NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr.’s Atlanta Falcons Prediction Shows the Team Never Learns Its Lesson
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It makes you wonder what’s going on with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL Draft. Since 2005, the Falcons have repeatedly made the same mistake in the first round of the draft, and if ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is right, the new regime in charge is about to do it again.
The Atlanta Falcons keep drafting pass-catchers in the first round
Quarterback is the most crucial position on the football field. The offensive and defensive lines are the bedrock of the team. Skill position players are important, but taking ones high in the draft is a luxury if you don’t have the core of your team in place.
Throughout the 2000s, the Atlanta Falcons have drafted high-end pass catchers in the first round without having the infrastructure in place to support them. It’s like buying a Ferrari but not having a garage to park it in because you rent an apartment.
And it’s not that the Falcons draft bad pass-catchers. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.
In 2005, the franchise took Roddy White at No. 27. White became a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and an All-Pro. He caught 808 balls in his career for 10, 863 yards and scored 63 touchdowns. However, he only made the playoffs four times in his 11-year career and never even made an NFC Championship Game.
WR Julio Jones came next at pick No. 6 in 2011. He caught 848 balls for 12,896 yards and 61 TDs in his decade in Atlanta. Those numbers helped Jones make seven Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams, and, possibly, the Hall of Fame. While he did make a Super Bowl, he also only had four playoff appearances in 10 seasons.
In 2018, WR Calvin Ridley came into the fold at pick No. 26. The former Alabama pass-catcher was building a solid career with 248 receptions for 3,342 yards and 28 TDs in a little over five seasons. Unfortunately, he took most of 2021 off for mental health reasons and is now suspended for 2022 after betting on NFL games.
Three seasons later, with no playoff appearances after drafting Ridley, the Falcons did it again, taking tight end Kyle Pitts No. 4 overall in 2021. The former Florida Gator had a great rookie season with 68 catches for 1,026 yards a TD, which led to a Pro Bowl nod.
Now, after losing QB Matt Ryan on the heels of a 7-10 season, you’d think the Falcons would draft a first-round player at a bedrock position or maybe a new franchise QB.
That’s not what Mel Kiper Jr. thinks, though.
Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Falcons will draft WR Garrett Wilson from Ohio State at No. 8
With blue-chip players at value positions still on the board in his most recent mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has the Atlanta Falcons picking Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson with their No. 8 pick.
There’s nothing wrong with a team picking Wilson. He should be a great receiver. Along with USC’s Drake London and Alabama’s Jameson Williams, he’s one of the best pass-catchers in this year’s NFL Draft. The 6-foot, 186-pound wideout from Austin, Texas, had a break-out season for the Buckeyes in 2021. He caught 143 balls for 1,058 yards, scored 12 receiving TDs, and added a rushing score.
The problem isn’t with Wilson. It’s with Atlanta drafting Wilson.
The Falcons’ offense was ranked 26th in scoring and 29th in total yards, and the defense was 30th in scoring and 26th in yards allowed. The only two Pro Bowlers this year were rookie TE Kyle Pitts and the team’s long snapper, Josh Harris.
Plus, this offseason, the franchise replaced four-time Pro Bowl, one-time All-Pro, 2016 NFL MVP QB Matt Ryan with journeyman/backup Marcus Mariota.
The Falcons need a lot of things to help build their franchise into a perennial contender. A Ferrari of a wide receiver in the first round just isn’t one of them.
Who should be the No. 8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Going by Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock draft, there should be several high-end prospects at premium potions available after the first seven picks.
The best of these players are Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II. Any of those picks would make more sense for the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 than Garrett Wilson.
The most intriguing question, though, is, should the Falcons take a shot at a QB to replace Matt Ryan?
The issue is, none of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s NFL draft are top 10-worthy based on college production and pro potential. However, if Liberty’s Malik Willis or Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, or even Ole Miss’ Matt Corral becomes a franchise QB, who cares where a team drafts them?
If Willis falls to No. 8, the Falcons should take a shot and draft him. He’s the best signal-caller on the board this year, and he was born and raised in Atlanta, which means he would be beloved by the fan base from day one.
The problem is, there’s a good chance the Carolina Panthers take a QB at No. 6, and Willis is an option. Although, the franchise has been sniffing around Pickett as well. If Willis is gone at the sixth pick, the Falcons should take Cross and start building from the inside out as most good NFL organizations do.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference