Camp battles are on the way. Arthur Smith has talked up competition for starting jobs and roster spots since he got here, and everyone they added in the 2022 NFL Draft on offense will be expected to earn spots. It’s just that some of them will have a much easier time doing that than others.
How do the new draft picks on offense fit into the current depth chart? My sense is that the Falcons added one or two Week 1 starters on offense—that quarterback competition is going to be lively—plus one reserve who will have a major role and a pair of backups with upside. That’s pending a summer of battles, obviously.
Let’s take a look at each pick and try to figure out absurdly early where they’ll fit on the 2022 Falcons depth chart.
WR Drake London: #1 wide receiver
There’s absolutely no question that London will step in as the team’s top receiver. We know that Kyle Pitts lines up out wide plenty and that the Falcons will move London, Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson around quite a bit, but the depth chart will list London as the top receiver and that’s what he’ll be.
QB Desmond Ridder: #2 quarterback, competing to start
This one is tricky to project for me. Ridder will make starts in 2022, and he could very well wind up making most of them. It behooves the Falcons to see what they have with the rookie, who offers a quality all-around game, but they’ll make him earn that starting job over Marcus Mariota. I’d personally expect Mariota to begin the season as the starter and give way to Ridder by six-to-eight weeks into the season at the latest, but it’s very early yet.
It’s crucially important for the Falcons to see whether Ridder can be the guy, as they could be heading into 2023 with another top ten pick they’ll want to use on a quarterback if he looks like a capable career backup or a fringe starter rather than a good long-term option for them. It’s just a question of when he plays, but right now, pencil him in as the #2 quarterback to start the season given Smith’s familiarity with Mariota and his veteran status giving him an early leg up.
RB Tyler Allgeier: #2/#3 on the depth chart with significant role
Allgeier is the team’s future top back. I genuinely believe that his physicality and hard-charging style is exactly what Arthur Smith was looking for, and with Patterson likely to get plenty of time as a receiver, Allgeier will step into a significant role no matter where he’s listed on the depth chart.
Without knowing if Mike Davis is returning, I’d pencil Allgeier in behind Davis and Patterson on the official depth chart to start the season. That designation likely won’t mean much, as I’d fully expect him to be behind only Davis in terms of carries—and if Davis is cut, I expect him to lead the team—with Patterson getting 6-10 touches per game as a runner and Williams mixing in on passing downs. If Allgeier shows really well this summer and his pass protection is where it needs to be, he’s going to get a ton of run for the Falcons.
G Justin Shaffer: Backup at left guard
The Falcons drafted Shaffer with an eye on adding competition at left guard, the most neglected spot on the offensive line heading into the draft. He, Colby Gossett and maybe Drew Dalman will be in the mix with Mayfield this summer, and with a good summer Shaffer ought to be listed as the #2 left guard.
I think the Falcons showed us they think a lot of Mayfield’s upside when they let him take his lumps all year in 2021 despite having Gossett, Dalman and veteran Josh Andrews all available, and I expect him to be in the driver’s seat for a starting job this year. If he falters again it’ll open up opportunities for others, and Shaffer is the most logical beneficiary of that, as the team clearly likes his run blocking and power.
Expecting a sixth rounder with significant pass protection question marks to step in and start this year feels like a major stretch to me, but again, if Mayfield struggles we may see Shaffer at some point in 2022 or 2023.
TE: John FitzPatrick: #3 or #4 tight end
This was an unexpected pick for a number of reasons. The Falcons have or brought aboard multiple veteran blockers at tight end, with Parker Hesse, Ryan Becker and Daniel Helm joining up, and Brayden Lenius is an interesting long-term option as a pass catcher. The team also signed Anthony Firkser, who will be the de facto #2 tight end behind Kyle Pitts.
The team wouldn’t have chosen FitzPatrick if they didn’t like him a lot, though, so I’d give him an early leg up on everybody but Hesse, who showed well in limited opportunities a year ago. A strong summer where he shows he can be a solid pass catcher in a pinch could push him into the third tight end role, but if he’s the fourth the Falcons will simply keep four and get him on the field, especially with Pitts getting a lot of run in different roles. FitzPatrick the long-term third tight end assuming his blocking comes as advertised, though.
What kind of roles do you envision for the Falcons’ draft picks on offense?