The Falcons had excellent production from their rookie class. It is the new regime’s second draft class and was more impactful in its first season than Terry Fontenot’s first crop of players.
Drake London and Tyler Allgeier broke franchise records. Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, and DeAngelo Malone flashed but will look to be more consistent presences next year. Desmond Ridder seems primed to take over as quarterback in 2023. Nick Shook of NFL.com gave the Falcons’ 2022 rookie class a B- grade:
Despite running routes for the likes of Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder, Drake London thrived in Year 1, catching 72 passes for 866 yards and four touchdowns. He’s penciled in as Atlanta’s top receiver going forward. Arnold Ebiketie had the type of season one might expect from a second-round pick, getting only one start but playing more pass-rushing snaps than the starter in front of him. Though his numbers weren’t gaudy, he put together some solid performances and needs to build on that in the years ahead. The Falcons have a linebacking corps that flies under the radar, but has given reasons to be excited about its future. Troy Andersen’s PFF grade wasn’t great, but he started to find his footing late in his rookie season and finished tied for the third-most hustle stops among all Falcons defenders. (Next Gen Stats defines a hustle stop as a tackle resulting in a successful play for the defense where the player covers 20-plus yards of distance from snap to tackle.)
Arthur Smith’s decision to test Ridder in the final month of the 2022 season didn’t produce wins initially, but the young quarterback did start to figure it out a bit in the last couple weeks, helping the Falcons to a pair of victories while completing 38 of 56 passes for 393 yards and two touchdowns in those final two games. Ridder hasn’t yet convinced everyone he’s the answer for Atlanta at the position going forward; however, he wasn’t completely lost, which is a positive sign for a third-round pick.
DeAngelo Malone played 432 snaps in 2022, split exactly down the middle between defense and special teams. He recorded one sack and 29 tackles (four for loss) as a rotational edge. Atlanta found its lead back in Tyler Allgeier, who averaged nearly five yards per carry on 210 attempts, eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards and scoring four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) in a run-first offense. The combination of Allgeier and second-year runner Caleb Huntley created quite a 1-2 punch no one saw coming.
Justin Shaffer didn’t make the final 53-man roster and spent his rookie season on the practice squad. John FitzPatrick missed his rookie season after landing on injured reserve on Sept. 1. Timmy Horne came through when the Falcons needed help along the defensive interior, making five starts and recording 27 tackles in 17 games played, which included 66 snaps on special teams. Solid production for an undrafted free-agent signee.
There is plenty of reason to be optimistic about this group. Development in the NFL is never linear; most of the time, it is exponential. Sure, players can steadily improve, but players also dramatically develop. Ta’Quon Graham burst onto the scene in 2022 after a relatively quiet rookie campaign. The same can be expected for the Falcons 2022 draft class entering next season.
Ebiketie, Andersen, and Malone are candidates to take that monumental sophomore leap in 2023, but it’s still too early to make sweeping judgments on them or the 2021 draft class. Most evaluators and analysts hold off until the third year to make more concrete takeaways.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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