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Drake London expects big strides in 2023

For the offense and the second-year wide receiver, expectations should be heightened.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

With Kyle Pitts returning from injury, Desmond Ridder dominating talk because of his unknown 2023 fortunes and upside, and Bijan Robinson seemingly the next big thing in Atlanta, Drake London has been in the background. It’s difficult to have a 6’4” receiver with one of the more productive rookie seasons in team history do that, but it has been a hectic offseason.

As good as London is and as cemented as his role looks to be as the top receiver in an otherwise limited depth chart, we probably have been guilty of talking about him less than we should. A recent appearance on the Jim Rome show—I’m always a little startled he is still going strong talking football—gives us a chance to remedy that.

London, who doesn’t turn 22 until next month, set a rookie reception record with 72 grabs and put up 866 yards and four touchdowns, both among the better marks in team history for first year receivers. He did all that despite a 10 week stretch from the Seattle game through the Washington matchup where he only once managed five grabs, a stretch in which London had just 28 grabs in total for 278 yards. That came after he piled up 13 catches and 160 yards in the first two games, and before he finished the year on a five game hot streak that saw the rookie receiver reel in 30 catches for 428 yards.

Unsurprisingly after an uneven rookie season—in addition to the quiet stretches, London had a couple of deeply unfortunate fumbles—the receiver was not totally satisfied. He’s clearly targeting 2023 improvement, which given that long quiet zone in the middle of the season and the sometimes spotty connection with Marcus Mariota, should be quite possible. Chiefly thanks to Mariota but with a late season assist from a handful of errant Ridder throws, London dealt with the highest percentage of off-target throws, per SportsLine’s Jacob Gibbs. Poor Kyle Pitts was No. 1 on that list, by the by.

“My mentality going into last year was, you know, do everything I possibly could. I felt like I had a lot of hiccups, and there’s still a lot left on the plate that I can go out there and I can finish,” London told Rome.

Cleaning up the fumbles is part of that, but otherwise it’s just about getting sharper and better for London, who already showcased real skill when he was the sole true receiving threat the Falcons had on the field. It’s worth remembering that London thrived last year in Mariota’s final week as a starter and especially once Desmond Ridder was under center, proving to be exactly the kind of reel-it-in-and-rumble target the Falcons envisioned when they drafted him. Carrying over that favored target status in Ridder’s first full year as a starter will do wonders for London’s production, but it will also help Ridder a lot, given that London has a huge catch radius and is quite capable of picking up yards after the catch.

“I think he did a great job for the circumstances he was put in, straight thrown into the fire at the end of the season,” London said of Ridder, adding that the duo have a growing connection and are working to get better.

You can hear the whole interview right here, if you’re interested. We’ll be hearing a lot more from London on the field in just a few months.