in for three series, Ogundeji had solid penetration on several plays, even called for a roughing the passer call as he fell forward into White’s legs. He’s going to be a staple of this defense in 2022.
Allgeier played late in the game against the Lions, but he took a majority of snaps with the first team offense against the Jets, even a few reps with Desmond Ridder and the second team. Although he only totaled 17 rush yards on six carries, how he earned those yards were impressive. He’s an institutional runner with deceptive quickness and obvious power. He even caught a few passes out of the backfield. All in all, he’s doing all the right things to earn regular season snaps.
Graham is doing nothing but improving this offseason, including against the Lions in the Falcons’ preseason opener, even garnering recognition from Dean Pees. “Based on this last game with Detroit, he really showed up,” Pees said. “He was very noticeable, making plays, so yeah, I’d say he made a big jump.” Graham’s quickness off the line of scrimmage is the first thing that pops out to me, and he’s done more of the same against the Jets in the Falcons’ joint practices in New York. The entire coaching staff is recognizing Graham, and it should provide confidence for himself and Falcons fans. He should be considered the starter next to Grady Jarrett and Anthony Rush.