The Falcons rookie class, the first of the Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith era, has begun to reveal itself. During the abysmal Week 1 performance, the 2021 draft class didn’t impress at all, but neither did anyone outside of Cordarrelle Patterson. Week 2 against the Buccaneers was a much better outing for the rookies and the team as a whole.
Kyle Pitts had an electric play where he reached back to grab a bullet from Matt Ryan and bolted 24 yards for one of the only explosive plays of the day. Richie Grant hasn’t quite made an impact on defense, but he is a key contributor on special teams. Ta’Quon Graham and Ade Ogundeji both played well in limited snaps, and Avery Williams looks to be a reliable return man.
But there is one 2021 draft pick that appears to be further away from a dependable starter than any other — Jalen Mayfield. In his professional debut, the third-round pick played as bad as one could. Even though Pro Football Focus has unreliable grading for offensive linemen, their 1.4 pass blocking grade for that Eagles game is still jaw-dropping.
Against the Bucs, Mayfield wasn’t much better. Thankfully, Matt Ryan got the ball out of his hands much quicker in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, so the Tampa pass rush couldn’t get going. It was a smart game plan by Arthur Smith because it would be naive to think this offensive line, especially Jalen Mayfield, could hold up long enough for deep routes to develop.
Even if it didn’t seem like Ryan faced as much pressure as he did from the Eagles, the Bucs ferocious front seven terrorized Mayfield. He recorded a 31.8 pass blocking grade, which is still awful. However, it was improvement, which is all anyone can ask from him. The Falcons don’t really have any other option at left guard other than Drew Dalman, who performed well in minimal snaps in Week 1. The staff spent a third-round pick on Mayfield, so they’re going to ride it out with him for the time being. When Josh Andrews comes back from the IR, they will undoubtedly re-evaluate the situation.
Yes, this an overreaction. There is no need to come to any concrete conclusions regarding rookies after just two games. Based on the tape I watched of Mayfield at Michigan, he can develop into a decent starter. However, I never thought it would happen right out of the gate. I believe the jury is still out on Mayfield, but sometimes front offices just whiff, and the team can tell from Day 1 if someone can play or not. Hopefully, this isn’t one of those cases.