Since this new regime has taken over in Atlanta, the Falcons’ staff has developed a few quirks they have been adamant they won’t stray from. Terry Fontenot’s habit in question is his desire to use a best player available draft strategy, which he has been very outspoken about.
Much like the regime’s first offseason, Fontenot signed a slew of veteran free agents to short-term, team-friendly deals to fill the holes on the roster so that he’s in a position to remain flexible in selecting the best player available instead of reaching for a need.
Ozzie Newsom made it mainstream during his time with the Ravens, one of the most consistently successful franchises since he took over. Baltimore has long been the organization to select a prospect based on overall assessment and not the position; they just came away from last week’s draft with the best center and safety in the class.
Fontenot said BPA has a proven track record in Atlanta’s end-of-season presser, and straying from the strategy is “how you make mistakes.” Every draft, franchises will reach on particular prospects because they fill a positional need; sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t. The long-time Saints executive has stated multiple times they wouldn’t be afraid to add to a position of strength.
Heading into the 2022 draft, the Falcons roster had more questions than answers. Honestly, the team could’ve used an influence of talent at nearly every unit outside of cornerback. Arthur Smith even told Rich Eisen the roster has needs everywhere. However, the most notable pre-draft needs were at receiver, EDGE, quarterback, offensive line, and defensive line.
Atlanta was in a true BPA scenario. For that reason, I strongly voiced my opinion the Falcons wouldn’t draft Drake London or any wide receiver. Not only did I believe the Falcons would have other prospects rated higher than London or Jameson Williams — my top player at the position — but I also saw the mass exodus of national draft pundits head towards London being the pick.
Todd McShay, peter king, Matt Millerand charles robinson were all on the record saying the Falcons love or want London. It made sense too, given Calvin Ridley’s suspension. Before the draft, Atlanta had the worst receiving core in football. Olamide Zaccheaus, auden tate and damiere byrd is a putrid three-receiver formation.
Even though there was an obvious need for a pass catcher, I just didn’t believe any receiver prospect was higher than Kyle Hamilton or Jermaine Johnson II on the Falcons’ big board. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did the Falcons address arguably the biggest need on the roster, but Fontenot even stated in his post-draft media session Thursday night that London was, in fact, the highest-rated player on their big board.
Moving onto Friday, the Falcons addressed their other two biggest needs — EDGE, quarterback — with three of their four selections. Atlanta traded up for Arnold Ebiketie, landed Desmond Ridder in the third round, and then doubled up at pass rusher by drafting DeAngelo Malone. So, did the Falcons actually fill the roster’s most significant needs via BPA?
Well, I still believe Kyle Hamilton and Jameson Williams should’ve been higher than London, but I digress. Ebiketie was taken before Kyler Gordon, Boye Mafe, Andrew Booth Jr., David Ojabo, and Josh Paschal. The only prospects I’d argue could’ve been taken over the Penn State product would be Gordon and Ojabo. The former would’ve added to a position of strength while the latter would’ve addressed the same area as the current pick, but Ojabo’s injury surely scared some teams off; the Falcons could’ve been one of those teams.
Next, the Falcons selected Ridder with Travis Jones still on the board. I have no arguments with this selection and honestly believe he might’ve been the best player left on the board, even though the Falcons desperately needed a future at the position. Malone went before Nakobe Dean and DeMarvin Leal, but that’s pulling at straws. It would’ve been a toss-up for me between those prospects after news broke of Dean’s injury concerns.
It actually seems the Falcons used a BPA strategy; they just also happened to fill the team’s most notable roster needs. Don’t believe me? The Falcons drafted Troy Andersen, an off-ball linebacker, with Ed Ingram (guard), Drake Jackson (OLB), Nick Bonitto (OLB), and Brian Asamoah (OLB) still on the board. Atlanta has Deion Jones under contract, just signed Rasha Evansand still has solid depth at the position with Mykal Walker. So, the Falcons didn’t have an immediate need at the position yet came away with Andersen with a premium pick.
The reality is the Falcons probably prioritized the best prospect at each pick while, at least, subconsciously considering the roster’s needs.
Photographer: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire