The buzz around Drake London to the Falcons reached the point that it was impossible to ignore it, and however much we might have been against the idea of taking a wide receiver. When London landed in Atlanta, giving the team a top option after an offseason where Calvin Ridley was suspended and Russell Gage left for Tampa Bay, all that reporting was proven right and we had a lot to digest.
After spending the rest of the evening thinking about the selection, naturally we had some takes. Here’s The Falcoholic staff weighing in on Drake London the morning after the pick, and after you read what we thought initially, tell us your thoughts.
I like London but am concerned about the plan
With a bad offensive line, a worse defense, and no quarterback, the Falcons select a wide receiver? If the Falcons said 15 months ago the new brain trust would take this team down to the studs and rebuild, adding a tight end and wide receiver with top picks in back-to-back drafts would be disappointing. The 2021 draft, in our way-too-early review, was bad. The new regime seems to be building everything backwards.
Drake London is a good prospect. At 8th overall, between some injury and polish concerns, I’m not sure if I see the value. Value or not, the Falcons were frequently miserable on offense due to a void in talent at wide receiver. Like an 8th overall pick should be, London should be a big improvement to the team. If he was the right pick will likely remain a big question for the next few seasons. — Matt Chambers
It’s all about the foundation now
Kyle Pitts and Drake London can be a dominant duo for a long, long time. No defensive coordinator is going to relish having to stop a pair of 6’5” or taller options in the red zone, and both players can come away with contested catches and pick up yards after the catch. Give them a handful of competent supporting receiving options and they’re going to be dangerous, and I really like London the player.
Now it’s all about what the Falcons do to create an offense—and more broadly, a team—that can take advantage of that. Today, Atlanta doesn’t have the franchise quarterback who can take full advantage of London’s considerable talent. They don’t have an offensive line that can give that quarterback, when they get him, the time he’ll need to deliver London those downfield strikes. And aside from Cordarrelle Patterson, they don’t have any compelling complementary weapons to take pressure off Pitts and London, though obviously that trio is a problem in their own right.
There’s so much work to be done on this Falcons roster that using back-to-back top ten selections on pass catching options has to be questioned. After all, we saw the Falcons trotting out Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage and falling short thanks to a combination of shaky line play, an inefficient ground game and a defense that couldn’t hold any leads that passing attack helped them earn. You can’t take it for granted that the Falcons will be able to attack their many remaining needs effectively in this draft and put together a compelling offense in 2022—though that bevy of day two picks helps—and if Pitts and London are great while Mariota and/or a rookie quarterback eats sacks and the defense can’t get the pressure Dean Pees craves it’ll be difficult not to be critical of the approach in the short-term.
None of that makes London a bad pick—on the contrary, I think London’s a terrific player—but it just means they have to be savvy about building this roster up in a way that makes Pitts and London more than just fun players on a forgettable team. London will be a weapon to watch this year and may actually give this team the dominant red zone option they’ve been lacking for a long time now, but the hope will be that he’s a critical piece of a dominant passing game sooner than later. That’s how this pick winds up looking brilliant over the long haul, and while I don’t expect this team to arrive as a contender until 2023 at the earliest, the foundational work they do in the draft today to build on the London pick is going to matter a lot. -Dave Choate
More mixed messages
For a team with a litany of needs, lacking a franchise quarterback, barren on the defensive edge, and desperate for a boost in pass protection — the Falcons went with a wide receiver. Does he have an ideal frame for Arthur Smith’s offensive scheme? Yep. Was he one of the top wideout targets on the board? Box checked.
Are the Falcons currently rebuilding with more pressing areas of concern to burn a first-rounder on a wide receiver? Absolutely.
The debacle of the Deshaun Watson pursuit finally got the Falcons to admit what we’ve long known: This is a team that has a ways to go, both cap-wise and personnel-wise. It was an overdue acknowledgment of the stark realities of these Atlanta Falcons and the growing pains the new regime is having to endure.
Instead of matching their offseason moves and statements to actions, the Falcons selected Drake London, a talented wide receiver that they simply don’t need at the moment. It’s more muddy water from a franchise that simply needs a firm plan and clarity on its vision. - Carter Breazeale
The Falcons have a type
One year after selecting a tall, long and athletic receiving option, the Falcons decided to run it back one more time. Reports have not exactly been lacking about Arthur Smith’s desire to add more size and physicality to his receiver corps, and he gets both in Drake London. The receiver in this class most naturally suited to be an X receiver in the NFL, London will give Atlanta its own version of The Twin Towers.
London’s basketball background will make him a natural threat in the red zone, and perhaps he and Pitts will combine for more than one touchdown this fall. There’s more to London than his size, though. He’s a tenacious blocker and brings much more YAC ability than you’d initially think. I’m not saying he’ll look like Julio Jones running after catching a slant, but he should still be exciting to watch. At a time when others are betting on speed, the Falcons are turning to size and length. — Will McFadden
The Falcons made a pick I hope is good
The Atlanta Falcons picked a player. He went to USC, and his name is Drake London. He plays wide receiver, and some people say he is very good at what he does. That’s probably the extent of the professional advice I can give you, but as a novice, I can happily say that I like what the Falcons did. London is an Arthur Smith-y receiver who is big, plays the contested catch, and fills a gap on the roster that is glaring for talent. The draft is a crapshoot, and none of us will know the true success of this pick until much later. But, if London is as good as he’s hyped to be, it’s a win. The Falcons aren’t going to contend anytime soon. Just take good players. Hopefully London is one of those. - Cory Woodroof