The Falcons will heavily depend on their young core in 2022, which is beginning to become a trend. Atlanta boasted the 13th youngest roster in 2021 after being the oldest roster in 2020. Arthur Blank’s desire to cling to relevancy forced Thomas Dimitroff and the front office to extend and restructure aging veterans, which is the cause of where the Falcons find themselves today.
Once again, Atlanta will depend heavily on its young core. Even though the 2021 rookie class underwhelmed outside of Kyle Pitts, the new regime is hopeful those second-year players will contribute in a bigger way this season. But it’s not just them. The 2022 draft class will have a similar baptism by fire. “Those draft picks, whether they’re ready or not, they’ll have to play. I think you saw that last year.” Arthur Smith said in a pre-draft press conference.
So which rookies will make the biggest impact this season?
Round 1 • Pick 8 (8) • WR Drake London
The Falcons first pick, Drake London, is the betting favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year. It’s hard to argue any other member of the rookie class will have a bigger impact than him. Similarly to Kyle Pitts, London will line up all over the field for the Falcons. He’ll be placed in condensed formations, in the slot, and on the boundary while running a variety of routes. He’ll be a focal point of Arthur Smith’s offense going forward and should have a similar influence as Pitts did his rookie year.
Round 2 • Pick 6 (38) • EDGE Arnold Ebiketie
The self-proclaimed “doctor of pass rushing” totaled 18.0 TFL and 9.5 sacks in just 12 games for Penn State last year. Arnold Ebiketie will likely start opposite Lorenzo Carter if he can beat Ade Ogundeji out because he possess all the traits needed to get Dean Pees help immediately — gap integrity, good use of hands, a variety of pass rush moves, as well as a willingness to exert maximum effort defending the run and getting after the passer. His entire impact will be dependent on the EDGE rotation.
Round 2 • Pick 26 (58) • LB Troy Andersen
Andersen is likely to be a special teams contributor during his first year. The Falcons still have Deion Jones under contract, signed Rashaan Evans, and have solid depth with Mykal Walker. It’ll be difficult for the Montana State product to break into the starting rotation if Jones isn’t traded, which I don’t expect. Evans likely projects as the other starter next to Debo since he has the experience and familiarity with Pees’ defense. Once the team moves on from Evans or Jones, it’ll be Andersen’s time to shine.
Round 3 • Pick 10 (74) • QB Desmond Ridder
The Falcons quarterback room should be an interesting story all summer. Fans can fully expect Arthur Smith to label it as an open competition. Still, Ridder is going to be hard-pressed to win the starting job from Marcus Mariota because of his familiarity and execution of Arthur Smith’s playbook. Ridder will likely serve as the team’s backup option with the opportunity to take the reins next year. He might wrestle away a few snaps later in the season just so the staff can get a better idea of where he’s at in terms of development, but it’ll be Mariota as the team’s starter for 2021.
Round 3 • Pick 18 (82) • EDGE DeAngelo Malone
Malone, much like Ebiketie, will see a decent amount of snaps because of the rotation at the EDGE position. Standing 6’4” and weighing 250 pounds, Malone is a pass rush specialist who wins with speed and great footwork. He totaled 33 sacks and 59 TFL during his time at Western Kentucky. He’ll more than likely be competing for snaps behind Lorenzo Carter, Ade Ogundeji, and Arnold Ebiketie.
Round 5 • Pick 8 (151) • RB Tyler Allgeier
Allgeier’s path to the field is much clearer after the Falcons released Mike Davis. He led the nation in touchdowns and set a single-season rushing record at BYU, modeling his game after the physical running styles of Marshawn Lynch and Nick Chubb. Allgeier is set to have a huge impact in 2022 even though the Falcons are flushed with running backs. Cordarrelle Patterson will likely still see some carries, but I expect him to alleviate some of the pressure off the receiving core. With a bigger impact as a receiver, Patterson’s void will be picked up by Allgeier. If he can prove he’s reliable in pass protection, Allgeier should assume most, if not all, of Davis’s touches.
Round 6 • Pick 11 (190) • G Justin Shaffer
Shaffer is a long shot to have any sort of impact other than on special teams. He has heavy hands and plays with a mean streak but is limited athletically; Schaffer is probably more suitable for a gap scheme rather than a zone scheme. He has the makeup to compete with Jalen Mayfield for the starting left guard position, but sixth-rounders aren’t typically competing for a starting spot. I’d expect Atlanta to have a true open competition between Mayfield, Schaffer, Colby Gossett, and Drew Dalman with the former Michigan Wolverine coming out on top.
Round 6 • Pick 35 (213) • TE John FitzPatrick
FitzPatrick joins a crowded tight end room. Kyle Pitts and Anthony Firkser will be the de facto TE1 and TE2, so FitzPatrick will compete with Parker Hesse and Ryan Becker for those TE3 snaps. He’ll be a contributor in the third phase of the game, but his impact will be minimal.