The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a 4-12 season that warranted a head coaching change as Arthur Smith became the new headman. Terry Fontenot also made his way to Atlanta as the team’s new GM, so the front office has shifted quite a bit since December. After a disappointing year just a couple of seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance, as well as the overhaul in the staff, the Falcons needed to blow the draft out of the water.
While the offense wasn’t entirely the issue, the addition of Smith should help jolt the Atlanta offense, especially considering the success he had as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans for the past few years. Matt Ryan is still the quarterback for 2021, and Julio Jones is on the roster- for now- despite ongoing trade rumors.
For Smith, the pressure is on, especially with an aging quarterback and a rather young team outside of that. The NFC South features the defending Super Bowl Champions, as well as the up-and-coming Carolina Panthers, and the ever-dangerous New Orleans Saints.
Here are the draft grades for every pick for the 2021 class for the Falcons.
No. 4- TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
This was a no-brainer. A tight end at four is unprecedented, but his ability and talent are unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time. There’s a lot of reasons why he made NFL history, becoming the highest-drafted tight end in the history of the league.
50/50 balls don’t exist with Kyle Pittspic.twitter.com/5bbrBMXF5x
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 30, 2021
He’s a rare specimen and Ryan and the Falcons’ offense should flourish even more, despite their lack of running game. Calvin Ridley, Jones, and Pitts give Smith a formidable group of pass-catchers and the tight end should be in line to compete for Offensive Rookie of the Year, especially with the aerial attack Atlanta should be featuring in 2021.
He wasn’t just the best at his position, but he was highly regarded as the best pass catcher in the entire draft, a huge compliment considering the talented wide receivers that went in the first round. Pitts to Atlanta is a match made in heaven and Ryan is loving life with his newest weapon.
No. 40- S Richie Grant, UCF
One of the top safeties in the class fell into the hands of Atlanta. As discussed before, the offense in Atlanta wasn’t the issue- the defense was. They finished 23rd in sacks and 14th in the league in interceptions and 19th in points against. He was the first safety taken and the top safety for many analysts and scouts across the league.
Richie Grant was my S1 in this whole class. Not only does he have fantastic instincts and ball skills, you better look twice when coming across the middle on him. pic.twitter.com/s0QjJjp71q
— SportsTalkATL Jake (@cantguardjake) April 30, 2021
Not only can Grant go after the ball, but he can also punish people in the open field with hits like those. Grant to Atlanta was a perfect selection as Smith looks to instill a physical group on the defensive side of the ball.
No. 68- OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Protecting the quarterback is always important, right? Even more, it’s important when your quarterback is creeping up in age and is more susceptible to injury, such as Matt Ryan. Mayfield had projections in the first and second round, and the fall of offensive talent pushed him down to round three.
Mayfield himself put it simply in a recent Tweet before the draft.
If you don’t want your QB hit take me simple as that 🤷🏽♂️ https://t.co/KdCngLSJQL
— Jalen Mayfield (@jay_may_11) April 28, 2021
Yeah, Atlanta is getting a bruising, physical talent to protect Ryan and help this Falcons offense hit their peak, especially with the number of pass-catchers at their disposal.
No. 108- CB Darren Hall, San Diego State
This pick might have been a little bit of a reach. However, get your guy and that’s exactly what the Falcons did. Hall was fantastic as a San Diego State Aztec and the pair of him and Grant in the secondary should benefit the Falcons as they shore up their defensive unit. While being listed as a CB, he can play safety, play the slot, and play as a nickel back, so the versatility is a huge benefit for Atlanta.
The only issue with this selection is that he might have gone a little too early. Nonetheless, terrific addition for Atlanta.
No. 148- DT Ta’Quon Graham, Texas
Graham is a player whose stock went up immensely at the Senior Bowl, especially after he gave Creed Humphrey fits over and over again. A physical presence in the trenches, just the kind of player Smith likes, and a good run-stopper in a division that includes Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Playoff Lenny.
Graham probably starts off as a rotational player but should have no problem being a starter at some point in 2021.
No. 182- DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame
Another defensive presence for Smith and the Falcons. Can you see the theme here? The defense needed to be addressed majorly in the offseason, and this draft class has done just that.
He led the Irish in sacks last season and was tough against Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers. He should have no issues forcing his way into the starting group sooner than later. After all, Atlanta was towards the bottom in sacks and he does just that- gets after the quarterback.
No. 183- CB Avery Williams, Boise State
Another secondary player? That’s how rough the group was for Atlanta. However, Williams’ best asset might be as a returner, as he torched Mountain West special teams units time after time.
Here is what Avery Williams brings to the table. pic.twitter.com/8CwX6xcCc4
— Eric Robinson (@_Eric_Robinson) May 1, 2021
For this reason and this reason alone, the Falcons chose him. He’s explosive, dangerous, and lightning-quick.
No. 187- WR Frank Darby, Arizona State
This is the most questionable of all the Falcons’ choices. With Ridley, Jones, and Russell Gage, they really didn’t need another receiver. However, if Julio does go elsewhere, then another pass-catcher is needed. The good news: Darby is a huge big-play threat that can stretch the field with his speed as he did over and over in Arizona State.
Falcons got themselves a S T E A L in Frank Darby. pic.twitter.com/71u4Y9z5RC
— Eric Robinson (@_Eric_Robinson) May 1, 2021
At the end of the 6th round, why not take a flier on an explosive playmaker such as Darby?
Grade: C+ (because of team need)