The Falcons are in a unique position. Their roster boasts immense talent, yet they own the fourth overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. With Matt Ryan under center and Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on the boundary, Atlanta is already a dangerous offense, but their defense needs reinforcements. What grades did the Falcons 2021 NFL Draft selections earn?
Falcons draft picks in 2021
- 4th Overall Selection (R1-P4): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
- 40th Overall Selection (R2-P8, from Denver): Richie Grant, S, UCF
- 68th Overall Selection (R3-P4): Jalen Mayfield, OT/G, Michigan
- 108th Overall Selection (R4-P3): Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State
- 114th Overall Selection (R4-P9, from Denver): Drew Dalman, C, Stanford
- 148th Overall Selection (R5-P4): Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
- 182nd Overall Selection (R5-P38): Adetokunbo Ogundeji, EDGE, Notre Dame
- 183rd Overall Selection (R5-P39): Avery Williams, CB, Boise State
- 187th Overall Selection (R6-P3): Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
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Who did the Falcons draft on Day 1?
With the fourth overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Atlanta Falcons’ grades for 2021 NFL Draft
Pitts has been the top non-QB for many analysts in this 2021 NFL Draft.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
He’s a unique weapon that provides an incredible mismatch ability to Atlanta. Blessed with incredible physical talent with the ability to line up virtually everywhere, Pitts projects as an absolute nightmare for defenses at the next level. With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Pitts has a ridiculous offense around him to step into.
The only problem with the pick is that Pitts was a top-three talent in the class playing a bottom-three position of value. There had only been one tight end taken in the top-five of the NFL draft in the modern era (Riley Odoms,1972). Arthur Smith’s offense has never been tight end centric, so he will have to tweak his entire system to fit Pitts in.
Worth it over a quarterback? We’ll see.
Richie Grant, S, UCF
The Falcons traded back and took an excellent safety to round out their room. Duron Harmon and Erik Harris were the assumed starting safeties, but Richie Grant likely steps in right away as a starter for the Falcons. An instinctive, playmaking safety, Grant adds a young dimension and talent to the Falcons’ defense lacking in playmakers. Trading back and still nabbing Grant is excellent value.
Jalen Mayfield, OT/G, Michigan
The Falcons needed to add to their offensive line. This pick is interesting, as it opens up a battle for the right tackle spot. Jalen Mayfield and former first-round pick Kaleb McGary will duke it out for the right tackle spot perhaps? One of these two players will move inside to guard.
Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State
The Falcons needed to add cornerback depth to their room. Darren Hall is a physical man-coverage style corner with his athleticism and competitive toughness. He’s still raw in his technique, but he likely won’t start this season, giving him some time to develop.
Drew Dalman, OC, Stanford
The Falcons needed to address the interior of their offensive line, and it’s smart to add insurance and build a talented front. Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy can compete for the starting center role and fill out the depth of the interior in Atlanta. Building the trenches and secondary is a great start for Terry Fontenot and company.
Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
The Falcons remain committed to building up the trenches, this time taking a defensive player. A power rusher, I’m not quite sure where Ta’Quon Graham fits in the 3-4 of Dean Pees, but he was announced as a defensive end. He showed up well at the Senior Bowl and had flashes on tape. This feels like a high upside pick.
Adetokunbo Ogundeji, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Falcons’ edge group is in rough shape as is. They needed to continue to add talent up front in the 2021 NFL Draft. Adetokunbo Ogundeji is a raw player, but his physical upside and athleticism is apparent. The fit in Dean Pees’ defense will be interesting to see, but this is an excellent value this late.
Avery Williams, CB, Boise State
A high-character, elite special-teamer, Avery Williams seems like exactly the type of player a new staff needs. He probably won’t see the field much, but his athleticism and special-teams upside make him a valuable player.
Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
The Falcons obviously have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley as the top two wide receivers. Russell Gage also enjoyed a solid breakout 2020 campaign as the WR3, filling in admirably down the stretch. However, the depth behind those three is questionable, and there’s no guarantee Julio and Gage are around past 2021. Adding Frank Darby is a smart grab this late.
Atlanta Falcons Overall Grade: A
We’ll see how the selection of Pitts over Justin Fields will look in a few years, but Atlanta absolutely improved in the 2021 NFL Draft. They added playmakers in the secondary who will be around for a long time in Grant and Hall. They invested heavily into the trenches, with four picks going to the offensive and defensive line.
Where Mayfield and Dalman play into the rotation will be an interesting development, but both of them are talented offensive linemen. Graham and Ogundeji are both raw but possess excellent traits worth developing. Darby adds another big-playmaker at receiver, and Williams is arguably the best special-teamer in the draft class.
Team needs for Atlanta coming into the NFL Draft
With Ryan and Jones still on the roster, Atlanta hopes to be playoff-bound in 2021.
Matt Ryan is the only quarterback on the Falcons’ roster right now. Even if they don’t take one in the first round, the team needs to find some sort of answer here in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Falcons are moving Matt Hennessy back over to center after a rookie season moonlighting at left guard. They’ll have some competition between Jamon Brown and Matt Gono for that spot, but that’s a hole on the offensive line left unsolved. They should add a young player here who can fix this spot.
Arthur Smith places a heavy emphasis on the run game to help operate his play-action passing game. Mike Davis will be a clear part of the rotation, but they’re going to need another part to add to this running room, as Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t an ideal RB2.
Atlanta swung big on Dante Fowler last offseason, and that hasn’t worked out for them so far. The team signed Barkevious Mingo and Brandon Copeland to fill in the OLB depth, but the team absolutely needs more players at this spot. Dean Pees does a great job of scheming up pressures and sacks, but the Falcons need to add talent to their pass rush.
AJ Terrell had some good flashes as a rookie and looks like a CB1 for the team. Fabian Moreau likely plays as the team’s CB2 outside with Isaiah Oliver as the team’s nickel. Yet, the depth behind these three is pretty thin. Filling out this room and adding depth is a must for Terry Fontenot.
The Falcons lost virtually every safety that took snaps for them last season. The team signed Erik Harris and Duron Harmon to one-year deals, while 2020 fourth-rounder Jaylinn Hawkins returns. Harris and Harmon project as the starters right now, but that’s a safety group that should be a cause for concern as is. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Falcons dip into the 2021 class.
The Falcons obviously have Jones and Ridley as the top two wide receivers. Russell Gage also enjoyed a solid breakout 2020 campaign as the WR3, filling in admirably down the stretch. However, the depth behind those three is questionable, and there’s no guarantee Jones and Gage are around past 2021. With such an incredibly talented WR class, it’s hard to see Atlanta passing on adding a quality player to their rotation.
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