Everyone and their mother (assuming those mothers followed the NFL Draft) knew the Atlanta Falcons were going to snag one (or more) wide receivers in the 2022 NFL draft. Terry Fontenot had shipped out the disgruntled future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones in 2021. Before Fontenot could do the same to Calvin Ridley, Ridley made some very cool and very legal (outside of the NFL) bets on NFL games, resulting in a season-long suspension.
The Falcons were fresh out of wide receivers and pre-draft reports said the Falcons would be aggressive at finding replacements. Unsurprisingly, the Falcons grabbed the first wide receiver off the board, selecting Drake London 8th overall. Expectations were high for London...and pretty low for the team.
How did he do in his rookie season? Let’s take a look.
17 games, 72 receptions, 866 receiving yards, 12.0 yards per reception, and 4 touchdowns
2 tackles, 0 sacks, and 0 interceptions
Rookie year highlights
- Broke Falcons rookie reception record (set by Kyle Pitts in 2021)
- 120 receiving yards on 6 receptions to deliver a loss to Tom Brady
- Amazing catches like this:
this is a hell of a catch from Drake London pic.twitter.com/sq9TP57Q0E— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 30, 2022
You can look at Drake London in a couple of different ways.
As a top draft pick, he met expectations in a rookie year with a very bad quarterback situation. When your quarterback manages only one game after September with 200 or more yards, finishing the season with 866 yards is pretty impressive. He missed plenty of preseason as well, and for a position which frequently requires some adjustment time, he looked like a veteran. He produced similar performances as 2021 draft picks selected around his position like Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. However, for each highlight catch, London had another bad drop or a fumble — not terribly unusual for a rookie.
Compared to two draft picks in the 2022 draft, both of which Fontenot passed over, London was far and away the least productive. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave will be linked with London for their respective careers, fair or not. Blame wouldn’t fall on London, but perhaps Fontenot for overlooking more explosive players. Still, we are only talking one season, with London believed to be the best fit in Smith’s offense thanks to his hulking size. Still, if either turns into a Hall of Fame Player while London ends up as a Pro Bowl alternate, fans will lament London’s selection for quite some time. We’ll get a better look at how good he really is next year with more consistent quarterback play.
London’s combination of size and speed is similar to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, both who went onto long, illustrious careers in the NFL. We’ve seen a ton of good from London, even in just one rookie season. So far, it is a bit of a mixed bag with some serious flashes of elite play.
We still need to see if he can have an A.J. Brown-like impact on a passing game, given that Arthur Smith’s Tennessee offenses leaned on a player like Brown, but aside from the miscues London’s off to a good start.