It’s time for Terry Fontenot’s top draft picks to step up in 2024

NFL: NOV 10 Falcons at Panthers

The Falcons are expected to compete in a wide-open NFC South, and most believe they’ll win it with the addition of Kirk Cousins.

It’s fair to assume the improvement at the position will enable the club to end its postseason drought. The Falcons split the season series with the Buccaneers, Saints, and Panthers with far worse quarterback play than Tampa Bay and New Orleans.

However, Atlanta is relying on a ton of young, relatively unproven pieces to fill pretty big voids. Clark Phillips, Dee Alford, and Mike Hughes will be competing for two of the corner spots to join A.J. Terrell. While a slew of youngsters, including three rookies, will be tasked with improving the pass rush.

With that being said, it’s time for Terry Fontenot’s top picks to start playing up to their draft pedigree in 2024.

Kyle Pitts

The 2021 first-rounder burst onto the scene as a rookie, nearly breaking Mike Ditka‘s record for most receiving yards by a tight end in his first season. However, Pitts has been plagued by injuries and poor quarterback play in the subsequent two seasons. Nobody is doubting the talent, but at a certain point, it’s time to start playing like the highest-drafted tight end in league history.

Richie Grant

This may be a case that’s unsalvagable. Grant was supplanted by a rookie seventh-round pick last season, but the new coaching staff seems high on the former second-round pick. The Falcons already have a thin secondary, relying on a ton of questionable pieces. If Grant can finally turn the corner, that would go a long way for Atlanta’s defense.

Drake London

It’s not like Drake London is anywhere close to bust territory, but nobody mentions him among his classmates like Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Now, you could blame London’s shoddy quarterback play, but Wilson has dealt with equally poor throwers. London has WR1 potential. It’s time for him to deliver with Kirk Cousins and Zac Robinson in the fold.

Arnold Ebiketie

Ebiketie may be the most important piece in this story. The Falcons’ 2022 second-round pick notched six sacks last year. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be a premier sack artist, but Jimmy Lake and Raheem Morris better hope so. The Falcons added Ruke Orhorhoro, Bralen Trice, and Brandon Dorlus through the draft this year and maybe they contribute; however, what’s more likely is that Ebiketie will take another step in his development. He doesn’t need to shoulder the load of the pass rush, but he’s got to improve on last season.

Troy Andersen

Andersen’s shortcomings could be chalked up to circumstances, similar to some of the other top draft picks here. The Falcons were expecting big things from the athletic linebacker last year, but an injury cut his season short. The expectation is that Andersen will slot in next to Kaden Elliss and will have every opportunity to prove Terry Fontenot right.

Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire

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