Ranking the three worst Falcons draft classes of the last decade

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The NFL Draft is just over a week away, and it is the most pivotal in recent memory for the Falcons. They have a talented roster, and they went out and acquired a quarterback that makes them favorites in the NFC South. However, if they want to be taken seriously as far as Super Bowl contenders, they have to patch up a few glaring holes.

That’s difficult to do in the draft with young guys, but it’s not impossible, as we’ve seen in the past with this very organization. However, what they can’t afford to do is lay an egg, or they are not going to be able to maximize Kirk Cousins‘ short window, and Arthur Blank will be out at least $100 million.

With 10 days left before the NFL Draft, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and rank the best and worst Falcons draft classes over the last decade. We’ll start with the bad.

3. Falcons 2021 NFL Draft Class

The jury is still out on the Falcons 2021 draft class, but I don’t think it’s too early to call it a bust because several of these selections were just egregious. However, let’s begin with Kyle Pitts

When you have the fourth overall pick in the draft, you need to land a pillar of your franchise for the next decade-plus. The Falcons opted to make Kyle Pitts the highest draft tight end in league history, and the results have varied. When healthy and with decent quarterback play, Kyle Pitts made history as a rookie. But since then, inconsistent quarterback play and injuries have prevented him from replicating that success.

The hope is that with Kirk Cousins, Kyle Pitts can look much more like the player he was with Matt Ryan. If that’s the case, the Falcons will likely hand him a second contract, and this pick may look alright. But if he continues to underperform, Pitts might not make it to a second contract. To make matters worse, stars like Ja’Marr Chase, Micah Parsons, Patrick Surtain II, and Penei Sewell were all taken within eight picks after Pitts.

Moving on, Richie Grant hasn’t panned out as the Falcons hoped and was supplanted as a starter last season by seventh-round rookie DeMarcco Hellams. Perhaps he wins the job back this upcoming season, but it doesn’t look good. Jalen Mayfield is one of the worst draft picks, maybe in league history. The guy had no business being in the NFL, and the Falcons took him in the third round. Darren Hall, Ade Ogundeji, and Frank Darby are also no longer with the team or on the practice squad.

The one saving grace in this entire draft class is Drew Dalman. The fourth-round selection has blossomed into one of the better centers in the league, really solidifying the interior of the Falcons offensive line. However, a couple of contributors in an eight-player draft class should be looked at as nothing more than a failure, especially when drafting so high.

2. Falcons 2020 NFL Draft Class

This draft started out about as well as possible, with the Falcons nabbing an All-Pro with their first-round pick. Terrell quickly became a star cornerback and is expected to sign a lucrative contract extension with the team sooner rather than later. After that, however, there’s not a single member of this class currently playing for the Falcons.

The Marlon Davidson pick was heralded by many at the time, but injuries kept him off the field and he only accrued 29 tackles and one sack with the Falcons. Matt Hennessy started all 17 games for the Falcons in 2021 with meddling results, but he was also eventually released and is now the the Eagles. Mykal Walkers and Jaylinn Hawkins had some moments as Falcons but not enough to stick around long-term, and Sterling Hofrichter never cut it as the team’s punter.

When five out of six players are no longer with the team after just a few years, that’s an abysmal draft class, but at least the one player remaining is a star.

1. Falcons 2017 Draft Class

This is just an absolutely brutal draft class, beginning at the top with Takkarist McKinley. The Falcons pass rush issues aren’t anything new; they’ve existed for more than a decade, and McKinley was drafted to help ease those concerns. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Despite having some talent, McKinley was a total head case, and his production fell off a cliff after two promising seasons to begin his career. What makes it even worse is the Falcons traded up in the draft to land him, parting ways with a third and seventh-round pick, and All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt was taken just four picks later.

McKinley never made it to a second contract, and neither did the rest of this draft class. That’s how bad it was. Duke Riley has actually carved out a decent career for himself in the NFL, but he was terrible with the Falcons. Sean Harlow, Brian Hill, and Eric Saubert all contributed minimally. About the only member of this draft class to have any glimpse of success was Damontae Kazee, who spent four years with the team and recorded ten interceptions.

Photographer: Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

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