The Falcons had a pretty solid-looking draft class after the 2022 season, but it’s still hard to get a read on the group as a whole. We simply haven’t seen enough of them. Fully evaluating a draft class takes about three seasons, but the Falcons have gotten some encouraging returns so far. I’ll be talking about the players Atlanta has hit on, some they may have missed on, and some guys they shouldn’t have passed up on. Hindsight is 20/20, so I’ll refrain from being too harsh on the regime. Let’s get started.
Round 1, Pick 8: WR Drake London — USC
The Falcons clearly needed a lot of help at receiver, and Drake London looked really good at times, but there were some inconsistencies. He had some issues with dropped passes and fumbles, but those are typical rookie mistakes. He also had some inconsistent quarterback play, so you can’t hold that against him either. We’ll see how he looks with Desmond Ridder after having a full offseason to work together, but so far, I like the return on investment — even with other receivers drafted later playing well.
Round 2, Pick 38 (From from Carolina via New York Jets and New York Giants): EDGE Arnold Ebiketie — Penn State
While he hasn’t shown many major flashes, this was a pick that was widely celebrated across the industry for the Falcons. EDGE was a huge need, and Ebiketie had and still has a ton of upside. 2023-2024 will be a big year for him, as the Falcons have upgraded every level of their defense. EDGE is in play in the 2023 draft, so he may have to fight for his spot going into camp. Still, the Falcons need a lot of contributors in the rotation, and I think he could blossom into a quality piece.
Round 2, Pick 58 (From Tennessee): LB Troy Andersen — Montana State
Andersen had some ups and downs, and it was clear he was still adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. I didn’t think he would see as much action as he did, but he was respectable as a rookie. The Falcons are going to need him to make a big leap this year, or he’s going to get shuffled back in the rotation. They brought in Kaden Elliss from New Orleans, but Andersen’s freaky athleticism is going to make it difficult to keep him off of the field. If he takes a big jump with his understanding of NFL defenses and processing, he’s going to be a quality starter. That’s yet to be determined.
Round 3, Pick 74: QB Desmond Ridder — Cincinnati
When you talk about value, I have to give Ridder a bump here. I’m not sure he’s going to be a guy that can lead the Falcons to the playoffs or a Super Bowl, but he’s going to have the supporting class to prove himself in 2023. There are little to no excuses, especially if the Falcons add a weapon like Bijan Robinson in the draft. Still, the fact that we’re even having this conversation likely means this was a solid pick this late in the draft.
Round 3, Pick 82 (From Indianapolis): EDGE DeAngelo Malone — Western Kentucky
Malone wasn’t a huge contributor in 2023, but he’s another guy who filled a need and helped add to the pass rush rotation. Like Ebiketie, he’s going to have to make some leaps in an improved defense that could still add pieces through the draft. He has the motor to make it happen; we’ll see if he makes the adjustments. There weren’t many quality contributors taken after him (yet), so this grade is a bit more forgiving for now.
Round 5, Pick 151: RB Tyler Allgeier — BYU
This was one of the first big gems from this tenure, as Allgeier was one of the best rookie running backs in the league in 2022. With a fifth-round pick, you can’t ask for better value.
Round 6, Pick 190: IOL Justin Shaffer — Georgia
I said from the beginning that the Falcons took the wrong Bulldog lineman in this spot, and it looks like that’s going to hold true. Jamaree Salyer was on the board, and the Chargers swooped him up. Salyer was forced into duty and was one of the best rookie tackles in the league, and he has guard flexibility — which is Shaffer’s position and a current need for the Falcons. Shaffer could still pop off, but with a clear better option from the same team as the guy you picked, I have to ding you. It’s only a sixth-rounder, but you could have had an impact starter going into 2023.
Round 6, Pick 213: TE John FitzPatrick — Georgia
FitzPatrick has battled injuries, but as a staunch run-blocker, he was seen as a potential Lee Smith replacement. It’s basically impossible to give this pick a grade right now considering there wasn’t really a different player at the position that has been much better, but we’ll have a good read on this one a year or so from now.
Overall, I think this was a quality class after a year. They have some key contributors for 2023 and some guys who could grow into bigger roles. Once we see who the Falcons take in 2023, who steps up, and who climbs the depth chart; we’ll have a better read on this class going into 2024.
Class Grade: B
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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