The Falcons brought in a six-player draft class and have varying expectations for each. The new regime adjusts its expectations depending on the situation, and some rookies are primed for significant impacts while others will develop into lesser roles.
Atlanta has had success finding contributors outside of the first round — Tyler Allgeier, Ta’Quon Graham, and Drew Dalman. There are also second-rounders from each draft cycle that are slower to adjust to the NFL — Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, and Richie Grant. While both first-round picks — Drake London and Kyle Pitts — have thrived immediately, setting franchise records in their respective rookie campaigns.
It’s a bag of mixed results, so which rookie will have the biggest impact in 2023? Given the expected contributions of a first-round pick, we are going to exclude Bijan Robinson from this exercise.
It’s relatively simple; Robinson should get a bulk of the carries and could accumulate 1,500+ yards from scrimmage en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It’s not going to be hard for him to be an immediate contributor. Let’s talk through the other options.
The Falcons traded up in the second round to land the Syracuse tackle, but the expectation for Bergeron is to kick inside to left guard. It is rightfully bringing up old scars for Falcons fans.
Jalen Mayfield played tackle at Michigan and kicked inside to guard, putting together one of the worst seasons we have ever seen from an offensive lineman. The Falcons are trying this experiment again.
For Bergeron to be the rookie with the most significant impact, he’ll obviously have to secure the starting role, beating out Matt Hennessy, who has been taking first-team reps during OTAs. Secondly, he’ll have to adapt to the NFL quickly.
It’s easy to see Bergeron being the guy that locks down the starting role for the next decade, forming one of the most menacing guard duos with Chris Lindstrom. Still, that’s the most optimistic viewpoint and is the furthest thing from guaranteed. He has by far the clearest path to the most impactful rookie, not named Bijan Robinson, but as we’ve seen with past second-round picks, sometimes it takes more than a year to establish themselves.
Clark Phillips III
Clark Phillips was heralded coming out of Utah, constantly praised for his tenacity despite being undersized. One of the reasons Phillips could have a bigger impact than Bergeron is the positional value. Cornerbacks will always be more valuable than guards; however, Phillips’ path to the field is much murkier than Bergeron’s.
Assuming Jeff Okudah secures the boundary opposite A.J. Terrell, that leaves Phillips to compete for snaps with Mike Hughes, Jaylinn Hawkins, Dee Alford, and Darren Hall. The fifth-rounder has a knack for finding the ball, so there’s absolutely a scenario where Phillips is the most impactful rookie, but it will be a much more difficult path compared to Bergeron.
This is the longest of long shots. Obviously, we can be dreamers and hope the Ohio State product turns into a double-digit sack guy; that’s not even remotely possible in 2023 for several reasons.
First off, he needs refining but more so, the defensive line rotation is the deepest it’s been in years. Finding the field will be the biggest obstacle for Harrison to become the most impactful rookie outside of Bijan Robinson.
Ryan Nielsen has been heralded for his ability to get the most out of his long defensive ends; Harrison could be the next diamond in the rough, but more than likely, the third-rounder will have to develop. Still, there might not be a better situation to do it than in Atlanta under Nielsen, Calais Campbell, Grady Jarrett, and David Onyemata.
Who do you think will be the most impactful rookie for the Falcons?
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