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Falcons earn decent grades for drafting Drake London in Round 1

A compilation of grades handed out for the Falcons first selection in the 2022 NFL Draft

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After months of mocks, research and anticipation, the 2022 NFL Draft officially kicked off on Thursday evening. The first round was full of surprises, trades and hope for many teams. With the 8th overall selection the Atlanta Falcons selected wide receiver Drake London out of the University of Southern California.

Some folks loved the pick... and some folks not so much. That’s why today we will be looking at what the experts have to say about the Falcons’ first round selection and why they think it was a good or bad move.

Bleacher Report - A

Whenever an oversized wide receiver comes up through the ranks, the same old argument is often used against him: He can’t separate. Despite numerous examples on film to prove otherwise, that knock hounded Drake London throughout the pre-draft process. Upon closer inspection, though, he’s an elite target with a series of traits that should delight his new quarterback.

From a physical standpoint, the former USC basketball player brings a little hardwood to the gridiron. His footwork belies his 6’4”, 219-pound frame. London also sinks in and out of his routes. He isn’t some stiff who uses his large frame to overwhelm defensive backs.

PFF - Good

There weren’t many position groups across the NFL in more need of talent than the Falcons receiving corps, and London should provide a nice boost. A lot has been made about his ability to separate because of how much of his production came in contested catch situations (FBS-high 17 contested catches in 2021). But that’s not all he brings to the table. London can create separation underneath and was productive after the catch for the Trojans, as well. His 22 missed tackles forced after the catch last year — in just eight games before going down to injury — were a top-five mark in this class. - B+

London has been compared to Chargers WR Mike Williams. The former USC star’s height and strong hands give him a large catch radius on the outside, which he was using to his advantage until an ankle injury ended his season prematurely. Pairing London with TE Kyle Pitts will cause major problems for defenses lacking size in the secondary.

London didn’t run a 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine or his pro day, which means the Falcons don’t really know how fast he is. Regardless, Williams wasn’t a burner at Clemson and still manages to win outside with regularity. Jameson Williams, who went 12th overall to Detroit, could end up being a better receiver, though it’s hard to fault a team for not spending a top-10 pick on a receiver coming off an ACL tear.

CBS Sports - B-

London is a big receiver, but he doesn’t run that well. This is a team that needed to add more speed. I would have taken Garrett Wilson in this spot. He would have given them more of an immediate impact. London is good. But there were better options.

FOX Sports - B

In the first stunner of the 2022 draft, the Falcons eschewed their league-worst pass rush, instead, nabbing the best jump-ball receiver to pair with last year’s star, Kyle Pitts. Often compared to fellow NFC South star Mike Evans in Tampa Bay, London offers the body control and strong hands to play the role of a security blanket for Marcus Mariota (or a quarterback soon to be selected).

Sports Illustrated - A+

A former USC basketball player, London uses his large frame well to box out defenders. His wide catch radius and strong hands help him dominate at the catch point. London is a young prospect (turns 21 in late July), but he was highly productive—88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games—last season. He’s a big-bodied receiver that fits the type that Arthur Smith prefers, and he fills an immediate void at receiver, as Calvin Ridley is suspended for 2022 and Russell Gage signed with the Bucs.

There’s one very important thing that I want you to remember about the grades shown above: they don’t matter. That’s right, once the regular season kicks off and play actually begins on the field, nobody will care what draft grades were handed out. At that point it’s all about what happens on the field. The Falcons have pretty good grades for round one, as you can see. But just in case the grades over the next few rounds aren’t so high, just review them and read the interesting analysis, but please don’t take it too seriously because nobody truly knows what was a good or bad pick for several years.

Day two of the 2022 NFL Draft kicks off this evening at 7 p.m. ET