Falcons: Surprise of the 2021 draft class could contribute early and often

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The Falcons rookie class will have to grow up quickly if the team is to threaten for a playoff spot; luckily, the 2021 draft class is a mature one, per Arthur Smith. Kyle Pitts is the obvious candidate to contribute the most; after all, he’s the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history and tested off the charts — even breaking a few combine records along the way. It isn’t a question of if Pitts will make his presence be known; it is when. Richie Grant and Jalen Mayfield are two other higher-profile selections, but each is still developing with no guarantees of starting their first year in the league. The surprise of the draft class that could contribute early and often is Ade Ogundeji.

A fourth-round pick isn’t necessarily supposed to come in and make an impact immediately; nobody told the former Notre Dame star that. At first, he was the beneficiary of a thin depth chart at outside linebacker as Dante Fowler missed time being on the COVID-19 list; he made the most of those reps. He took first-team reps during the team’s open practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, moving up and down the defensive front showing his versatility.

He’s been reportedly beating everyone the coaches put in front of him in one-on-ones, including Jake Matthews. He looked impressive in his snaps during the Titans game. He uses his incredible length in both run and pass-rushing situations; he can stand up outside of tackles in three-man fronts, put his hand in the dirt in the same spot or kick down in four-man fronts. His pass-rushing skills aren’t diverse enough yet to win consistenly, but he knows how to use his length and thrives against the run.

Ogundeji’s development being further along than originally thought is great news, and he might be the biggest surprise of this rookie class. It couldn’t have come at a better position either, one that was extremely thin coming into the season. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he starts at certain points in the season. Tonight against a porous Miami offensive line, Ogundeji should be able to have his way.

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