The 2022 NFL Draft is over, and the Falcons have assembled a class they hope will add physicality and upside to the roster this year and going forward. Was this a draft that will be transformative for a team looking to contend sooner than later? That’s a question that will be answered in the weeks, months, and years to come, but we all have strong initial takes on where this one lands.
Given how much of a roller coaster this offseason has been, how do we feel about this draft class and its importance to the team going forward? A few of our writers weighed in on that question below, and we’d encourage you to share your thoughtful takes on the class in the comments.
The 2022 NFL Draft was a step in the right direction
This offseason obviously didn’t go as planned for Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot. They were aware that they were inheriting a team in salary cap hell and the limitations that would place on them. But they couldn’t have predicted Calvin Ridley’s situation, which certainly impacted their plans. There were obviously self-inflicted wounds too, like the Watson fiasco and subsequent trade of Matt Ryan for extremely poor compensation. However, I felt that Fontenot made mostly smart free agency decisions and set this roster up about as well as he could heading into draft.
In terms of the draft itself, this might be my favorite class in recent memory. Obviously, everyone knows my thoughts on prioritizing a wide receiver in the top-10, but Drake London is the one I would’ve chosen and the run at the position after Atlanta’s pick certainly makes it look better in hindsight. The Day 2 selections were a home run. Arnold Ebiketie is one of my favorite pass rushers and a fringe-1st round guy. Troy Andersen was drafted a little early, but the upside is undeniable. Desmond Ridder was a tremendous value at 74, and getting him in that spot takes the pressure off of him and leaves the door open for Atlanta to go after another QB in 2023 without much drama. DeAngelo Malone is a very intriguing pass rusher, which this team desperately needed.
The Day 3 picks all made sense. I figured they’d be interested in an early-down specialist for the RB committee, and Tyler Allgeier fits Smith’s preferences perfectly. Justin Shaffer adds legitimate competition at left guard with a late-round pick, reminiscent of Wes Schweitzer a few years back. It seems like some fans were surprised by a tight end addition late in John FitzPatrick, but I’m not. Atlanta needed a blocking specialist to replace Lee Smith and the position was thinning out fast.
All in all, this is a step in the right direction for the Falcons. I don’t have any issues with the players they selected here. This class has enormous potential, and I’m excited to see these guys in 2022. —Kevin Knight
The Falcons have found their footing
This offseason, the Falcons were cap-strapped, missed out on getting a top pick in a Calvin Ridley trade owing to his suspension, and missed on their pursuit of Deshaun Watson in a way that more or less forced them to move Matt Ryan. After all those unexpected issues and self-inflicted problems were over, I wanted to see what they’d accomplish in free agency and the draft, because those are the kinds of misses and unforeseen circumstances that can cause a franchise to lose their footing in a major way.
We don’t know how things will play out over the long haul, but I have to say that I’m happy with what I’ve seen from the team since the dust settled. Free agency was quiet but solid, and thus far, the draft has been excellent. The Drake London pick gives Atlanta a player with sky-high potential and a dangerous partner for Kyle Pitts in the red zone, and getting Desmond Ridder to be your presumptive quarterback of the future makes the pick make more sense. Double dipping at pass rushers with a pair of high-upside players in Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone is a move I can’t help but support, given my long-standing request that the Falcons actually prioritize upgrading the pass rush. Troy Andersen feels like a lottery ticket at linebacker, given that he’s mostly athleticism and projection at this point, but the appeal there is not hard to understand. Adding some beefy lads to serve as reserves late for the offense is welcome, as well, and overall I like the class quite a bit.
The Falcons still have questions ahead—they have to clear cap space and there are still holes on the roster, as you’d expect—but I was looking for the team to show they had a solid plan going forward and were able to acquire compelling talent ahead of their expected spending spree in 2023. Things rarely work out the way we think they will in April, but after their notable missteps in March, it’s nice to feel like the Falcons genuinely are building toward better days. —Dave Choate
A good bit depends on Ridder, but it’s a very promising class
The Atlanta Falcons’ 2022 draft is going to come down in some ways to Desmond Ridder. If the Cincinnati alum is really the quarterback of the future, this draft is a bewildering success, one that sets the team up handsomely for its rebuild to be swifter than expected. It’s a franchise quarterback for four years on an extremely cheap rookie contract, and it comes from a draft where the team got widely praised prospects at multiple levels of the game. If Ridder isn’t the guy, life goes on, and it’s still a very promising crop of rookies. It also creates a world where the team will probably will take a quarterback higher in the 2023 draft and just try again with a highly anticipated class.
You don’t really know how any of this will translate to the field just yet, but it’s hard not to wonder if this is going to be one of those classes we look back on in a few years as a genuine turning point for the franchise. Especially if that 2021 class starts to blossom (particularly Richie Grant and Jalen Mayfield), we really could start to see the franchise turn into the right direction for the first time in eons. Either way, it feels better than usual to be a Falcons fan at the moment, and that’s enough to make this a good weekend. —Cory Woodroof
A plan is starting to develop — but will it be effective?
It may be unfair to compare 2021’s draft, where the Falcons apparently planned to complete, with 2022’s draft, where the Falcons have accepted this is a rebuild. Hopefully those 2021 picks start producing good returns, and the plan of using top picks in both drafts on offensive skill positions still irks me. The best player available approach was abandoned, at least in part, with the Falcons trading up to fill a need for Arnold Ebiketie. Troy Andersen looks almost certain to take a red shirt year in 2022.
With that said, I’m starting to see some of the vision. I would have been happier to see a few trade backs or grabbing Jordan Davis in the first, but the team did double-dip at edge, got great value in Desmond Ridder, and added a young (and cheap) running back to work into the rotation. Terry Fontenot needs a bit of luck (like Drake London proving he’s the top wide receiver, Andersen quickly getting up to NFL speed), but some foundation is being set. —Matt Chambers