The Falcons selected Drake London with their first-round pick in last month’s NFL draft. His gaudy stat total would impress any football fan — 160 catches for 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons as a Trojan, including 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games in his final season. Though most fans wanted a pass rusher or offensive linemen, I think they’ll end up pretty happy with the USC product. London will be a force in this league, but who on the Falcons benefits most from the selection?
Though Kyle Pitts is a couple of inches taller and a few pounds heavier, the two physical specimens are nearly interchangeable. Even though Pitts broke almost every receiving record, the Florida Gators product struggled periodically. Without Calvin Ridley or any other competent receiving threat, defenses rolled their coverages to Pitts, bracketing him on nearly every route. Not anymore.
The influx of London’s talent in the offense will create more opportunities for Pitts. At 6’5” and 6’6”, the two will be a nightmare for smaller corners. They should be able to play from similar alignments, and it’s only going to make Pitts more dangerous. He might benefit quite a bit, but he’s not the primary beneficiary.
The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen ranked his favorite “scheme fit” from this year’s draft class, and London was his favorite. “A big component of Arthur Smith’s offense is taking shots off of hard play-action fakes,” Nguyen said. “Although London isn’t a burner, he was able to win deep with his physicality running through defensive backs and beating them at the catch point.”
Arthur Smith had a ton of success with A.J. Brown, who won routes in a similar fashion. Smith may benefit more than Pitts; there was only so much he could do to draw up schemes to get Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson open a year ago. Now, he’ll essentially have two versions of Kyle Pitts to draw up plays for.
Marcus Mariota/Desmond Ridder
The biggest beneficiary: whoever is throwing the ball to London. The former basketball player makes quarterbacks’ lives much easier, by essentially making 50/50 balls closer to 75/25 in favor of the good guys. He’s like a safety blanket for signal callers; Mariota and Ridder will love throwing the ball to a guy who makes contested catches in his sleep. London recorded 19 of them last season, which was six more than any other player in college football during the 2021 season.