The Atlanta Falcons drafting a wide receiver with the No. 8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has been a popular chose in mock drafts from ESPN early this offseason. Luke Easterling of USA Today apparently agrees.
In his new mock draft released on Feb. 25, the 19-year NFL Draft scout and analyst slotted USC wide receiver Drake London heading to the Falcons at No. 8.
“The Falcons have needs all over the place, but their biggest might be at wide receiver, especially if Calvin Ridley ends up playing elsewhere in 2022,” Easterling wrote. “London’s impressive physical traits would immediately make him Matt Ryan’s No. 1 receiver, and a dynamic pairing with tight end Kyle Pitts.”
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared London to former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
“Big, long possession receiver with the ability to play outside or from the slot,” Zierlein wrote. “London lacks desired top-end speed and separation quickness to open clear throwing windows but plays a mature, savvy brand of ball. The game slows down for him when the ball comes out.
“London was a top-flight basketball player so angles to the ball, body positioning and high-pointing come very naturally to him, turning a 50-50 ball into a 70-30 advantage. While he has the size and skill to dominate the catch phase, his one-speed route-running and lack of separation burst means a career full of contested catches.
“London’s pro career would benefit from playing with a diverse receiving corps that allows play-callers to play to London’s strengths.”
Those old enough to remember the senior McCaffrey will recall he started his career slowly with the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers to only become a Pro Bowl wideout at the end of John Elway’s career. McCaffrey posted three 1,000-yard campaigns from 1998-2000 and helped Denver win back-to-back Super Bowls during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
The Falcons may potentially have a major hole at wide receiver when free agency begins in the middle of March. Russell Gage, Tajae Sharpe, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Christian Blake are all set to be free agents. Furthermore, sometimes wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is a pending free agent too.
Plus, as Easterling noted, Ridley may be playing for a different team next season. As of right now, Frank Darby is the top receiver that will certainly be back with the Falcons, and he has one catch for 14 yards in his career.
It makes complete sense for the Falcons to be interested in drafting wide receivers this spring, and London may become a great NFL wideout. But AllFalcons’ Scott Kennedy detailed all the reasons why the Falcons picking a wide receiver at No. 8 is somewhat insane.
“A wide receiver for a team that could add 10 sacks and go from 18 to 28 and STILL be last in the NFL, can’t run the ball, can’t protect their soon to be 37-year old quarterback, and can’t stop the run, a now second choice wide receiver makes zero sense,” wrote Kennedy.
He makes tremendous points. The last time the Falcons were in the top half of the league in sacks was 2017, coincidentally, the last time the organization made the postseason. Since then, the Falcons have finished 25th in sacks in 2018, 29th in 2019, 23rd in 2020 and last in 2021.
This past season, the Falcons had just 18 sacks in 17 games. That was 11 fewer than the Philadelphia Eagles, who were second-to-last in sacks.
Even with no Ridley, Gage or Patterson, the safe bet is the Falcons will look to finally improve their pass rush with the eighth pick this season.