The closest thing to Christmas for Football fans, the NFL Draft, has come and gone again. Today we are going to be focusing on what the Atlanta Falcons chose to do in the draft. And the best way to do that is to grade the picks before they have even had the chance to prove us wrong or right. So here we are with my Falcons grades for the 2021 NFL Draft Class.
Round 1 Pick 4: Kyle Pitts, TE Florida
I have the most mixed feelings about Kyle Pitts here at pick 4. He is an absolute freak and the “unicorn” that everyone is making him out to be. Pitts did all sorts of amazing things at Florida, he won the Mackey Award given out to the nations best TE, made eye catching plays, and even made Kyle Trask look good.
How will Pitts impact the Falcons? That’s the real question that I struggle with. Obviously drafting a good player is always good, but how does Pitts fit into a team with so many offensive weapons already? My initial thoughts about Pitts was that he wouldn’t move the needle for us much off the hop. And I still feel that way, but there are some ways he will be able to impact the team immediately:
- Pitts will be able to add a major red-zone weapon for Matt Ryan
- He can flex out and create mismatches for the offense due to his size and speed
- He has a massive catch radius which will help him come down with contested catches and jump balls
But there are some issues I still have with Pitts which I will now list out:
- The question of target sharing between Pitts, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Hayden Hurst
- How will his blocking hold up against NFL defenders?
- How long will it take for Matt Ryan to trust him as a weapon?
That last question is my biggest question mark on Pitts. Matt Ryan throughout his career has had a tendency of not trusting his new weapons very quickly. In some instances it even takes a full season for the two of them to get on the same page. If Ryan and Pitts can get on the same page early then my view of the pick will change, but based on my concerns (without even talking about the fact it was a Tight End at the 4th overall pick):
Round 2 Pick 40: Richie Grant, SAF UCF
The Falcons did it… They finally added one of “my guys” in a draft. But onto to Grant as a player. Richie Grant was one of the players that caught my eye at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile. All week he was displaying his range and athleticism in 1v1’s and the DB drills.
Adding Grant here was great for laying the groundwork of the new Dean Pees defense. Per my friend Adam Holloway (@Damski32 on Twitter):
“So, in Pees scheme he has his safeties interchangeably move between strong and free safety. Either or can play single high and that’s why it was imperative to get two guys like Grant and Harmon who can move from the box and play single high without weakness that way Pees can send whichever match up he likes better over the top and the other guy to the box. This is mostly for his cover 3 looks. Cover 2 looks it’s the same principals as any other cover two, cover half the field in the deep third unless you have a 2×2 set then your responsibility becomes 2-1 which the 2 is the slot on your side but the LBs and underneath CB gets anything short so if the 1 (the boundary WR) runs a fly and the 2 (slot WR to your side) runs a hook your read is the fly because the hook is no threat to you”
When looking at what Pees will be doing with his safeties, it makes perfect sense as to why Grant was the pick here. Grant is:
- A turnover machine
- Physical enough to handle TE’s and bigger WR’s
- technically sound with smooth hips and footwork
- rangy enough to run the single high
After watching his tape, it’s hard to not be excited for Grant in Pees defense, Grant has the ability to be a superstar on the back end under Pees which makes me give:
Round 3 Pick 68: Jalen Mayfield, OT Michigan
And here we are, the biggest head scratcher of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first draft in charge of the Atlanta Falcons, Jalen Mayfield. Mayfield is a 20 year old Right Tackle from the University of Michigan who is a physical run blocker who has a good blend of size and athleticism. Sounds promising right? Only issue is that he is going to be switching positions to Left Guard for the Falcons. Which is fine, but it seemed that were guards on the table who had more experience and the same upside as Mayfield still on the draft board.
But enough about that, lets talk about what Mayfield will be adding to the team, Mayfield does a few things very well:
- Moves his feet in the run game
- Very good when hitting the second level
- Good athleticism for size at 6’5″ 325lbs
- Great finisher as a blocker
But there are concerns that come with Mayfield:
- Only 15 career starts
- Weak punches
- Weak upper body strength
- Poor technical skills and body control
ALL OF THOSE ARE COACHABLE. Which is great, issue is though, if we wanted to draft an immediate left guard, why not grab a guy like Wyatt Davis, Ben Cleveland, Kendrick Green, or even Quinn Meinerz? That is what has left me scratching my head at the pick. I like Mayfield, I do, but there are question marks all over the pick. If Mayfield hits, he will be amazing for us, but if he doesn’t it has the potential to be the first blemish on Terry Fontenot’s and Arthur Smith’s tenure.
