A few short days ago, I wrote that the Falcons would answer some lingering questions about their long-term plans with this draft class. Chances are most of those questions will ultimately be answered today on the critical second day of the draft.
The Falcons head into the day with four selections, two in the second round and two in the third. They took their high-upside, towering receiver in the first round, and now have an opportunity to add 3-4 impact players if they play their cards right. Here’s what we should expect to know by the end of the day.
Who’s throwing to Drake London?
I recently guaranteed on Falcoholic Live that the Falcons are going to take a quarterback in this draft class, and I see no reason to back off that after everyone but Kenny Pickett fell into the second round. Atlanta’s obviously stacking pass catching options like Kyle Pitts and Drake London for the next franchise quarterback—though Marcus Mariota will obviously enjoy throwing to them in the short-term—and the team would probably like to have the position sorted out by the end of tonight if they like anyone in this class.
Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis are all available at the moment and have been strongly linked to the Falcons at one time or another, with the smoke around Willis and Corral thickening in the past couple of weeks. Getting your quarterback settled with a pair of potentially dominant weapons to throw to and then working on retooling the defense and offensive line via your remaining picks and (eventually) free agency is a solid enough plan, even if I think it’s deeply unlikely the majority of the fanbase winds up happy with whichever quarterback they select.
The Falcons are going to draft the players they like and worry about what the fans think later, but it’s certainly easier to sell the fanbase on the London pick if you show us who will be throwing him the football for (if all goes well) the next 4-10 seasons. I fully expect the Falcons to give us some clarity tonight.
How much do they trust Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Jalen Mayfield?
I mentioned in my previous article that we’ll know much more about the team’s impression of their 2021 draft class when the dust settles on this one, but this is a crucial day for these two players in particular.
Ogundeji was talked up by the coaching staff throughout last year, and I doubt a quiet rookie season is going to dent their enthusiasm for him all that much. With only Lorenzo Carter added to the mix at outside linebacker thus far, the Falcons passing on adding pass rushing help today would be a strong vote of confidence in Ogundeji’s ability to take a big step forward, even if they’re almost certainly not done adding some help to the group.
For Mayfield, it’s a similar situation. If the team chooses not to add a guard to compete with him today, they’re going to give him a real shot to erase his rough rookie season by going into the summer in the driver’s seat for the left guard job. Colby Gossett and Drew Dalman shouldn’t be expected to unseat him and I don’t think the Falcons signed Elijah Wilkinson or Germain Ifedi with the thought that they’re going to push Mayfield, so if we make it through tonight without an additional guard pick, I think it will tell you the Falcons still think he’s the guy over the long haul.
Once the team clears cap space post-draft they can (and still should) add short-term competition for both guys even if they pass on these positions in the draft. I would still view the decision not to add potential long-term challengers for Ogundeji and Mayfield as good signs for their respective Falcons futures.
What do the Falcons think of the talent in this class?
Atlanta may have four picks tonight, but that doesn’t mean they’ll use all four. We’re about to find out just how enamored this team is with the talent available.
It’s telling, I think, that teams have generally not moved 2023 picks in their trades up early on in this class, given that next year is expected to be pretty loaded. If the Falcons think their draft capital will be more valuable a year from now when they’re hopefully on the cusp of contending, we could see them move at least one selection for future draft capital, assuming any teams desperate enough to move up are amenable to that. If they view the talent available in the second round to be far superior to what’s going to be available by the time we’re picking in the third, they might try to move up a bit to get their quarterback or another top-flight player and sacrifice a third or fourth rounder to get there.
If they do stick to their guns and keep their picks today and tomorrow, it will be a clear sign that they believe this class is as deep as advertised, and adding as many players from this class as possible is the best way to re-stock a depleted roster. I’m looking forward to finding out the approach and perception this evening.