Grading Falcons 2021 draft class through Week 3

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The Falcons have steadily improved in three games under Arthur Smith. Even though the victory over the Giants was ugly, it was a win, which is all that matters in the NFL. If the Falcons are to make any kind of noise this year, there will have to be obvious changes in a number of areas — one being better production out of the 2021 rookie draft class.

Kyle Pitts

Pitts was largely held in check against the Eagles, even though he was targeted eight times. Against the Buccaneers in Week 2, the fourth-overall pick showed why the Falcons took him so high as he had an electric catch and run that went four 24 yards. Last week in MetLife Stadium, Pitts hauled in only two receptions on three targets for 35 yards.

If you just looked at the box score, you would more than likely wonder why the tight end guru Arthur Smith isn’t using his shiny new toy in Pitts. But that isn’t necessarily true. In many cases, the Giants doubled Pitts instead of Calvin Ridley; in fact, New York threw multiple combo and bracket coverages at Pitts. Still, the two catches were critical ones in the team’s win.

Opposing defenses are clearly respecting Pitts’ ability and defending him in various ways. I would expect his breakout game to come soon, probably against a defense that throws one type of coverage at him all day.

Richie Grant

Grant has been largely relegated to special teams. For three weeks, the second-round pick has been one of the team’s leaders in special teams snaps. The team is obviously comfortable with him there because Jaylinnn Hawkins has regularly been called upon as the first safety off the bench. It is frustrating that someone as talented as Grant can’t get on the field when the defense is out there, but the staff clearly has a plan.

Jalen Mayfield

Mayfield went from the worst performance in recent memory for a rookie lineman in Week 1 to just a bad performance in Week 2, but it was an improvement. Regardless of how slight it is, all Arthur Smith can ask of his third-round pick is to improve each day, which he continued in Week 3.

Mayfield played a decent game; he had great moments getting to the second level of the defense on run plays, but also had some frustrating moments where he once again looked incompetent in pass protection. It must be said that Mayfield didn’t see as many snaps against Leonard Williams as he should’ve, but that is on the Giants staff. He’s improved each week.

Ta’Quon Graham

Graham has been eased into the defensive line rotation, which is encouraging to see. The staff values him over John Cominsky, who has been a healthy scratch the past two weeks. Graham’s length is a great asset, but he knows how to use it. He’s effective when defending the run because of that length. Graham has made the most of his limited snaps and should undoubtedly be in line for a more prominent role going forward.

Adetokunbo Ogundeji

Ogundeji is the third edge defender behind Dante Fowler and Steven Means at this point. Similar to Graham, he’s incredibly long. Ogundeji also excels in the run game; in fact, I believe he should be getting snaps over Means because the veteran is a liability against the run. His pass rush arsenal might not be superior to Means, but that shouldn’t matter on early downs. Overall, Ogundeji has played well in a small sample size.

Avery Williams

Williams will probably lead the team in special teams snaps by the end of the season. He’s a slippery punt returner, which he showed against the Giants. This will be the Falcons special teams mainstay for years to come.

Darren Hall, Drew Dalman & Frank Darby

These rookies are grouped together because of their lack of snaps. Hall and Dalman usually get a handful of snaps on special teams, but that is it.

Final Grade: C-



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