The Falcons just wrapped up their largest draft class since 2014, the last time they had nine selections, and will be hoping this class can prove instrumental to the team’s return to relevance in 2021 and beyond.
As we’ve noted, the Falcons focused on versatility and upside when assembling this group, trying to pick up players who can play multiple roles and have enough talent to grow into major roles, as well. They also drew heavily from the Senior Bowl, where the team wound up being one of nine teams to select five or more players from the National and American teams.
9 teams picked 5 or more players from the Senior Bowl in the #NFLDraft2021. @rgrant1525 @_darrenhall @TaQuonGraham Ade Ogundeji @_SavageSZN8 are now teammates with the @AtlantaFalcons #RiseUpATL #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/4W2yXLyO1t— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) May 6, 2021
Atlanta also picked up Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks from the Senior Bowl as an undrafted free agent, and will like be Arthur Smith and Charles London’s big developmental project over the next couple of seasons.
Time will tell if this is going to become a standard practice for Atlanta under Terry Fontenot, or if the Senior Bowl just happened to be the ideal showcase for the team this year, given the talent on display and the lack of an NFL Scouting Combine. I’d lean toward the latter, given that the run-up to this year’s draft looked from the outside to be extraordinarily difficult for teams to navigate, and because the Senior Bowl is a ready-made showcase for players whose athletic profiles and talent likely made them interesting to Atlanta in the first place.
This is not strictly new. The Falcons were always a team that spotted a small handful of players they loved from the Senior Bowl under Thomas Dimitroff and added them to the team, and they leaned more heavily on it some years than others. In 2020, they only drafted one such player (Matt Hennessy) and added one undrafted free agent (Jared Pinkney, alas), but in 2019 three of their selections were from the Senior Bowl, as they added Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary and John Cominsky.
It bears watching, though, how this draft class fares and whether the Falcons once again lean heavily into drafting Senior Bowl attendees in 2022, because then we’re looking at a legitimate clue as to this team’s preferences. For the moment, it’s merely an interesting footnote for this draft season, and hopefully every single one of these players can wind up contributing for Atlanta sooner than later.