Prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, it was no secret that the Falcons were in dire need of pass rush help. They only amassed 18 sacks as a team, and three of the four players that led the team in sacks in 2021 are no longer on the roster. As a result, it was really a no-brainer that Fontenot and staff were going to address EDGE fairly early in the draft, as there needed to be a serious infusion of talent at the position.
As the draft started, the Falcons chose Drake London with their 8th overall pick. While I wasn’t completely surprised at the pick, I then began to wonder how early on day 2 they would address the EDGE position, considering Fontenot had made mention of adding to the quarterback room at some point, either in the draft or free agency. At the start of Day 2 as players started coming off the board, there was an announcement that the Falcons had traded their 4th round pick to the New York Giants to trade up to the 38th overall pick.
When I saw this, I automatically thought that they were looking at quarterback, due to the fact that all QBs with the exception of Kenny Pickett were still on the board. To my surprise, the Falcons went another way. With the 38th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected:
Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE. Penn State
Height: 6’2” Weight: 250 lbs Arm Length: 34 1/8”
Arnold Ebiketie has such an interesting story, and is an ideal start for Fontenot and the Falcons in regards to adding to the EDGE position. Ebiketie didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year in High School. Starting off between 200-210 lbs in his freshman year at Temple, Ebiketie gained north of 40 pounds to fill out his frame by the time he made the transfer to Penn State.
Ebiketie shows quite a dedication to his craft and is a great student of the game, looking to improve at every facet. His coaches rave about his maturity and his hard hat worker mentality, and I’m sure that made quite the impression on Fontenot as he made the move up to ensure he was able to pick Ebiketie.
In reviewing his film, there’s so much to love about Ebiketie. His key strengths are below:
- Good first step off the snap
- Strong initial punch off the snap
- Shows a good grasp of leverage with every rush
- Knows how to use his length to his advantage
- Shows an ability to convert speed to power
- Flattens his angle to the QB and pursues with bad intentions
- Not a liability in the run game, as he shows ability to shoot gaps and disrupt plays in the backfield
Of course, there are areas to target for improvement. Ebiketie will need to get stronger at the point of attack to better set the edge in the running game, and he’ll also need to learn to shed blocks better at the next level. Also, Ebiketie doesn’t have a lot of bend when attacking the edge. There’s work ahead, as you’d expect for any young pass rusher.
However, there’s plenty to love about his game, and he’s only going to get better. I fully expect Ebiketie to be a starter at outside linebacker for the Falcons on their defense, and they’ve got a fully dedicated student of the game, one who is ultimately going to be a nightmare for opposing tackles to contain. There’s always a bit of a learning curve when transitioning at the next level, but I see Ebikitie as that player that finally gives the Falcons a legitimate threat off the EDGE for years to come.