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2022 NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons Recap

London Calling Fills Primary Need

Thanks to the first five picks and six of the first seven overall selections being used on defensive players in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons had the ability to select the first receiver when their first-round selection came around.

Southern California’s Drake London was the pick at No. 8 before the Falcons used three of the next four picks on defense. If the draftees can improve the Atlanta passing game and pass rush, it will go down as a successful draft. Atlanta added three defensive linemen and three receivers as undrafted rookie free agents.

NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons Recap
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The NFL predictions have the Falcons (+1600) with the worst odds to win the NFC South during the 2022 season

Here’s a look at how the Falcons fared in the draft.

  • Pick 8 Drake London | WR, USC Trojans

While some thought that either Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson or Alabama’s Jameson Williams would be the first receiver off the board, the Falcons went with the 6-foot-4, 220-pound London.

London had five games during the 2021 season with at least 10 catches. There was a five-game stretch when he had 170, 165, 130, 162 and 171 receiving yards. London finished with 1,084 yards on 88 receptions despite missing the last four games of the season due to injury.

London isn’t the fastest receiver in this year’s draft class but he will team with tight end Kyle Pitts to give the Falcons a pair of rangy red-zone targets.

This was clearly a position of need given the uncertainty o when Calvin Ridley will play again and with Russell Gage now in Tampa Bay.

There might not be a team with more unknowns at the receiver position coming into the draft. The selection of London won’t fix all of those issues, but it is a pretty good place to start. Atlanta recently traded with the Raiders for Bryan Edwards so the receiver position is starting to look much better.

The NFL betting lines list London as having the second-best odds at +650 to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

Drake London | Michael Hickey/Getty Images/AFP

Receiver was far from the only position of need for the Falcons. Atlanta was last in the NFL in quarterback sacks during the 2021 season.

Dante Fowler was the team leader with 4.5 sacks and he is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Foye Oluokun, who have also headed elsewhere, each had two of sacks in 2021.

Ebiketie will have plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. It is something he did quite often during his lone season at Penn State, finishing with 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Ebiketie had six sacks in 24 games at Temple before transferring to Penn State.

The edge rushers were flying off the board, which is why Atlanta gave up a fourth-round selection to move up five spots to select Ebiketie. The Las Vegas odds have Ebiketie tied for 19th at +5000 in the odds for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Troy Andersen is one of the more intriguing players in the entire draft.

The Montana native was a state sprinting champion in high school. When he arrived at Montana State, he made his mark on the offensive side of the ball. Andersen was a running back who had more than 50 rushing yards as a freshman. He moved to quarterback and continued to pile up the rushing yards before moving to linebacker.

Andersen actually played on both offense and defense at various times during his collegiate career. An FCS All-American as a senior, Andersen had 147 tackles. He only had two sacks but was a force in coverage with a pair of interceptions and seven pass breakups.

The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Andersen caught the attention of the scouts by running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds to go with a 10-foor-8 mark in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical leap.

The level of competition he played at might be a bit of a concern. However, with the departure of NFL tackles leader Foye Oluokun, the Falcons did need help at linebacker.

This pick was part of the trade that sent receiver Julio Jones to Tennessee.

It was only natural that Atlanta would select a quarterback with the trade of longtime starter Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Falcons resisted the temptation to take a quarterback in the first two rounds. Ridder played in 50 games over four seasons for Cincinnati. The first numbers that are associated with Ridder are his 87 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions. He had 20 games when he failed to complete at least 60 percent of his passes, so there are some accuracy concerns.

Ridder certainly looks the part at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He made a strong impression on teams during the pre-draft process. With Marcus Mariota brought in, there will be no reason to rush Ridder into action, but if he shows he is ready to take over, there would be little reason for the Falcons to keep him on the bench.

Those who bet online and wish to make a wager on Ridder making an impact as a rookie should be interested to know that he has the third-best odds among the quarterbacks to be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Atlanta continues to make an attempt to improve the pass rush by adding Malone, who had 34 sacks in his five seasons at Western Kentucky.

His best numbers came during the 2019 season when he had 99 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 11½  sacks. Unlike some pass rushers, he was involved in plenty of tackles during his collegiate career.

It will be interesting to see if DeAngelo Malone and Ebiketie play at the same time because they have very similar characteristics.

The Falcons received this pick in the trade that sent Ryan to the Colts.

There’s not much in the way of running back options on the Atlanta roster other than Cordarrelle Patterson, who had more than 500 yards rushing and receiving in the 2021 season, so adding a productive college runner like Allgeier seems like a smart way to proceed.

Allgeier ran for more than 100 yards in the last four games that he played in during the 2020 season to set the stage for a huge 2021 campaign. He had four games with at least 190 rushing yards, including 218 against nationally ranked Utah State and 266 with five TD runs against Virginia.

Allgeier wasn’t utilized much as a receiver during his time at BYU so that is an aspect of his game that he will need to show at the NFL level.

Atlanta has used two first-round picks, two third-rounders and a fourth-round selection on offensive linemen from 2019-21. That isn’t exactly a position of need but teams can never have enough offensive line depth.

Justin Shaffer did get to go up against the best defensive line in the country on a regular basis, with multiple Georgia defensive linemen selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Shaffer started 27 games for the Bulldogs, 26 coming at left guard.

Justin Shaffer | Emilee Chinn/Getty Images/AFP

Playing behind freshman Brock Bowers is going to limit the number of times that the other Georgia tight ends were targeted during the 2021 campaign.

FitzPatrick had 55 yards on five receptions. He finished with 16 catches in three seasons with the Bulldogs.

At 6-foot-7, 250 pound, FitzPatrick has the size necessary to play the next level and he had plenty of experience blocking during his college days. This was Atlanta’s final pick as its seventh-round selection was traded for tight end Lee Smith.

Grading the Draft

It is hard to argue with the direction Atlanta that went with its first few picks. The Falcons gave the receiver position a much-needed infusion of talent with London’s selection before focusing on providing playmakers in the defensive front seven.

Plenty of attention will be paid to the selection of former Cincinnati quarterback Ridder in the third round while the trades of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan gave Atlanta two additional second-day picks. How long is it going to take for Atlanta to replace the Ryan to Jones connection, which has been  one of the few reliable parts of recent Atlanta teams. Let’s check the Super Bowl odds.


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