In Round 1 of NFL draft, the Falcons take yet another receiver

For the team that needs almost everything, the 2022 NFL draft delivered a wide receiver. This marks the fourth time in 12 years that the local franchise has spent its first pick on a receiver. For the Falcons’ latest administration, this marks two in two tries. (Technically a tight end, Kyle Pitts is as close to a wideout as any tight end ever.)

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I have nothing against receivers. I love receivers. When we ran pass patterns at recess, my junior high teacher told me I had Raymond Berry moves. (He lied, but it made my decade.) I’ve suggested Jerry Rice is the greatest footballer ever. I can describe each of the three touchdown passes that the Browns’ Gary Collins snagged versus the Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship game.

I was a fan of Thomas Dimitroff’s upward trade to grab Julio Jones in 2011 when it happened; I remain one today. I took no issue with the same general manager’s drafting of Calvin Ridley in 2018. I waxed rhapsodic over the Pitts pick by GM Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith last year. I don’t hate the same regime’s decision to take Drake London of USC with the eighth overall selection Thursday night. I don’t quite love it, either.

ExploreFalcons select wide receiver Drake London in first round

Jones, Ridley and Pitts were taken when the Falcons had an established quarterback in Matt Ryan. The Falcons of today have no established quarterback. I get that Marcus Mariota, drafted No. 2 overall in 2015, needs someone to catch the ball. Not to be unkind, but I’d say Pitts and London have a greater need – someone to throw it to them.

This draft has two days and six rounds remaining. A slew of teams – a record six -- took a receiver in Round 1. The Falcons chose London, maybe the best of the lot. The first and only quarterback of this Round 1 came on the night’s 20th pick, Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh going to, er, Pittsburgh.

Conventional wisdom held that this draft is heavy on WRs and light on QBs. I don’t disagree. But the Falcons, who’ve missed the playoffs four years running, are going nowhere until they find a quarterback who’s an upgrade over Mariota. Maybe they’ll find such a guy in Round 2. They hold the 11th pick therein. Malik Willis of Westlake High is available. So are Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati and Matt Corral of Ole Miss. Take one of those, and I’ll feel much better about this team’s future.

The 6-foot-4 London labeled his pairing with the 6-6 Pitts as “twin towers.” Like another famous Falcons pass-catcher, London played a bit of college basketball in the Pac-12. Tony Gonzalez had a nice NCAA Tournament run in 1997 with the California Bears. He was a powerful forward. London was a shooting guard. On Zoom, he described himself thusly: “I’m either dunking on you or pulling 3′s in your face.”

ExploreGetting to know Drake London

The chances of the Falcons taking a quarterback with the No. 8 pick were always slim. It was thought they might trade for a later Round 1 pick and spend that on a passer. Many trades were consummated Thursday, none involving the Falcons. That doesn’t mean they didn’t try. What it does mean is that the two picks they hold in Round 2 have assumed even greater value.

They have two more in Round 3, one coming from Indianapolis in the Ryan deal. Wouldn’t it be funny if that unassuming draft slot wound up producing Ryan’s successor?

Five Georgia defenders went in Round 1. That’s also a record. Somehow Nakobe Dean wasn’t among them. George Pickens wasn’t among the six wideouts taken Thursday. There are still reasons, especially for those of us around here, to stay tuned to these proceedings for another night.

About here, I need to ask your indulgence. I realize I’ve become a bit of a bore – perhaps more than a bit – about the Falcons and their lack of a quarterback. All I can say is that there are two sorts of NFL teams: those who have a franchise quarterback and those who don’t. If you’re lucky enough to have one, you can win a Super Bowl. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to make the playoffs.

I’ll shut up for now. But I eagerly await Round 2.

NFL draft news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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