I’m not a huge fan of draft grades, but I wanted to dive into each pick and get a look at who the Falcons are bringing in. I’ll start with grading each individual player, then grade the class as a whole. The Falcons are actually getting some pretty high praise from the media, but I am just a little bit lower than most of them on this class. Let’s get started.
Round 1, Pick 8: WR Drake London — USC
It’s not too shocking to me that there was some pushback from the fanbase when London was picked at 8 overall, but I think a lot of that has subsided. London is an elite jump ball receiver with a nice catch radius, but he has had issues creating separation in college. Regardless, he creates a huge mismatch when Kyle Pitts is on the field, and if the Falcons believe in Desmond Ridder as the quarterback of the future — he’s a fantastic weapon at 20-years-old.
Round 2, Pick 38: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie — Penn State
I really like the value of this move, even if Atlanta had to trade a fourth round pick to get Ebiketie — he’s a really explosive player with a lot of upside. We saw a big run on pass rushers after this pick, so Atlanta had to go get their guy. He’s a little bit undersized, but Ebiketie has the makeup of a franchise pass rusher with his twitch and bend.
Round 2, Pick 58: LB Troy Andersen — Montana State
This is going to be one of the picks that makes or breaks this draft. Andersen is as raw of a player as they come — he’s an athletic freak, but he still has a huge learning curve ahead of him. If Atlanta can use him like the Swiss Army Knife they want to, this is a home run pick. Andersen seems like a pretty humble guy, and I’m a big fan of the player himself, but for now, I have my reservations.
Round 3, Pick 74: QB Desmond Ridder — Cincinnati
I was a little shocked that the second quarterback in this draft came at Pick 74, but I have no complaints — I really love the value here with Ridder. It doesn’t look like Ridder has the upside you would want out of a franchise quarterback coming out of the draft, but he’s a very smart player who can keep an offense on schedule and limit turnovers. I think this is a great pick for the value; if Ridder isn’t who the Falcons think he is, they didn’t spend a premium pick on him and can easily grab another quarterback next year.
Round 3, Pick 82: EDGE DeAngelo Malone — Western Kentucky
Malone and Ebiketie are similar in a few ways — both are undersized guys with a ton of explosiveness when going after the quarterback. I’m not sure Malone will be used as a typical pass rusher, but he’s an interesting piece that can be developed into a guy the Falcons can use all over the defense. He had a good Senior Bowl, and apparently he’s a big Falcons fan, so I’ll be rooting for this kid.
Round 5, Pick 151: RB Tyler Allgeier — BYU
I really wasn’t too keen on grabbing a running back here with some of the defensive talent on the board, but Allgeier is the typical bellcow running back that makes Arthur Smith‘s system tick. He is a horse in the backfield and can create a lot of opportunities with his brute strength. Allgeier has some burst when he gets into the open field, but I just think a running back with a fifth round pick was too rich for my blood. I like the player; I don’t like the position.
Round 6, Pick 190: G Justin Shaffer — Georgia
I watched plenty of Shaffer during my time in Athens, and although Atlanta needs to invest in some offensive line depth, I thought his teammate Jamaree Salyer made more sense. Both are natural guards, but Salyer can slide over to tackle in a pinch and would have been a good Matt Gono replacement. Shaffer has a ton of upside. He’s a powerful run blocker, but right now, he’s a liability in pass protection. Throw in the fact that he’s not a great scheme fit, and this pick leaves me a little puzzled.
Round 6, Pick 213: TE John FitzPatrick — Georgia
Fitz made a ton of sense for the Falcons here; they’re pretty thin at tight end and don’t have a pure blocking tight end to replace Lee Smith on the roster. FitzPatrick is a pretty big guy at 6’7 and 249 pounds, and I’m sure Atlanta will look to put some weight on him in the coming weeks. He can serve as an extra offensive lineman, and with his size and soft hands, I think this is pretty good value for a guy who can contribute on special teams in the sixth round.
Only time will tell, but I think the Falcons got a lot of foundational pieces at positions of need in the 2022 NFL draft. With tons of cap space next offseason, there are young players here at the right positions to help Atlanta compete sooner rather than later. I think Ridder and Andersen will eventually tell the story of this class, but that’s a conversation for 2-3 years from now.
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