After a surprisingly competitive 2022 campaign, the Atlanta Falcons were on the verge of a breakthrough this offseason. While the greatest need on the depth chart is still the defensive trenches—ATL has run out one of the weakest defensive lines in football for two straight years—this year’s draft focus was on lending a hand to second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder.
Spending their first two picks on RB1 and an All-Slate Team tackle, Atlanta has pressed open the door for electricity on the offensive side of the ball. If not for their mismanagement of later-round picks, the Falcons would have been a shoe in for an “A” grade on this class.
Atlanta Falcons Draft Grade: B+
Starting with an offensive weapon, the Falcons selected Bijan Robinson—just like Ayers told you they would—at No. 8 overall. Bringing Bijan into the fold is nothing short of awesome. Tyler Allgier was excellent as a rookie compliment to Cordarrelle Patterson last season, but CPAT is aging and Arther Smith isn’t going to ease up on the identity he’s established in Atlanta. Bijan and Allgier will immediately become one of the best one-two RB combinations in the league, alleviating a ton of pressure off of Ridder to make things happen on his own.
Speaking of making things easier for a young quarterback, with the 38th-overall pick, the Falcons selected Matthew Bergeron. They read his name off as a guard, which made our OT7 the NFL’s OG2 on day two of the draft. Bergeron will seamlessly slide into the interior of Atlanta’s offensive line. He brings a Tyler Smith-esque level of aggression to the trenches, and will open many doors in the run game for the newly founded dynamic duo of Robinson and Allgier.
In the third round, with pick No. 75, the Falcons took Zach Harrison (ED13, Ohio State) to address their defensive line need. Harrison is a freakishly long and filled out defensive end whose only major knock was college production. His closing speed as a playmaker has always been a concern, but all-in-all, he will serve the role of rotational depth quite well for Atlanta. It seems safe to assume that in the 2024 draft, the Falcons will be using their higher capital picks on defensive line talent. For now, however, picking The Sunday Slate’s 69th-overall ranked player at a surplus in round three will do.
Moving onto the fourth round, the Falcons stayed defensively minded and used the 113th-overall pick in the draft on Clark Phillips III (CB10, Utah). Suddenly, with Jessie Bates and Jeff Okudah in the mix, the Falcons’ secondary is pretty damn slick. Clark Phillips and his excellent ball skills will likely slide in as an undersized nickel with A.J. Terrell lining up across from Okudah. Regardless of how the depth chart finalizes, though, adding CP3 to this cornerback room immediately improves playmaking opportunity on the defensive side of the ball. If the Falcons’ running back tandem and improved offensive line are able to control the pace of the game, they will remain a turnover or two away from a win week after week. Clark Phillips helps that potential greatly.
Up until this point, the Atlanta Falcons were making a push towards being the best drafting team of the year. It was their back-to-back picks at the top of the seventh round, however, that removed them from contention. Considering the roster in Atlanta today, and the conversation around supporting Desmond Ridder, the Falcons had a great opportunity to improve their wide receiver room with one of these two picks. Instead, they went with DeMarcco Hellams (SAF22, Alabama) and Jovaughn Gwynn (unranked guard, South Carolina).
Hellams has a chance to be rotational as the third safety in this defense, but Gwynn is simply a depth guard who we didn’t even have a pulse on here. It’s primarily the latter of these two picks that removed the Falcons from “A” grade territory, and they would have won greater favor in our eyes with an A.T. Perry (WR10, Wake Forrest) or even Dontay Demus (WR43, Maryland) pick. With Drake London alone at the top of the pass-catching depth on this roster—Kyle Pitts being the second best option by a long shot—a supplemental wideout would have been a great way to round out an offensively focused draft. Particularly with WR10 still on the board.
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