The Falcons are down bad at the moment. The roster is the worst it has been in decades thanks to the prior regime’s mismanagement, the current regime’s mismanagement, and online gambling. A mere 12 months back, we were salivating at the thought of Matt Ryan throwing the ball to Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Kyle Pitts. Now only Pitts will suit up for the Falcons in 2022.
Due to the roster problems, new-ish general manager Terry Fontenot may be forced to abandon his best player available approach. Free agency should in theory be used to address needs while finding value across all positions in the draft. At the moment, though, the Falcons can’t afford any starter-worthy wide receivers, let alone a player on Ridley’s level. That means significant downgrades.
Outside of restricted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus, the Falcons have four wide receivers on the roster: Frank Darby, Austin Trammell, Chad Hansen, and KhaDarel Hodge. Together, the four have 774 receiving yards in the NFL. This is as poor of a group as this team has had this century. Atlanta has a glaring need at wide receiver but cannot afford any in free agency.
Hidden at the tail end of this spot on Marcus Mariota, NFL Network’s Jesse Palmer gave some good inside information on Atlanta’s draft plans: Taking all the wide receivers.
While Palmer talks up Mariota and his relationship with head coach Arthur Smith, the more interesting part is Atlanta’s draft plans. While Fontenot could call 2022 a mulligan and work on a long-term plan following the best player available approach, it looks like that will not be the case. Instead, if Palmer is correct, the Falcons may continue the prior regime’s draft strategy of eschewing value and aggressively filling roster holes, at least for one year.
The Falcoholic’s draft guru Kevin Knight likes the value at wide receiver in round 2.
Personally I think it's irresponsible to draft a WR at 8 when the class is so deep. Somebody good will be there at 43. Watson, Pickens, Metchie...— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) March 27, 2022
Whereas at like, EDGE, the top-tier guys might all go in the top-10.
The Falcons likely have a shot at Treylon Burks, a very similar player to A.J. Brown, who Smith coached in Tennessee, on a trade down. They could stand pat in the top ten or trade down slightly to get Garrett Wilson, who is becoming a popular mock draft target for Atlanta. The team is certainly not in the position to trade up. Double dipping at wide receiver on day 2 of the draft may be the best plan of action.
Smith will have his work cut out for him if he is stuck starting two mid-round picks. Rookie wide receivers are dealing with a steep learning curve in the NFL. The team’s best case scenario is focusing heavily on the run and the talents of Kyle Pitts while it rebuilds this offense, with the hope that picks invested in receivers this year pay off in a major way in 2023.