PFF gives Falcons 2023 draft class a middling ranking

NFL: OCT 29 Falcons at Titans

After the Falcons finished 7-10 for a third consecutive season, Arthur Blank felt it was time for a change, and it was head coach Arthur Smith, not general manager Terry Fontenot, who got the axe.

Smith didn’t do himself many favors during his tenure as head coach. He was the one who stood behind Desmond Ridder, handing him the starting quarterback job without any competition. That’s what ultimately cost him the job, but his inability to get Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, and Drake London involved enough in the offense, as well as his overall unlikability with the fan base played a factor.

But while Terry Fontenot survived Black Monday, he may not be so lucky a year from now if the Falcons don’t show some serious signs of progress. The Falcons free agent class, featuring Kirk Cousins and Darnell Mooney, should go a long way, but sustained success and Super Bowls are won through the draft. Fontenot has proven to be as savvy as any when it comes to evaluating pro personnel, but his first three drafts have been a mixed bag.

As far as the 2023 draft class is concerned, any concrete judgments made are nothing more than overreactions, but what would sports media be without outlandish overreactions?

Over at Pro Football Focus, Timo Riske recently ranked each 2023 draft class from 1-32, and the Falcons came right in the middle of the pack at #17 in the “running backs matter” tier.

17. Atlanta Falcons

Total rookie snaps: 3,054

Notable rookies:

RB Bijan Robinson (75.1 rushing grade, 0.25 missed tackles forced per attempt, 989 yards)

G Matthew Bergeron (57.1 pass-block grade, 60.2 run-block grade)

For the sake of this entire draft class, running backs better matter. Bijan Robinson didn’t have as explosive of a rookie year that some imagined he would have when he was coming out of Texas, but the traits that made him such a highly touted prospect were evident. Arthur Smith just refused to make him a workhorse, one of several reasons he’s now in Pittsburgh.

Hopefully, that changes under new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson, but only talking about Bijan Robinson is doing the Falcons a disservice. Matthew Bergeron had a promising rookie year and could end up starting at left guard for many years to come. Third-round pick Zach Harrison finished the season strong and could play a significant role off the edge moving forward. Meanwhile, fourth-round pick Clark Phillips and seventh-round selection DeMarcco Hellams each supplanted starters by the end of the season.

The Falcons only had five draft picks in 2023, and it’s possible they landed five substantial contributors. It’s also possible some of these guys regress and phase out of the plan completely, which is why any concrete judgments are ludicrous. However, after one season, there are a lot of promising aspects about this group.

Photo: Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire

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