The Falcons selected nine prospects from last week’s NFL draft, and as most people know, no rookie is without flaws. Adjusting to the professional level is difficult for every prospect, regardless of the position. Transitioning can be tough, but it’s the coaching staff’s duty to accentuate what their players do well and refine what they do poorly. Here are some strengths and weaknesses of the Falcons’ 2021 rookie class.
Strengths: Pitts is one of the most dynamic athletes to come out of college in some time, the most glaring ability he has that others don’t is his catch radius. The only comparable players are Calvin Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and Rob Gronkowski, to name a few. The difference is Pitts is more dynamic with the ball in his hands than any of the aforementioned tight ends.
Weaknesses: The only knock on the former Flordia Gator is his blocking, which I shrug off. He’s a willing blocker, and for a man of his size, all effective blocking takes is effort and attitude. Arthur Smith, who coached tight ends in Tennessee for years, should have Pitts blocking skills refined in no time.
Strengths: Grant is as versatile as they come, which has to be the most desirable attribute. He can play split safety, single-high, in the slot, rotate down in the box — able to drop into zone, cover man-to-man, defend the run, and rush the passer from every alignment. His attitude and instincts also have to be noted, as they make up for deficiencies beyond his control.
Weaknesses: As Terry Fontenot noted… height, weight, and speed aren’t overly important for a safety. Fontenot, among most general managers, prefers toughness, instincts, ball skills, and anticipation. Grant’s stature isn’t overly impressive, which he can’t control. What he can control is his aggressiveness, which is seen as a positive but sometimes results in over-running plays and runners.
Strengths: Even though his testing numbers were disappointing, Mayfield is athletic for his size and is a perfect scheme fit. His lateral movement and body control in space are ideal for Arthur Smith’s zone scheme offense. Another strength is his attitude, which is nasty and bodyguard-ish — an underappreciated attribute of most great offensive linemen.
Weaknesses: His body is underdeveloped but is only 20-years-old. The functional strength is evident in his tape, but his hand usage needs refining. Once considered a first-round talent, it seemed pro-day numbers and a lack of experience resulted in a slide down draft boards.
Strengths: Similar to Grant and the rest of the defensive rookies, Hall is a versatile player — a safety-corner hybrid. He is well-rounded, a jack of all trades but master of none. His biggest strength is his ability, like Grant, to play in many alignments and defend the pass or run as well as rush the passer from anywhere.
Weaknesses: He isn’t exceptional in any area, which can sometimes be viewed as a weakness (not to me). Hall might not be ready to start right away, and for a team desperate for improved play on the back end, that can be considered a weakness.
Strengths: Dalman is an athletic center and explosive off the line. His athleticism is on display showing great balance and body control when going to the second level. He’s clearly a cerebral player that understands leverage and positioning in relation to the play. The lateral agility, intelligence, and toughness make him a perfect scheme and cultural fit.
Weaknesses: His size isn’t ideal. Dalman could potentially be beaten any number of ways at the next level. He could get bullied by stronger defenders, longer defenders, and quicker defenders. If Dalman’s initial punch fails, the chances of him winning the one-on-one is slim.
Strengths: The former Texas Longhorn is versatile, able to line up anywhere along the line of scrimmage, and a plus athlete with a high ceiling. His run defense is elite and pro-ready. Graham can penetrate the line from any interior position or anchor the edge from a five-technique.
Weaknesses: Undersized for a defensive tackle, standing at 6’3″ and weighing 290-pounds, Graham is also unpolished as a pass rusher. His hand usage when rushing the passer is the biggest problem, and he will need to get it fixed before seeing anything more than an early-down role.
Strengths: I know I sound like a broken record, but Ogundeji’s biggest strength is his versatility — a standup linebacker for three-man fronts or a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in four-man fronts. His burst off the snap is also something I noticed watching his film, but he excels in the run more than rushing the passer.
Weaknesses: As I eluded to, his pass-rushing repertoire needs improving — as well as his hand usage and overall technique.
Strengths: Williams is a special teamer through and through, which some might see as a waste of a draft pick, but you’d be wrong. He will compete to return punts and contribute to the team early and often in the third phase of the game — an invaluable asset to have on a rookie contract.
Weaknesses: He is an excellent athlete but rarely makes plays on the ball in the air from the games I’ve watched. He is also is prone to missing tackles and taking poor angles. His niche will be special teams.
Strengths: Darby is a deep threat and a big play waiting to happen. His ability to create chunk plays is unparalleled, as he averaged 20.0 yards per catch over his career at Arizona State. Darby makes contested catches look one-sided.
Weaknesses: His route running is limited, and though he’s great at 50/50 balls, Darby struggled to separate from defenders — something that won’t lead to a successful career in the NFL.
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