I wrote the other day that nobody seems to know who the Falcons are picking at No. 8, and I stand by that. The increasing intensity of the rumors in recent days are evidence enough of that, given that there’s no consensus building and the always-fun addition of a bunch of names we haven’t heard in weeks (Drake London! Matt Corral!). The Falcons themselves said in their press conference yesterday that things are uncertain at the top of the draft, and thus who they’ll wind up with at No. 8 is a bit uncertain as well.
Still, the rumors are worth passing along because we’re in the home stretch and there’s a remote possibility that one or two might be true. We’ll add new ones as we see them here, but here’s what’s current and hot as of 10 a.m. this fine Wednesday morning.
Trade back an option?
Jonathan Jones at CBS Sports is a damn good reporter, so I’m paying attention to his final pre-draft notebook. In it, he indicates that the Falcons might be amenable to trading down if the top tackles and pass rushers on their board are gone, and would then look at a wide receiver in the teens.
It’s nothing concrete, but I’d certainly feel better about a receiver in the 12-18 range than at No. 8, especially if you’re picking up additional draft resources to make that move. The indication here seems to be that the Falcons are indeed hoping to start building the trenches with their first pick, but may not have the option.
Could Grady Jarrett be moved this week?
I don’t like that!
Couple of Falcons notes in here:— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) April 27, 2022
Grady Jarrett mentioned as a player who could be moved this week.
Malik Willis and Drake London mentioned as players Falcons have shown interest in at No. 8 https://t.co/wOsRji2iog
The reality is that we just don’t know what the Falcons are planning to do with Jarrett, one of just two longtime franchise icons (Jake Matthews being the other, Deion Jones qualifying if you’re more appreciative of what he did in the past than what he’s done lately) still on the roster after the Falcons traded Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and let Josh Harris walk. If they think they can’t get an extension done, trading him will mean tangible draft capital this year or next and savings they’ll need to sign their draft class, as painful as it will be for me to lose my favorite player on the team.
Willis and London both feel like legitimate possibilities at No. 8 if the Falcons stay put, though I’d be much more enthusiastic about the former than the latter.
Drake London, popular pick
Peter King is not always right or anything close to it, but he called the team’s interest in Kyle Pitts and their lack of desire to “force” a quarterback pretty early in April a year ago. That’s why it’s probably worth noting that he has them landing London at No. 8. He’s not alone, as a number of mock drafts from draft analysts and reporters suddenly have them landing the USC receiver. You’ll recall that London was a popular choice a while back before fading into the background, but he’s back with a vengeance.
Why London? He’s 6’5” with a tremendous catch radius, an ability and willingness to fight for contested catches, and the physicality to make things happen after the catch. The size and ability to pick up additional yards makes him feel tailor-made for an Arthur Smith passing game, where ideally everybody would be a headache to deal with after the catch.
Why not London? Personally, I don’t care for the idea of taking a wide receiver in the top ten when you are a team without a long-term solution at quarterback, with question marks all along the offensive line, and with a ton of pressing needs on defense. If the team believes London is the best player available, they’ll do it, and London’s sky-high potential could make him a fun fit in this offense. I just can’t see the team stacking passing game weapons with back-to-back top 10 picks when so little of this roster is built out and in great shape, but clearly a growing number of media types believe it’s a legitimate possibility.
Pass rusher pursuit
If you know anything about me, you know that I have been advocating for the Falcons to draft pass rushers in the first round more or less continuously since 2006. They’ve only done so a handful of times, and none of those players have worked out for one reason or another, but that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the idea of finally adding a difference maker.
That’s why reports that the Falcons might be in on Oregon’s Kayvox Thibodeaux or FSU’s Jermaine Johnson have me intrigued. ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Falcons landing London—I linked that above—but he also contends that if Thibodeaux falls to eight he will not make it past the Falcons. As an avowed Thibodeaux fan, that’s an intriguing rumor for me, and it’s worth noting that some analysts have him landing there.
Johnson, meanwhile, has been rumored to be landing in the top ten picks for a while now, and there’s growing buzz the Jets might take him at 4. If that’s not accurate, the Falcons may well be interested, given that there’s an emerging consensus that he’s going to be a top ten pick and this team desperately needs help. Our Kevin Knight has been in on Johnson to the Falcons for a while now.
I believe the #Falcons are targeting EDGE at 8, either Jermaine Johnson or Kayvon Thibodeaux.— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) April 26, 2022
If those guys are gone, smoke definitely seems to suggest WR.
If top EDGE guys are gone but Malik Willis winds up falling to 8, I'd be working the phone with #Steelers for a trade down
The quarterback buzz isn’t dying down
The question, if the Falcons do have legitimate interest, concerns who they’d be after. Malik Willis is the only quarterback I’d consider taking in the top 10—and I’d consider it strongly, personally—but the team has been linked to Desmond Ridder for some time and have been linked to Matt Corral a lot in recent weeks.
The Falcons have shown genuine interest in all three quarterbacks—and to a lesser extent, in Kenny Pickett—but there are reports out there that they like Willis a lot. If Atlanta believes in their coaching staff and in Willis’s sky-high potential, landing him to solve their long-term need at the position makes a lot of sense, even if it will be frustrating for fans who believe no quarterback is worth a top 10 pick this year.
It’s worth noting that Peter King has the Falcons trading back to No. 32 to grab Corral, and it’s not hard to envision them doing that for Corral, Ridder, or even Sam Howell if they’re in love with one of those players. The team has studiously avoided saying they’ll draft a quarterback, and being linked to three of them means we don’t really have a bead on who they actually like here. I would continue to bet heavily on the team investing a Day 1 or Day 2 pick in the position, however, based on nothing but my own read of where the team is at.
More rumors to come if and when we see them.