The Falcons have done an excellent job rounding out the roster in free agency. There really isn’t a glaring hole as it stands right now. Left guard could use a veteran presence, but Matt Hennessy could start the year there. Plenty of other positions group could be upgraded or use some depth pieces, but for the most part, the roster is in great shape approaching the NFL Draft, where the Falcons will once again be selecting the best player available instead of drafting for need.
If that’s truly the case, everything is on the table. Atlanta has drafted two playmakers inside the top 10 of the last two drafts in Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Most expect them to target the defensive side of the ball, but Nate Davis of USA Today has the club taking a pass catcher for the third cycle in a row in Ohio State product Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Analysis: This is another team that would probably be well served to trade down – if it can find a partner – since it doesn’t seem the Falcons will likely be a player in the rookie quarterback market. And, sure, Atlanta could also take a hard look at bringing Nolan Smith up the road from Athens or pursuing a corner or some such for a defense that ranked 27th in 2022. But with second-year QB Desmond Ridder the apparent starter for 2023, it seems incumbent to give him more help when considering the Falcons only have one returning player (WR Drake London) who had more than 30 receptions last year. Smith-Njigba, who had 347 receiving yards in the 2022 Rose Bowl before missing most of last season with a hamstring injury, is a silky smooth weapon out of the slot and would beautifully supplement TE Kyle Pitts and power forward-esque London in the passing game. And though this feels like an awfully rich price – at the moment anyway – Smith-Njigba can help justify it with a solid showing at his pro day this week.
JSN’s time with the Buckeyes reminds me of Ja’Marr Chase at LSU. No, the play styles aren’t remotely close, but there are similarities in their respective circumstances. During the 2019 campaign, Chase was the best receiver on the team, despite Justin Jefferson entering the league a year earlier and setting it on fire his rookie season. Some seemingly forgot how great Ja’Marr Chase was. It resembles Smith-Njigba at Ohio State with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
The pair of former Buckeyes had impressive rookie seasons in 2022, but JSN was the best receiver on that 2021 Ohio State team, logging over 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s my WR1 for this class, despite many considering Quentin Johnston the top receiver entering the draft. The TCU product is a physical specimen, but JSN brings an extraordinary skill set that complements what the Falcons already have — big-bodied pass catchers.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s routes look like an artist painting a masterpiece; things you just can’t coach and elite ball skills, both of which will always have a role in the NFL. Another pass catcher in the top ten isn’t exactly the blueprint for building a Super Bowl winner, but it would provide Desmond Ridder with arguably the best skill position group in the league, giving him no excuse for any shortcomings.
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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