Our long wait is over. The Falcons have made their selection at No. 8 in the 2022 NFL Draft, and they’ve selected USC wide receiver Drake London with the pick.
I had a hard time believing the team would actually select a wide receiver in the top ten a year after taking Kyle Pitts, but apparently they viewed London as being too good a prospect to pass up. A yards after the catch machine who is extremely skilled at making contested catches, London has the size and physicality necessary to thrive in Arthur Smith’s offense, even if it’s not clear who will be throwing him the ball over the next several years.
The Atlanta Falcons take WR Drake London, from USC.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) April 29, 2022
The big-bodied type of receiver Arthur Smith covets is heading to Atlanta.
With the addition of London, the Falcons have added a dangerous pass catcher who will join Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson in presenting legitimate matchup problems for opposing defenses. Marcus Mariota’s supporting cast in his year or two in Atlanta is going to be better than we expected, and London will step in immediately as the team’s de facto top receiver and the #2 weapon in the passing game behind Pitts.
There’s no question the Falcons looked at last year’s passing attack, where only Pitts and Patterson consistently generated yards after the catch, and felt strongly they had to make improvements. That need was going to be acute whether the Falcons moved Calvin Ridley or not—they were going to before his suspension—and London, Pitts, Patterson and to a lesser extent Anthony Firkser and Auden Tate provide them with some pretty compelling options.
The Falcons had other options here, from Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton to Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson to Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, but it’s obvious the front office felt London was too good to pass up with this selection and would not have lasted had they moved down, assuming they even received a compelling offer for the pick.
Time will tell if it’s the right selection. I’m a big believer in London’s talent—he’ll be a very good receiver in this league—but the Falcons do not have a long-term plan at quarterback. They may well address that with a trade up tonight or a move on the draft’s second day, but building a corps of pass catchers when your line isn’t set, your quarterback isn’t set, and your defense has a number of question marks up front would not have been my approach. It’ll be up to the Falcons to put together a killer draft class that addresses some of those other holes, and whether they do so this year or next, get the franchise quarterback who can make use of London and Pitts over the long haul.
Welcome Drake London to Atlanta, regardless of how you feel about the pick, and we’ll hope he winds up being a home run selection for the Falcons.