Falcons signed 5 of 9 rookie draft picks

Wide receiver Frank Darby will make it his job to be team motivator, it's what he did at Arizona State.

With salary cap room available after the trade of wide receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons signed five members of their nine-member rookie class Tuesday.

Third-round pick Jalen Mayfield (68th overall) was the highest draft pick signed.

The Falcons also signed fifth-round picks Ta’Quon Graham (defensive line), Ade Ogundeji (outside linebacker) and Avery Williams (cornerback), and they signed sixth-round pick Frank Darby (wide receiver).

All of the rookies have taken part in the offseason program and the mandatory minicamp and could contribute in the 2021 season.

Mayfield, who’s 6-foot-5 and 328 pounds, is expected to compete for a starting position along the offensive line. He spent time at left guard and right tackle in the offseason program and mandatory minicamp.

Graham (148th overall) is 6-foot-4 and 294 pounds and was a four-year starter at Texas. He played in 48 games and made 24 starts for the Longhorns. In 2020, he started all nine games and made 23 tackles, including seven for a loss, 2.0 sacks, two QB hits and one fumble recovery.

Ogundeji (182nd overall) is 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds. The former Notre Dame standout worked at outside linebacker over the offseason program. Ogundeji was a team captain in 2020 and participated in the Senior Bowl.

Williams (183rd overall) is 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds. He played cornerback and was a dynamic returner at Boise State. He recorded 152 career tackles, 26 pass breakups, four interceptions and five fumble recoveries. On special teams, Williams had 38 kick returns for 1,042 yards and three touchdowns. He had 82 punt returns for 948 yards and six touchdowns.

Darby (187th overall) is 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. He played in 40 games at Arizona State and finished with 67 receptions for 1,317 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The Falcons still must sign first-round pick Kyle Pitts (tight end), second-round pick Richie Grant (safety) and fourth-round picks Drew Dalman (center) and Darren Hall (cornerback).

Here are their draft bios of the new signed rookies:

Third round (68th overall) – Jalen Mayfield, G, Michigan

Height: 6-foot-5 Weight: 328 Arms: 32-5/8 Hands: 9-3/4 40-yard dash: 5.31 seconds

Overview: He was an an honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick after starting 13 games at right tackle in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season , but later changed his mind. He played in two games at right tackle before he suffered a high ankle sprain. He played just over 1,000 snaps in the Big Ten. He anchored an offensive line that paved the way for a running game that gained over 2,200 yards with 26 rushing touchdowns in the 2019 season. In 18 games, the Michigan-native only allowed two sacks. Mayfield is the fifth player the franchise has drafted from the University of Michigan and first since 1978. He joins T James Coode, T Mike Kenn, LB Cart Russ and RB Bill Taylor. The Falcons have picked an offensive lineman in back-to-back drafts in the third round, drafting Matt Hennessy last year with the 78th overall pick. Mayfield is experienced in all run schemes, but needs to improve his drive blocking by getting lower. “He has starting potential, but it might take some time,” according to NFL.com Lance Zierlein.

Fifth round (148th overall) – Ta’Quon Graham, DE, Texas

Height: 6-foot-3 1/8 Weight: 282 Arms: 30-5/8 Hands: 8-7/8

Overview: He was a four-year starter for the Longhorns. He played in 48 career games and made 24 starts. He was named honorable-mention All-Big 12 in 2020. He made his college debut against Maryland in 2017. He was named second-team Academic All-Big 12 in 2020 and was a two-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll (fall 2019, spring 2020). He was a high school All-American.

Fifth round (182nd overall) – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE, Notre Dame

Height: 6-foot-4 Weight: 260 Arms: 35-½ Hands: 9-½ Bench Press: 225 pounds 22 times Vertical: 32 40-yard dash: 4.78 seconds 20-shuttle: 2.76 3-cone drill: 7.19

Overview: Ogundeji has exceptional length as an edge rusher, evidenced by his 84-inch wingspan. At his size, Ogundeji is a fit for both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, which should fit well with the Falcons’ multiple defense that will incorporate both of the base units’ principles. As a fifth-year senior in 2020, Ogundeji became a starter and recorded seven sacks in a season that saw the Fighting Irish reach the College Football Playoff. He also was named a team captain in his final season. Ogundeji does have some fundamental issues to work on, which is why he was projected to be a Day 3 selection from before the draft.

Fifth round (183th overall) – Avery Williams, CB, Boise State

Height: 5-foot-9 Weight: 195 40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds

Overview: A very aggressive and physical cornerback for his size. Plays well in zone coverages and displayed good knowledge of route combinations. He returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown, averaged 24.0 yards over three punt returns, with a long of 36, at Hawaii in 2020. He was voted the Mountain West special-teams player of the year in 2019.

Sixth round (187th overall) – Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State

Height: 6-foot Weight: 201 Arms: 31-¾ Hands: 9 ⅜ Bench Press: 225 pounds 19 times Vertical: 34-½ 40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds 20-shuttle: 2.61 3-cone drill: 7.15

Overview: Playing behind N’Keal Harry (2018) and Brandon Aiyuk (2019) in back-to-back seasons, Darby was set to become Arizona State’s top receiving option in 2020. However, a rib injury combined with a shortened season because of the COVID-19 pandemic caused Darby to appear in only three games. He finished the season with six catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. In 2019, playing opposite of Aiyuk, Darby totaled 616 receiving yards and eight scores. Darby, a 24-year-old rookie, showed great separation and ball-tracking during his time with the Sun Devils. He likely will be an outside receiver who contributes early on special teams with the Falcons.

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