Round 4 Pick 108: Darren Hall, CB San Diego State
Darren Hall has the ability to step in and compete with Isaiah Oliver for the NickelBack slot in the Dean Pees defense. Hall has experience playing different positions for the San Diego State defense and has played them all well. Falcons needed help at DB and adding Hall feels like a solid move for that.
One big plus that Hall brings that people don’t talk about enough, is the flexibility to potentially move on from Isaiah Oliver to save cap. Since we need cap space to sign the draft picks.
Hall has the ability to potentially develop into a longterm piece if he can win the camp battles against Oliver, Sheffield, and new addition of Fabian Moureau.
Round 4 Pick 114: Drew Dalman, Center Stanford
The Falcons added more offensive line help with adding Drew Dalman from Stanford. Dalman is a slightly undersized Center from Stanford who will be able to step in and compete immediately with Matt Hennessy for our starting center position.
Dalman is a tough center who will add to the offensive line and really helps us play our best five. He’s a smart center who once he gets hands on you is incredibly tough to get rid of. Good footwork and technique from him.
May not be a huge upgrade over Hennessy, but Dalman lets us play the best five and that’s huge for me.
Round 5 Pick 148: Ta’Quon Graham, iDL Texas
Ta’Quon Graham is a nice addition in R5. He is a versatile iDL who will best serve the Falcons as a 3Tech or a 5Tech for us.
My first thoughts on Graham were “Why another 3Tech” because we have so many already. But then I watched his tape, Graham is a fun man. He is a high motor guy who has a nose for the ball. He has heavy hands which helps him shed the blocks, and set the edge.
He is going to be a very athletic 3Tech for the Falcons, it’s going to be interesting to see how he competes against the guys on roster in Marlon Davidson, Johnathan Bullard, John Cominsky, Grady Jarrett, and even potentially Deadrin Senat. Graham has the potential to steal snaps from some of those vets, and the position battle will be so fun, just doesn’t feel like a necessary pick for a team who needs potential talent across the board.
GRADE: C+ (But I really like him)
Round 5 Pick 182: Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE Notre Dame
Here we go finally adding a guy that is more of a “true” EDGE for the Falcons defense. Adding Ogundeji to the defensive line gives them a bigger EDGE for the Dean Pees defense.
Ogundeji is a long and strong pass rusher who has the strength and leverage to disrupt tackles with his bullrush and longarm techniques to really give him a unique ability compared to some of the Falcons other pass rushers. My biggest issue with Ogundeji is that he isn’t necessarily a great body fit for the new scheme, he’s smaller than 3Techs and too big to rush without his hand in the dirt at this point. Very good developmental guy at this point.
Round 5 Pick 183: Avery Williams, CB/KR/PR Boise State
Avery Williams is a weapon. He put in work at his Pro Day at WR, RB, CB, and of course as a return guy. Avery is a small framed CB/Returner who dominates with the ball in his hands which is why we are seeing rumors of him playing on the offensive side of the ball.
But on top of his positionless play, he is a special teams KING. In his college career he had 9 returns go for touchdowns and also blocked 5 kicks as a defender on special teams. Williams is a freak special teamer who will be able to make plays for this Atlanta unit after losing Brandon Powell in Free Agency.
Williams was a weird pick to me at first because I knew very little about him, but after doing some research it seems that the Falcons added a fun gadget type of player who can do it all late in the draft.
Round 6 Pick 187: Frank Darby, WR Arizona State
Last but not least, Frank Darby. Another one of “My Guys” in this draft cycle, it was awesome to see him grabbed by Atlanta. Darby really caught my eye down at the Senior Bowl for multiple reasons.
Darby is a major talker, he is always talking and saying something to literally anyone, whether it be talking trash to the opposing defenders, hyping up his teammates, or just having fun on the field, you will hear Darby. He is a huge character that adds a different element to the locker room that we have missed since Sanu.
On the field Darby has solid hands and is great at the catch point. He is a more physical receiver who is a good vertical threat due to his ability on jump balls. However his route running needs some work, which he is in luck because he landed in a top receiver room in the NFL.
Darby has the ability to be the perfect replacement for Russell Gage as he enters a contract year for a team without much breathing room, don’t be surprised if he is the heir apparent to the WR3 role in Atlanta.
The first draft class of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s tenure looks to be a solid start for the new era in Atlanta, there are tons of similarities between these players in a year with not much familiarity. Many of the new Falcons were Senior Bowl players which was one of the few places that teams got to actually meet and see players live.
Another big common denominator is that some of these guys are high character guys and leaders on the field for their teammates, whether that being captains, experienced guys, or just vocal leaders.
Overall is is hard to look at this draft class and not feel excited to see what this new group of guys will bring going forward, and it really makes me wonder what Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have planned for the team going forward.