Falcons rookie facing All-Pros in practice is ultimate learning experience

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The Falcons didn’t have many weapons in the passing game in Matt Ryan‘s last year in Atlanta. The offense’s top two receiving options were a tight end and converted return specialist. Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson were incredibly effective in their roles, but in today’s NFL, teams need more than that. The Falcons went out and solved that issue by drafting Drake London No. 8 overall. That’s doesn’t mean he will have an immediate impact. It’s difficult for any rookie to produce in the NFL, but London is facing All-Pros every day in practice, which is the ultimate learning experience.

“I’ve learned a lot of things,” London said. “This whole experience is a learning process, and every day going against the caliber of guys we have, including Casey and A.J., is helping me a lot as we go through this process.”

Going against outstanding players like Terrell and Hayward every day in practice is going to give London great insight into how good the best NFL corners can be. They say iron sharpens iron, and that’s exactly what’s happening between the Falcons’ skill positions, even if it’s not true at other areas on the roster.

London is set to be a big part of the Falcons’ offense, and many of his teammates have done nothing but praise him, even characterizing him as a shifter Mike Evans.

“He’s a subtle, stay-out-of-the-way type of guy, and I respect that. On the field, man, he really pops out at you,” said Bryan Edwards. “He moves really well in and out of breaks for a bigger receiver. He’s very shifty. He kind of reminds me of a shiftier version of Mike Evans down there in Tampa Bay. Much respect to that kid. I can’t wait to see him grow and blossom into the great player I know he’s going to be.”

That is some incredible praise. Evans is a four-time Pro Bowler and has never totaled less than 1,000 receiving yards in his eight NFL seasons… Those are some lofty expectations for London.

However, London has received a ton of praise from former coaches, teammates, and friends. One that stuck out to me, in particular, was Jordan Palmer, who has become a quarterback guru of sorts. He didn’t have the illustrious career that his brother Carson Palmer did in the NFL, but he’s exponentially better as a teacher than a player. Palmer is the founder of QB Summit, quickly ascending as one of the hottest private coaches in football, and had nothing but great things to say about the rookie.

“One hundred percent,” Palmer said to Josh Kendall of The Athletic.. “I like Drake London as an NFL receiver, his catch radius, (his ability to) go up and get it. You are creating other places to throw. That guy might look covered, but he’s not covered if I throw it here. That fits really well with what Desmond did in college.”

“It’s the way that Drake plays above 7 feet off the ground, it’s wingspan, it’s also jumping ability, hand-eye coordination and his ability to adjust, those things, those are easy throws to get good at making for any quarterback,” Palmer continued. “Drake’s ability to go up and get it, to catch the ball away from his body, to catch the ball in traffic, is the first thing that jumps out to me.”

Photographer: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire
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