The Athletic re-grades Falcons 2023 draft class

NFL: SEP 17 Packers at Falcons

The Falcons shocked a lot of people in last year’s draft, but those people just haven’t been paying close enough attention.

Terry Fontenot has taken the best player available in every draft he’s been Atlanta’s GM. He made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in league history, followed it up with another skill player, making Drake London the highest-drafted receiver of his class, and then shocked many by taking Bijan Robinson.

Tyler Allgeier was under contract, coming off a record-setting rookie campaign, and Jalen Carter was available when Atlanta was on the clock. The fact is that the ‘best player available’ goes further than the value-added on the field. Intangibles are extremely important to his regime. ‘Ethos’ is a term Fontenot loves to talk about, and Robinson exuded the right stuff the Falcons were looking for.

It still doesn’t sit well with some, though. The Athletic re-graded the 2023 draft class, and Fontenot’s third cycle came in with a middling C grade.

Bijan Robinson (No. 8) ran into some significantly loaded boxes in 2023 and struggled to create explosive offense, but he still delivered 4.6 yards per carry — and now has an opportunity to break out in a different scheme. Atlanta’s second-round guard, Matthew Bergeron (No. 38), projects as a decent starter (and, like Robinson, is a better fit in new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson’s offense).

Zach Harrison (No. 75), Clark Phillips III (No. 113) and DeMarcco Hellams (No. 224) aren’t game-changing talents, but they’ll be nice pieces in their position groups.

Grading or even re-grading a draft class after just one season is always a trivial exercise because development in the NFL is never linear and rarely immediate. The Falcons got considerable snaps from its rookie class, and that should be seen as a positive.

With Phillips and Hellams in line to potentially start in 2024, I’d say Fontenot deserves a little bit better of a grade than a C. That would be four starters, with Harrison as a notable rotational piece.

The Falcons have the No. 8 overall pick again to go along with a second-rounder and a pair of third-rounders. It’s another great opporutnity for Fontenot to continue to build out the foundation.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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