Falcons: The 2021 rookie class sparks little to no optimism in the season opener

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Like much of the news you’ll be reading this week about the Falcons, this piece is a bit pessimistic, so if you like to think of the glass half full, this isn’t the place for you today. I generally reserve my opinions for topics I am definitive about, but this is not one of those times. This is a way-too-early outlook at the Falcons 2021 rookie class — the first draft class of the new regime.

From their first outing, this class of rookies doesn’t spark optimism in me. The holy grail of Terry Fontenot’s first class was rarely featured in the offense. Kyle Pitts was targeted eight times and recorded only four receptions for 31 yards with a long of 18 yards. During the first couple of drives, Pitts was used sparingly; in fact, the highest drafted tight end in NFL history wasn’t in the game during the team’s first red zone trip. That is mind boggling… Pitts, the supposed ultimate red zone threat, wasn’t in the game in the red zone. Even still, he looked servicable in the run game, which is a positive note.

Terry Fontenot’s second-round pick, Richie Grant, didn’t play a single snap on defense according to PFF, but I saw at least a handful of snaps at the end of the game — nothing worthwhile. Still, Grant played nearly all of the special teams snaps in Week 1, which is surely where he’ll get the first crack at the field.

Fontenot’s third-round pick, Jalen Mayfield, may be the biggest failure of a first start by a rookie in recent memory; in fact, his pass blocking grade was one of the worst PFF has ever given out — 1.4 out of 100. He had two false starts, looked overwhelmed in pass sets, and showed no signs he was ready to start Week 1. Without many options other than Mayfield on the roster, Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot. may need to look elsewhere for help.

It is probably smart to let Mafyield to take his lumps in hopes he improves dramatically, but it would be a naive assumption at this point to assume he’ll even be ready for the 2022 season. Drew Dalman came into the game for a series and jumped offsides, but looked much more comfortable in pass sets than Mayfield did. Ade Ogundeji played well when he went in but played sparingly. Avery Williams was a solid contributor on special teams, but for the most part, only Pitts and Mayfield played significant snaps.

The two, Mayfield and Pitts, both left a lot to be desired and they’ll get their chance to prove themselves against the defending Super Bowl champion Buccanneers. I fully expect the rookie class to produce a few reliable starters, but after the first game, there isn’t much to be encouraged by.

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