Falcons rookie class receives respectable ESPN ranking

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The Falcons new regime has two years under its belt; there have been bright moments and rather dull ones. Off the field, Terry Fontenot has had his fair share of misses but has also had a few home runs. Cordarrelle Patterson‘s signing remains one of the best free agent additions in recent memory, but the Falcons GM also spent a third-rounder on Jalen Mayfield.

For the most part, though, I think Fontenot is doing a pretty good job considering the circumstances. His 2021 draft class wasn’t anything to write home about, but the 2022 rookie class really impressed. Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, and Tyler Allgeier look like high-end starters. Desmond Ridder, Troy Andersen, and DeAngelo Malone are primed to take significant steps in their respective developments in 2023.

ESPN sees the Falcons 2022 rookie class as the top group in its division and the 13th-ranked rookie class in the NFL in their production rankings. 

13. Atlanta Falcons

fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier was arguably the most valuable running back from the entire 2022 rookie class. He finished with over 1,000 yards on the ground and ranked fifth in Football Outsiders’ rushing DYAR metric. First-round wide receiver Drake London played in all 17 games and finished the year with 72 catches for 866 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Desmond Ridder started the last four games with a reasonable 49.8 QBR.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons got 2.5 sacks and 31 pressures from edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie, while undrafted defensive tackle Timmy Horne started five of the final six games of the season.

The real studs of the class are Allgeier and London, who both broke franchise rookie records. The first-year runner set Atlanta’s rookie rushing mark, and the pass catcher broke Kyle Pitts‘ rookie record for receptions. Terry Fontenot found a gem in the fifth round out of BYU, and London is primed to be WR1 of the future.

Acquiring talent is important, but developing that talent is just as critical. The Falcons’ first draft class under the new regime didn’t make waves in its rookie season. Kyle Pitts and Avery Williams were about the only productive pieces of that class. Jalen Mayfield was the worst lineman in football by some grading outlets, and Richie Grant played sparingly. Ta’Quon Graham and Ade Ogundeji didn’t see regular playing time until the end of the season. However, in their second seasons, Williams elevated his game, Graham looks like a starter in this league, and Grant made substantial strides.

Developing is key. The Falcons will need their 2022 draft class to take similar sophomore leaps to continue this trajectory.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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