When the Atlanta Falcons drafted rookie wide receiver Drake London at No. 8 overall, head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot had a specific vision for him. They wanted to double down and have two athletic, imposing downfield targets between London (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) and tight end Kyle Pitts (6-foot-6, 247 pounds).
That plan hit a bump when London suffered a knee injury while catching a 24-yard pass against the Detroit Lions in their preseason matchup, landing on his knee while being tackled. However, the Falcons’ patience with London’s recovery and his diligence in rehabbing from the medical setback is about to pay off.
Drake London’s recovery ‘trending in a positive direction’
London returned to practice Monday, and it went well. He was able to work with the first-team offense while wearing a sleeve on his leg.
The Falcons are optimistic that London could play in the season opener after missing the remainder of the preseason as long as he doesn’t experience any setbacks between now and Sunday’s kickoff against the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s trending in a positive direction,” a league source said. “He’s progressing,” Smith said during a press conference. “We’ll see what it looks like.”
London being back would provide a huge boost to quarterback Marcus Mariota. It would also take some pressure off of Pitts, who became the first rookie tight end to make the Pro Bowl since Jeremy Shockey in 2002 with the New York Giants.
Pitts caught 68 passes for 1,026 yards and one touchdown as a rookie last season. He’ll be the go-to guy with his unique athletic skills and pass-catching ability.
London has huge upside
London was the first wide receiver drafted. With his size, leaping ability, and body control, London is capable of bullying smaller defensive backs.
As a senior on his high school basketball team, he averaged 29.2 points and 11.9 rebounds.
Last year, he was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year despite suffering a fractured right ankle. He caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games last season, finishing his college career with 160 catches for 2,153 yards and 15 scores.
Both London and Pitts could give the Falcons significant red-zone options. Atlanta finished 24th in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage a year ago(53.7%).
“I do have the size and I feel like that twin towers thing, me and Kyle, could be something special,” London said when he was drafted. I’m somebody who goes up and gets the ball whether he’s covered or not. I think they are getting a playmaker.”
And now, a healthier playmaker.