Under the new regime, the Falcons have had mixed contributions from their draft classes in their respective rookie seasons.
The 2021 class was headlined by Kyle Pitts, who nearly broke Mike Ditka‘s all-time rookie receiving record by a tight end. He was everything and more the club had hoped. Avery Williams had a big impact in the third phase of the game.
However, after that, it was middling… at best. Drew Dalman assumed a rotational role but left some to be desired. Richie Grant hardly played and when he did, it wasn’t great. Jalen Mayfield put up one of the worst seasons we’ve ever seen. Darren Hall, Ta’Quon Graham, and Ade Ogundeji weren’t horrible, but again, didn’t contribute in a big way.
The 2022 class was more of the same. Drake London and Tyler Allgeier broke franchise records. However, Troy Andersen and Arnold Ebiketie struggled in their respective rookie seasons. DeAngelo Malone, Desmond Ridder, Justin Shaffer, and John FitzPatrick didn’t get a ton of opportunities if any at all.
However, the 2023 rookie class has the potential to be difference makers in 2023. Through a week of training camp, the Falcons have seen great things from Bijan Robinson, Matthew Bergeron, Clark Phillips, and Zach Harrison.
Robinson has quickly shown what made the Falcons draft him 8th overall. His teammates consistently point out his movement skills with the ball in his hands, and his pass-catching ability has immediately jumped off the screen. We’ve been talking about it all offseason, but it’s become abundantly clear the Falcons will use him as a runner as much as a receiver.
Robinson should get more than a bulk of the carries and turn into one of the brightest stars in the league, accumulating 1,500+ yards from scrimmage en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year. I said it when the Falcons drafted him and I’ll say it again, he’s the face of the franchise.
The Falcons 2023 second-rounder has a chance to be different than the regime’s past selections. Bergeron hasn’t garnered more first-team reps than Matt Hennessy, but given Hennessy’s recent injury, that is likely to change. Regardless, I believe Bergeron assumes the starting left guard position and never looks back, forming one of the most menacing guard duos with Chris Lindstrom. Richie Grant, Arnold Ebiketie, and Troy Andersen played less than 50% of the defensive snaps in their respective rookie seasons; Bergeron will eclipse that mark easily.
Clark Phillips’ path to the field isn’t as wide open as the other two. The Falcons have a slew of cornerbacks gearing up for the starting nickel battle. However, early in camp, he’s making plays, which he became known for during his time at Utah. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he mans the slot all season long and turns into an immediate impact defender. Phillips has a knack for finding the ball, which will always result in playing time.
Zach Harrison may be the biggest surprise of the group. He’s consistently impressed while rushing the passer and defending the run in camp. Though pads haven’t been worn much, it’s encouraging to see for a rookie I thought wouldn’t contribute much at all in 2023. Ryan Nielsen has been heralded for his ability to get the most out of his long defensive ends; Harrison could be the next diamond in the rough.
Photographer: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire