Drake London’s size, versatility make him ‘exceptional’ prospect

INDIANAPOLIS — Receiver Drake London was a bright spot in an otherwise-miserable season for USC. The Trojans leaned heavily on London, who crossed the 1,000-yard mark in seven games. But his next collegiate contest was his last.

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London had nine catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona on Oct. 30 before he was tackled awkwardly and fractured his right ankle about four minutes before halftime. London was ruled out for the season the next day and declared for the NFL draft less than two months later. The receiver-deprived Falcons could consider adding London as they rebuild their offense.

It’s easy to see the appeal in London. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and showed tremendous contested-catch ability at USC. London said he models his game after Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, a Sandy Creek High graduate, who was 6-5 and 235 pounds coming out of Georgia Tech, and star Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, who was 6-5 and 231 pounds coming out of Texas A&M.

“Watching the Chargers and seeing what Mike Williams does, I think Drake London can do that stuff. He can play inside and outside. He has outstanding hands. He has outstanding feel and instincts."

- NFL draft guru Daniel Jeremiah

Despite the injury, London commonly projects as a first-round pick. Some even have him as the first receiver off the board. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projected the Browns trading up to No. 9 for London in his latest mock draft. NFL draft guru Daniel Jeremiah has London as his No. 13 overall player.

“I think he’s exceptional,” Jeremiah said during a conference call last week. “Watching the Chargers and seeing what Mike Williams does, I think Drake London can do that stuff. He can play inside and outside. He has outstanding hands. He has outstanding feel and instincts. A lot of contested catches, which, you talk to some people around the league and they celebrate it; you talk to others, and it’s, ‘Oh, he can’t separate.’

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“I know the guy is big, and when the ball is up in the air, he comes down with it. He’s a really, really intriguing player. Everything I’ve been told about him from a character, competitiveness, makeup stuff, it’s completely off the charts.”

London, 20, spoke with reporters Tuesday at the scouting combine, where he won’t participate in workouts as he continues rehabbing his ankle. He estimates he’s at 85% and should fully participate in USC’s Pro Day. His 40-yard dash time would be intriguing, as his speed is a common concern. Evans ran a 4.53, which helped separate him as a prospect and top-seven selection.

London’s basketball background is evident in his build and style. He played basketball throughout his life, even appearing in two games at USC before opting to focus on football full time ahead of the 2020-21 basketball season. He always viewed making the NFL or NBA an “either-or” proposition.

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“Either way, I was going to try to get into a league somehow,” he said. “Basketball has helped me in every way possible, and I’m blessed I played both as long as I could. It’s definitely helped me transition into football the best I can. (Going for jump balls) is just like getting a rebound to me. When I see the ball in the air, I’m going to go get it.”

London said he’s met with the Falcons, who are desperate for receivers. Russell Gage is set to become a free agent, and Calvin Ridley seems likely to be traded, depleting the group to the point that a first-round receiver will be in the conversation. London is familiar with the franchise after studying Julio Jones in his prime and Ridley, whose receivers coach at Alabama, Keary Colbert, coached London at USC.

“I try to take something from everybody,” London said. “I’m trying to be a Swiss Army knife, someone who has all the tools in their bag. I’ve watched film of Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper, guys like that.”

The Falcons pick No. 8 overall. London’s projections vary. If the team invested a first-round pick in a receiver – a debated subject – it would make sense to trade down before doing so. Perhaps London would still be available later.

Or maybe the Falcons draft him eighth because they view him as a premium wideout, one who could pair with tight end Kyle Pitts to create tantalizing red-zone possibilities. Both players’ inside-outside versatility would present ample mismatches. Today’s game is all about loading up on playmakers, after all.

Whoever they are, the Falcons will acquire multiple receivers this offseason. London is one of their more talented options.