With the conclusion of the Super Bowl marking the official end to the 2021-22 NFL season, it’s full speed ahead toward free agency and the draft, as the nature of the NFL dictates that even in the offseason the sport continues to soak up year-round attention.
ESPN’s Todd McShay gave rabid draft fans some fresh meat early this week, with the offseason now officially starting. He dropped a brand new mock draft, and while he has the Falcons upgrading at a position of need, myself and many other fans likely wouldn’t be overly thrilled if this is how selection eight played out come the night of April 28.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Drake London, WR, USC
McShay’s reasoning for the selection is logical — the team could look to trade Calvin Ridley, who only appeared in five games this past season due to mental health issues. That would leave a big hole at the wide receiver position, and London is the consensus best wide receiver in the draft.
This is what McShay had to say about the talented USC product:
London, meanwhile, was on his way to a massive campaign for USC before breaking his right ankle in October. He’s a 6-foot-5 target who has the body control and contact balance to make plays over the middle, the speed to produce vertically and the instincts to create against different defensive looks.
In his Junior season this past year, London had 88 receptions for 1,084 receiving yards and secured seven touchdowns in just eight games before sustaining that ankle injury. It was a true breakout campaign which shot him up draft boards.
Moreover, Atlanta’s leading wide receiver this past year was Russell Gage, with just 770 receiving yards. While Kyle Pitts does spend a lot of time lining up out wide and while he will clearly be Matt Ryan’s go to option moving forward, he’s not flanked by the most imposing of wide receiver corps in support, especially if the team moves on from Ridley and possibly even Gage. London would step into an impact role on the team from day one.
My disagreement with this selection comes from the opportunity cost in making it. While wide receiver is certainly a position of concern, it seems a bit rich to take a pass catching weapon in the top 10 in back-to-back years, particularly when the Falcons displayed a deficiency in talent on the defensive side of the ball this past year.
The pass rush in particular was an abomination. Atlanta had just 18 sacks all season, which was by far dead last in the NFL. To put it into perspective, the difference between Atlanta’s total and the 29 sacks that the 31st ranked Eagles had is fewer than the difference between the Eagles and the 15th ranked Packers (who had 39 total sacks). Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt (22.5) and Chicago’s Robert Quinn (18.5) each had more sacks individually than the Falcons had as a team.
In McShay’s mock, the Falcons pass up on pass rushers such as George Karlaftis and David Ojabo.
Linebacker, a second cornerback to complement the wonderful A.J. Terrell, and safety are also positions of need for the Falcons along the defense. To make the London pick in this mock, Atlanta passes up on every cornerback outside of Sauce Gardner (who goes six to Carolina), along with standout linebackers such as Nakobe Dean and Devin Lloyd.
Even along the offensive line, the Falcons could use a significant upgrade over Jalen Mayfield, who was the worst starting guard in the NFL last season. Iowa C/G Tyler Linderbaum is still on the board in McShay’s mock during Atlanta’s selection.
I really like Drake as a prospect, but getting him at eight, particularly with so many needs on defense, seems a bit too rich for my liking at the moment. We still have yet to find out how free agency is going to play out for the Falcons. If they fill most of their holes, and if they do trade Ridley, then going with the top wide receiver on the board may not be too farfetched come draft night.
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