There is much talk about the top-end talent of the wide receivers in this draft class, but I point towards its depth as a potential pick for the Falcons. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will be the defacto X and Y, but who will play the Z? Russell Gage showed he was capable of filling that hole last year. Still, he’s not the “gadget” player that Arthur Smith could use, similar to how Matt Lafleur used Tyler Ervin or Kyle Shanahan using Deebo Samuel. In fact, there isn’t currently anyone on the roster who fills this void.
Smith doesn’t need a gadget wide receiver for his offense to be successful, but as we have seen in Green Bay and San Francisco, there is value in using one. Those who are capable of turning a three-yard catch into an 80-yard touchdown or capable of taking a sweep or reverse all the way to the endzone make offenses that much more unpredictable. This player’s primary function in the scope of an offense is to threaten the defense horizontally.
With Calvin Ridley’s rookie contract expiring soon, the Falcons will need to address the wide receiver position eventually. Even if Terry Fontenot chooses to give Ridley a second contract, Julio’s contract hasn’t been restructured this offseason for a reason… the new regime doesn’t want to be tied to him until it expires. Adding someone to fill the gadget role does very little solve the long-term problem that could exist if one of Jones or Ridley is gone after this year. Drafting someone between these two body types is conducive to filling the eventual void left by Ridley or Jones while giving Smith another weapon as a gadget player — outside of Cordarrelle Patterson, who I expect to play more running back than wide receiver.
Toney is an incredible athlete, and his testing showed it with an 8.87 RAS. His route running needs refining because he tends to juke himself out of the play if it depends on timing. He was effective in the run game during his four-year college career are Florida, rushing for 580 yards and two touchdowns on 66 rushing attempts.
Moore is a better route runner than Toney, which makes him an ideal fit because he can be used to run more traditional routes. He was used in a gadget role at Ole Miss by Lane Kiffin and broke AJ Brown’s record for receptions in a season in just eight games. Both Moore and Toney are threats to take the ball to the endzone every time they touch it.
Moore’s usage at Purdue was built on manufactured touches, truly force-fed the ball. Through handoffs or smoke screens, he was tasked to create after the catch. He was the best athlete Purdue had, and they gave it to him every chance the Boilermakers got, many sub-optimal situations for his averages. His route running is much better than Toney’s and has shown the ability to go deep and work underneath in the intermediate part of the field.
Atwell is more of a traditional slot receiver though he did receive some designed touches but mostly used in the intermediate passing game. There are downsides to Atwell, though. He has no return experience and weighed 155-pounds at Louisville’s pro day, which is concerningly light in a grown man’s league.
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