NFL draft Day 3: Falcons end decade-old Georgia Bulldogs drought

1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) takes the snap as offensive lineman Justin Shaffer (54) and offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer (69) blocks during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022.   Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) takes the snap as offensive lineman Justin Shaffer (54) and offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer (69) blocks during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The new Falcons administration selected two players from the University of Georgia on the third day of the NFL draft Saturday.

The Falcons ended the decade-old UGA drafting drought. The last pick from UGA by the Falcons was linebacker Akeem Dent in the third round (91st overall) of the 2011 draft.

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“We are excited about our three picks today,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said Saturday. “We got better. Excited about all eight of our picks. But today we got better.”

In the sixth round, the Falcons selected Georgia guard Justin Shaffer with the 190th overall pick and Bulldogs blocking tight end John FitzPatrick with the 213th (compensatory) pick. In the fifth round (151st), the Falcons selected Brigham Young running back Tyler Allgeier.

Shaffer played at Cedar Grove High and FitzPatrick at Marist.

“We are adding a big powerful lineman with the right make up,” Fontenot said. “Another Cedar Grove local. We got a big tight end. We have clear vision for what he’s going to be. ... He’s a big athletic man.”

In all, the Falcons added three local players.

“Happy accident,” coach Arthur Smith said. “It’s always great and it adds to it, but that’s not the reason why we drafted them. We drafted them because they were good football players.”

The third day of the draft got off to a slow start for the Falcons, who traded their fourth-round pick to the New York Giants on Friday to move up in the second round.

Shaffer, who’s 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, played left guard. The Falcons also drafted DeAngelo Malone, another Cedar Grove player, on Friday in the third round. Shaffer and Malone are first cousins.

“He’s my blood cousin,” Shaffer said. “This is just a miracle how this whole situation has played out.”

Both were planning to meet later Saturday at a family cookout to celebrate.

“We knew that our dream was to get to the league and keep putting on for our family,” Shaffer said. “Just doing what we can for our family and really just making our dreams come true. ... Now, we are always going to see each other every day. You can’t complain about that.”

Shaffer was named to the All-SEC second team by The Associated Press and the coaches.

He started at left guard in all 15 of Georgia’s games and played 88% of the offensive snaps, including every play in five games: Clemson, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan and Alabama.

He played some right guard earlier in his career.

The Falcons had a problem at left guard last season when they played rookie Jalen Mayfield, who was a tackle in college.

As expected, he struggled. Mayfield played 989 snaps on offense and led the league in sacks allowed by a guard, with 11. He also had nine penalties, which normally were drive killers for a team that couldn’t run the ball and was short on playmakers.

Mayfield had a 49.3 (F) grade from PFF, and Colby Gossett started the regular-season finale for Mayfield.

The Falcons could put Shaffer at left guard and move Mayfield back to his natural right tackle position to compete with Kaleb McGary, who also has struggled.

The Falcons must make a decision on whether to extend McGary’s $13.2 million fifth-year option by Tuesday.

Allgeier was highly productive during his career at Brigham Young. He rushed for more than 1,600 yards last season, including 192 yards in a loss to Alabama-Birmingham in the Independence Bowl last season. Altogether, he had four games with 190-plus rushing yards in 2021.

The Falcons finished 31st in the league in rushing at 85.4 yards per game.

“The opportunity is there; the running back (meeting) room is wide open,” Smith said.

Allgeier has to work on his pass protection.

“It’s a different game to protect in the NFL,” Smith said. “You’re betting on the makeup and the athletic ability and spatial awareness that he has. It’s a skill we’ll have to develop. We love his yards after contact.”

Allgeier started his career as a walk-on.

“Just putting your head down and getting to work,” Allgeier said. “I’ve been slept on almost my whole life I guess. Just betting on myself and using the support that I have from family, friends and coaches.”

FitzPatrick, who’s 6-foot-7 and 262 pounds, started seven of 15 games last season for the Bulldogs. He caught six passes for 83 yards.

The Falcons were set to start signing their undrafted free-agent class.

“We really helped this team,” Fontenot said. “Once this draft ended, we’ll get into the eighth round, and we’re going to continue to add good football layers.”

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November 6, 2021 Athens - Georgia's tight end John FitzPatrick (86) works out prior to their game against Missouri at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, November 6, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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November 6, 2021 Athens - Georgia's tight end John FitzPatrick (86) works out prior to their game against Missouri at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, November 6, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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FALCONS 2022 DRAFT PICKS

» Getting to know USC WR Drake London

» Getting to know Penn State DE Arnold Ebiketie

» Getting to know Montana State LB Troy Andersen

» Getting to know Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder

» Getting to know Western Kentucky DE DeAngelo Malone

» Getting to know Brigham Young RB Tyler Allgeier

» Getting to know Georgia OG Justin Shaffer

» Getting to know Georgia TE John FitzPatrick

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