Atlanta Falcons 2020 Results – 4-12 Last in NFC South
Key Free Agency Roster Losses – WR Julio Jones, RB Todd Gurley, RB Ito Smith, S, Keanu Neal, C Alex Mack, S Ricardo Allen, CB, Damontae Kazee, DE Aaron Bailey, QB Matt Schaub
Key Free Agency Roster Additions – RB Mike Davis, WR Corderelle Patterson, S Eric Harris, LB Brandon Copeland, LB Barkevious Mingo, DE Stephen Means, CB Fabian Moreau
The 2020 Falcons got off to an atrocious start for the third consecutive season. The 2020 0-5 start wasn’t just a bad start, it was an epic showing in complete ineptitude by the entire coaching staff and namely above everyone, Dan Quinn. The 2018 & 2019 Falcons were able to maneuver around Quinn’s lack of ability to coach at the NFL level, and finished strong enough to end up 7-9 and give Quinn several more last chances than he deserved since the 2016-17 Super Bowl collapse. Atlanta cleaned house. Fired everyone, but was it too late for a new regime with zero loyalties to anyone to give the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones combo another shot at putting together a winner?
The biggest question mark and hottest topic in the ATL leading up to the draft was, would new Falcons leadership GM Terry Fontenot & HC Arthur Smith turn the page on one of the most productive QB-WR tandems in the history of the league, draft one of the 5 projected early first round QB’s, and sell them off for assets while they still have value? Or would they play Tetris with a salary cap figure that would make every single move a possible make or break impact and sure up a absurdly shitty defense with the 4th overall pick and the four more picks in the subsequent three rounds, and give Matty Ice one more go at it with Julio and Co? Well, the answer was a halfway. Ryan will return and lead an offense heavy squad that will attempt to replace Julio’s production with rookie Pitts.
Round 1 Pick 4 – Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
When the two options that make the most sense, draft a QB and start the rebuilding process or stock up on as many defensive players who can make an immediate impact and give the Ryan-Jones regime one more shot at winning are staring the Falcons dead in the eye, they chose to add another weapon for Ryan to target in a passing game that was the ONLY BRIGHT SPOT in the Falcons bag of tricks last year. Pitts is as elite of a prospect as the tight end position has ever seen. Too big and physical at 6’6” 245lb for DB’s to cover, too fast with a 4.4 sec 40 yard dash, for linebackers to stay with. He is the prototype one would draw up when making the perfect pass catching tight end. Hands, Route Running, Explosiveness, and Physicality all rank off the charts and he’s dangerous on all three passing levels. His weakness, if there is one, is he’s a less than stellar blocker. However, with comparisons to Megatron at the tight end position, Hayden Hurst will draw the assignments when blocking is the need, as the Falcons will surely prefer to target the monstrous wing-spanned beast far more often than they’ll ask him to block. Upside projections are limitless with a Pro Bowl appearance could be just a rookie campaign away. Downside is he gets lost in the shuffle of an already high powered offense that threw an unnecessary cherry on top of an already huge bowl of ice cream. I expect closer to the pro bowl outcome.
Round 2 Pick 40 – Richie Grant (S, UCF)
The Falcons addressed the defensive needs with their second pick after the luxury pick in round one. Grant is an incredibly versatile safety who is comfortable in the deep coverage sets, as well as playing up in the box on running downs. Physical and tough, Grant won’t ever be one to shy away from contact and has ball hawking tendencies that can result in big plays in big moments, or can have the fans Monday Morning Quarterbacking and laying all the blame for a loss on his over aggressive style. If he can play controlled and stay within the scheme while he gets acclimated to the speed of play in the NFL, the Falcons could have a starter plugged into the defensive backfield for the next decade. Worst case, he tries to be the playmaker too often and ends up in the doghouse for years.
Round 3 Pick 60 – Jalen Mayfield (OL, Michigan)
While the defense remains a position of need, an offensive lineman to plug and hopefully start early in the 2021 season was a must have need for Atlanta as C Alex Mack’s departure and subsequent o-line shuffle caused a hole at left guard. A college tackle, Mayfield offers above average versatility that could lend him to have the inside track on that starting guard spot. His short arms make him a better candidate for the guard position than as a tackle, and his overall strength is in the run blocking scheme, so hope is he can pass block as a guard well enough to not be exposed until he’s comfortable Another feather in his cap is the pro style offense he played in at Michigan translates well to the NFL.. Upside is a reliable starter, downside is a regrettable pick that doesn’t fit in at either guard or tackle spots and spends his career on the bench.
Round 4 Pick 99 – Darren Hall (CB, San Diego St)
With a Pass Defense that ranked last in the league, this is clearly another position of need pick. Another versatile defensive back who has big play abilities with a side of could get burnt looking for the home run downside that is becoming a trend in the Falcons defensive draft plans. Hall has enough skills to end up the nickel corner and be on the field quite a bit in the pass first NFC South. Upside is steady piece who plays quite a bit in his rookie season. Downside is he spends a lot of time learning and makes no year 1 impact.
Round 4 Pick 105 – Drew Dalman (C, Stanford)
If the Mayfield pick goes bust, Dalman could end up the answer at Center, and cue another musical chairs of starting linemen. This would a be a worst case scenario and would mean Ryan got his brains beat in with Mayfield on the field and a move to stop the bleeding was made. He’s an insurance policy that the team I’m sure hopes doesn’t get forced into action and is allowed the time to develop to see where he fits long term.
Round 5 Pick 132 – Ta’Quon Graham (DT, Texas)
Graham is a big body, that excels in setting the edge and has a massive wingspan. He’s abysmal against the pass, as he’s slower than slow getting off the blocks, but can provide some much needed rest on run downs for the thin Falcons interior line. Expect 10-12 snaps a game on third down and short situations and clear run downs.
Round 5 Pick 168 – Adetokunbo Ogundeji (DE, Notre Dame)
Ogundeji might be the Falcons biggest steal of the draft. He’s a battle tested pass rusher that put his best performances up against the toughest competition at Notre Dame. His snap anticipation is above average, and he could provide a much needed boost to the Falcons lackluster pass rush immediately if he adapts well and works hard in camp. Playing opposite Dante Fowler will allow him to rush free of any possible double teams. Upside is surprising starter by seasons end, downside is zero PT.
Round 5 Pick 168 – Avery Williams (CB, Boise State)
The Falcons again address the garbage pass defense by adding a corner to the salary cap cost cutting depleted secondary. He’s far from ready to see an NFL field in coverage, but could be a welcomed addition to the special teams, which was almost equally appalling as the pass defense last season.
Round 6 Pick 202 – Frank Darby (WR, Arizona State)
Darby’s stock plummeted after a slow run at his pro day, but he was a consistently strong deep threat at ASU. He’s a depth piece who won’t see much run in a stacked Atlanta passing game.