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The Falcons are building the outlier offense

Greatness sometimes follows unconventional roads, and the Falcons are hoping that’s the case here.

2023 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

A top 10 running back in an age of devalued running backs. A third round quarterback in an era where elite quarterbacks are still as vital as ever. A tight end selected fourth overall when no tight end had ever been picked so high before. An approach at left guard that can best be described as “hell, offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford will figure it out.”

The Falcons are building an offense out of outliers, eschewing expectations and taking a road less traveled. Teams just don’t take running backs that high any more because of how short those careers tend to be, but Atlanta’s betting that a run-first offense headlined by Robinson and Tyler Allgeier can bludgeon teams to death. They don’t roll with quarterbacks who aren’t drafted in the top ten and come with hype, but the Falcons believe Desmond Ridder is that rare player whose underappreciated athleticism and tremendous work ethic will take him far. Nobody’s drafting tight ends in the top ten all that often, but the Falcons are thinking year three for Kyle Pitts will see him go nuts and destroy the league.

These are not totally unique items on their own—the Eagles succeeded with second round pick Jalen Hurts, Saquon Barkley remains a force of nature for the Giants, and...well, maybe Pitts is fairly unique—but in totality they represent something very different. The Falcons are betting that the formula so many teams follow, where the quarterback is in the lead, elite receiving options fuel the fire, and running backs are a mid-round addition, is one they can buck with great success. It’s a thumb in the eye of...well, the Falcons from 2008-2020, who followed that formula pretty closely.

I’m still slightly shocked to see the Falcons actually scoop up Robinson at No. 8, not because he’s not a singular talent—you’re going to have so much fun watching him tear up defenses on Sunday—but because this is a coaching staff that has been able to squeeze a lot out of a little, and one that saw Allgeier make a convincing case to be the team’s top back. In some ways it’s mapping to what Arthur Smith did in Tennessee, where a less-than-elite quarterback was in the driver’s seat for an offense that dominated thanks to an elite back and a couple of tremendous pass catching options. In other ways, with Pitts on board and the team counting more on coaching than capital for positions like left guard and center, it’s a unique sort of chimera that the Falcons are building.

Ultimately, the Falcons are betting on talent. Robinson is the best running back prospect since Barkley, Pitts the best tight end prospect in recent memory (remember, Travis Kelce and George Kittle snuck up on folks a bit), and Drake London one of the better and bigger receivers selected in the past few classes. Hell, Mack Hollins is just a decent #2 receiver, but he’s also one of the better blockers in the NFL at his position, and the team is turning him loose in front of Robinson and Allgeier. It speaks volumes about Ridder, who we haven’t seen enough of yet, that the Falcons are handing him the keys to an offense studded with hypergiant stars.

Will it work? That’s the essential, burning question, and it’s unfortunately the one we don’t have the answer to in the here and now. The Falcons took a leaky ship, made it seaworthy with free agent dollars on defense and a couple of savvy pickups on offense, and are now loading it to the brim with weapons. Whether they’re the scourge of the NFL’s green seas or set to sink under the weight of all of that is something we’ll better understand in December 2023 and ultimately even better in December 2025, but sink or swim, the Falcons intend to be a unique spectacle.