Atlanta Falcons 2022 Draft
It wouldn’t be unfair to say the Atlanta Falcons overachieved in 2021. They were 7-10 and finished third in the NFC South under first-year coach Arthur Smith. Building on that success and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 will require some serious salary-cap gymnastics, however. Heading into the draft, the Falcons are $7 million over the cap and will need space to make important personnel moves.
Complicating things is the issue of what to do with 36-year-old starting quarterback Matt Ryan. Falcons’ general manager Terry Fontenot said recently that he did not want to commit to Ryan, and the team is listening to offers. Fontenot also said he expects Ryan to be a part of the team, so perhaps some mixed signals. However, Atlanta could save $23.75 million against the cap with post-June 1st trade.
That will be a difficult decision for the organization, as Ryan has passed for 59,735 yards and 367 touchdowns (170 interceptions) in his 14-year (all with Atlanta) career. Even last season, Ryan was productive, (3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions). The problem for Atlanta is it doesn’t have a cheaper replacement for Ryan.
For this team to begin an ascent, Atlanta need a lot of things to break its way. It will need to restructure contracts while hoping players already on the roster can get the Dirty Birds back in flight.
Players Leaving the Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have a challenge in Calvin Ridley. They were planning to move away from the 2018 first-round pick. Then was until March 7th, when he was suspended indefinitely (at least one season) by the NFL for gambling on its games. The Falcons will not be able to find a trade partner now. Ridley’s absence does take his 2022 salary ($11.1 million) off Atlanta’s books for next season, so that’s something. He stepped away from the Falcons after five weeks last season, citing mental health reasons. Ridley has 3,342 career receiving yards. including 31 catches for 281 (two touchdowns) in limited duty last season.
Atlanta released veteran pass rusher Dante Fowler in mid-February. Fowler, the No. 3 overall pick by the Jaguars in 2015, had struggled after coming to Atlanta via free agency from the Rams. In two seasons with the Falcons, Fowler recorded 7½ sacks and 59 tackles.
The Falcons will need to find a way to create cap space or risk losing linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. Oluokun is a free agent who led the entire NFL with 192 tackles, 102 of which were solo tackles, adding three interceptions. He is a potential “franchise tag” candidate.
Positions Needed by the Atlanta Falcons
While cutting Fowler was part of their plan, it did highlight the Falcons’ greatest weakness. Fowler led the team with 4½ sacks last season, with no other player on the edge having more than two sacks. Atlanta only had 18 sacks last season on the whole, and will need to generate a better pass rush to make their defense more effective.
Working without Ridley, Atlanta will need to find a top receiver to help out Ryan, or whomever is the quarterback. Tight end Kyle Pitts led the team with 1,026 receiving yards (68 catches) with one touchdown last season. With Pitts in the middle, adding an outside threat would be an asset. Last season, Atlanta’s leading receiver was Russell Gage (66 receptions, 770 yards, four touchdowns).
The Falcons intercepted 12 passes last season, seven of which came from the secondary. Atlanta will want to add a few more cornerbacks who can help, supporting the front seven while make plays of its own. AJ Terrell was the only Falcons’ cornerback to intercept any passes last season, with three.
Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft
Atlanta will have plenty of opportunities to bring in fresh blood for 2022. The Falcons have eight picks this year’s draft, including eight in the top 74 of the draft. With Atlanta’s top pick, the Falcons will have an opportunity to improve the offensive line, adding Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Linderbaum, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound former high school-wrestler, is hard to move and can open holes for the run game. Atlanta only rushed for 1,451 yards last season, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
In the second round, the Falcons could add edge rusher Jermaine Jones II from Florida State. Jones, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year last season, les the conference with 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Jones, who goes 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, also forced two fumbles and recorded 70 tackles.
After the first few rounds, Atlanta may be able to look at a wide receiver target like Western Michigan standout Skyy Moore. Moore, at 5-foot-10 and 195-pounds, hauled in 95 passes for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns. While a bit undersized, Moore has big-play ability and consistency. Check the Falcons’ NFL Draft odds and NFL Odds.
2022 NFL Draft Event Information
- Date: Thursday, Apr. 28th (Round 1) | Friday, Apr. 29th (Rounds 2-3) | Saturday, Apr. 30th (Rounds 4-7)
- Time: 8 p.m. ET (Thursday) | 7 p.m. ET (Friday) | Noon ET (Saturday)
- Location: Allegiant Stadium, Paradise, NV
- TV Channel: ABC | ESPN | NFL Network
- NFL Draft Live Streaming: NFL Game Pass
2022 NFL First-Round Draft Order (with 2021 records)
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Detroit Lions
- Houston Texans
- NY Jets
- NY Giants
- Carolina Panthers
- NY Giants (via Bears)
- Atlanta Falcons
- Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos)
- NY Jets (via Seahawks)
- Washington Commanders
- Minnesota Vikings
- Houston Texans (via Browns)
- Baltimore Ravens
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Dolphins)
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Colts)
- LA Chargers
- New Orleans Saints
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- New England Patriots
- Green Bay Packers (via Raiders)
- Arizona Cardinals
- Dallas Cowboys
- Buffalo Bills
- Tennessee Titans
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Green Bay Packers
- Kansas City Chiefs (via 49ers)
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Detroit Lions (via Rams)
Teams with no First Round Pick
- San Francisco 49ers
- Chicago Bears
- Denver Broncos
- Cleveland Browns
- Indianapolis Colts
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Los Angeles Rams
- Miami Dolphins