The Falcons have completed their 2022 NFL Draft class, adding eight players to the mix. With a focus on athleticism and physicality throughout the class, the Falcons added five players to a rapidly re-tooling offense and three defenders, a pair of edge rushers and an intriguing linebacker.
With the selections, the team has made it clear that jump-starting a moribund offense is a huge priority, especially after they traded away Matt Ryan and lost Calvin Ridley to a suspension. The team drafted a player they hope can be their next long-term starting quarterback, a big target for him to throw to, a bruising running back, a mauling guard and a physical blocking tight end. Not all of those players will be impactful in 2022, but the Falcons are clearly hoping to be tougher and bigger on offense going forward, especially when they’re ready to contend in 2023.
The early focus on the pass rush was incredibly welcome, and the Falcons added two players who figure to be their best edge rushers right out of the gate. Their lottery ticket linebacker has the ability to be a truly special player if he can turn his athleticism and strength into consistent performances at the next level, and the Falcons are counting on improvement up front on the defense line and in the secondary to fuel real growth here now that they’ve addressed the middle of the defense.
Here’s a closer look at your full 2022 Falcons draft class.
Round 1, Pick 8: WR Drake London, USC
Atlanta kicked things off by getting a big, physical target. London thrives in contested catch situations and will step in as the team’s de facto top receiver and second option in the passing game behind Kyle Pitts. He’s expected to be an impactful day one starter, and he ought to be.
Round 2, Pick 38: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
A productive pass rusher in college, Ebiketie will step in right away as the team’s top edge rusher and a starter at outside linebacker/defensive end, depending on the front. He’s fast, has long arms, and is a capable technician without any fatal flaws in his game, which makes Ebiketie an intriguing addition to a defense that desperately needs capable pass rushers. We’ll see what his ceiling looks like in the NFL, but he should contribute immediately.
Round 2, Pick 58: LB Troy Andersen, Montana State
Andersen’s a bit of a ball of clay, but he’s a stupendous athlete—his Relative Athletic Score is one of the best ever for a linebacker, per score creator Kent Lee Platte—and has played multiple positions in his career. The Falcons may have him focus on special teams initially, but they’re going to expect that speed and power to make him a dangerous defender sooner than later, and it’ll be interesting to see if he simply seizes a starting job at inside linebacker or ends up playing multiple roles.
Round 3, Pick 74: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder has compared his game to Marcus Mariota, and it’s an interesting comparison. While he’s not the most accurate quarterback in the world, Ridder does everything else pretty well, offering good mobility and athleticism both inside and outside of the pocket, a live arm, and mechanics that draft analysts fell all over themselves to praise. His ceiling in the NFL is probably “good starter” instead of “great quarterback,” but I think he’ll reach it and can be a capable leader for the Falcons offense if they rebuild it effectively. He’ll compete with Mariota for the starting job in training camp.
Round 3, Pick 82: EDGE DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
A very athletic edge rusher the Falcons were linked to in the run-up to the draft, Malone will need to work on his run-stopping but should immediately be able to contribute pressure in the team’s rotation. Malone is tough, smart and athletic and rushes with a plan, and he’ll get plenty of run right away for a team starving to impact opposing quarterbacks.
Round 5, Pick 151: RB Tyler Allgeier, BYU
Your future top option in the running back committee. It may take Allgeier a little time to push his way past the many veterans atop the crowded depth chart, but his physicality fits what Arthur Smith is looking for an he was a scoring and tackle-breaking machine in college. An on-fire bowling ball on roller skates, Allgeier will be one of those backs few defenses relish trying to bring down, and the question is really just how well that physicality will translate in a full-time NFL role.
Round 6, Pick 190: G Justin Shaffer, Georgia
A left guard with a nasty streak, Shaffer joins a Falcons team in search of physicality and toughness along the offensive line. Shaffer will likely slot in as Jalen Mayfield’s backup in 2022—freeing up Colby Gossett to fill in at any of the guard or tackle spots if needed—but if Mayfield falters again this summer or heading into 2023 he at least has the upside to compete for a role.
Round 6, Pick 213: TE John FitzPatrick, Georgia
A blocker by trade, FitzPatrick will come in to compete for third or fourth tight end duties behind Kyle Pitts and Anthony Firkser. The Falcons had been stacking blockers all offseason via free agency, but clearly liked what FitzPatrick brought to the table, which should give him a leg up. He showed decent hands in very limited opportunities last year for Georgia, so we’ll see if he can contribute in a more multi-faceted role in the NFL.