Now that day one of a rather tumultuous NFL Draft has come and gone, the Atlanta Falcons have found their next lead receiver.
Coming in to tonight, the possibility of trading back into the later parts of the first round was very much in play for the Falcons. That movement stood at the forefront of the storylines that emerged from tonight's first round. On top of the 11 pre-draft day trades that had already been on the books, nine additional draft-day trades took place. General Manager Terry Fontenot told the media that the Falcons "had some discussions" about that possibility, but no serious offers were put on the table.
Ultimately, the Atlanta Falcons opted to stay put and take one of the top overall wide receiver prospects in Southern California's Drake London.
Those discussions didn't come to fruition mainly because of the player they saw in the receiver both on the field, and off it.
"We start with how the player is wired. (London) is a tough, smart, and competitive football player," Fontenot said, "He checks all of those boxes. And as a player he's big, he's athletic, and the versatility, things he can do on the field, his catch radius makes us very excited."
That offensive prowess revealed itself in spades during his time as a Trojan. Despite an ankle fracture mid-season, the 6-foot-4, 219-pound receiver still managed to secure the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year award and a spot as a third-team All American with 1,084 yards, 88 catches, and seven scores in only eight starts.
London brings a lot of versatility to the team that desperately needed it. "You see the stuff on the outside in the 2021 season," Arthur Smith said, "Go back to 2020 season and watch him inside and he's hard to bring down as a catch-and-run guy who's also super competitive."
Excited as we are about the prospects of Drake London in a Falcon uniform, the fact remains that the team still has a ton of needs left to address.
One area that many figured the Falcons would look into with the eighth pick was the critical need at pass rush. The team accounted for only 18 sacks in 2021, four and half fewer than Pittsburgh's TJ Watt. Fortunately for Atlanta, there were a number of other potential edge prospects that dropped into the second round that they can pursue.
This weekend's stated goal is to add as much competition to the Atlanta Falcons as possible. Even though he won't be the one-size-fits-all answer to the team's needs, he also won't be the only premium selection. Assuming no deals are done, the team figures to have four more selections in the top 82. Within those selections are plenty of quarterbacks, pass rushers, offensive linemen, and more.
By all measures, the Falcons got their guy and added a desperately needed contributor to a depleted section of the roster. The movement in the first round was good for headlines, but the Falcons clearly feel good enough about their board that they could remain patient.
Yes, the team still has needs, but the rest will just have to wait until Day 2.