2022 NFL Offseason: Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons (Last Year: 7-10)

2022 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Marcus Mariota, WR Auden Tate, WR Damiere Byrd, WR KhaDarel Hodge, TE Anthony Firkser, OT Germain Ifedi, OT Elijah Wilkinson, DE/OLB Lorenzo Carter, LB Rashaan Evans, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CB Casey Hayward, P Bradley Pinion.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Drake London, DE Arnold Ebiketie, LB Troy Andersen, QB Desmond Ridder, DE DeAngelo Malone, RB Tyler Allgeier. Falcons Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Matt Ryan, RB Mike Davis, WR Russell Gage, TE Hayden Hurst, DE Dante Fowler, LB Foyesade Oluokun, CB Isaiah Oliver, CB Fabian Moreau, S Duron Harmon, P Thomas Morstead.

2022 Atlanta Falcons Offense:
For the first time since 2008, Matt Ryan won’t enter the season as Atlanta’s starting quarterback. The Falcons have decided to begin their rebuilding process. They used a third-round pick on Desmond Ridder, who was seen as a mediocre backup by some of the NFL personnel. Marcus Mariota will start in the meantime. Mariota has some potential as the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but hasn’t lived up to it. That said, he’s been learning on the sideline for quite some time, so perhaps he’ll be better now that he has a chance to start again. He looked good during a Thursday night game in 2020 when he relieved an injured Derek Carr.

Mariota will find that he doesn’t really have many proven players at his disposal. Kyle Pitts is the best of the bunch, and he should be able to emerge as one of the top tight ends in the NFL before long. At receiver, there’s Drake London and not much else. London is just a rookie, but he was the No. 8 overall choice for a reason; some teams view him as the next Mike Evans. Besides London, Mariota will have a slew of pedestrian receivers in his arsenal, including Bryan Edwards, Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd. Edwards is probably the best of the trio, but he disappointed the Raiders because he didn’t live up to his potential.

It doesn’t get any better for Mariota as far as his running game is concerned. Cordarrelle Patterson is a dynamic player who can go the distance whenever he touches the ball, but he’s not someone who can handle a complete workload. Besides, Patterson turned 31 this offseason, so he could begin to decline. Atlanta also has Damien Williams and fifth-round rookie Tyler Allgeier to compete for touches, but both seem like underwhelming options.

On top of having a poor supporting cast of receivers and backs around him, Mariota will also have to endure some bad blocking. Pass protection has been a huge issue for the Falcons in recent years. Left tackle Jake Matthews is now in his 30s, and he’s not the solid blind-side protector he once was. Right tackle Kaleb McGary has been a colossal disappointment as a former first-round pick. Then, there’s left guard Jalen Mayfield, the greatest liability on the blocking unit.

It’s not all bad for Atlanta’s offensive line. Chris Lindstrom is one of the best young guards in the NFL, while Matt Hennessy made major improvements at center last year compared to his poor rookie campaign in 2020. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done with this group as a whole, and it will struggle to protect Mariota in most games this season.

2022 Atlanta Falcons Defense:
The Falcons received some bad news recently, which was that Deion Jones would be lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Jones is coming off an extremely rough 2021 campaign, but is very talented and could have easily rebounded. Instead, Atlanta will likely start Rashaan Evans and Troy Andersen at the position. Andersen is a second-round rookie with nice upside, but he’s obviously unproven. As for Evans, he was a huge bust in Tennessee as a former first-round pick.

Speaking of early draft choices, the Falcons used two of them on edge rushers to help a pass rush that accumulated only 18 sacks last year. Those picks were Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. Ebiketie, in particular, has huge upside, but he may not be ready to play at a high level in the NFL this season. Still, Ebiketie and Malone are bound to see significant snaps, thanks to the lack of talent elsewhere at the position. Lorenzo Carter is the bench of the rest, and his career-high sack total is just five.

The top player in Atlanta’s front seven has been Grady Jarrett for quite some time. That’ll continue to be the case, but the rest of the defensive line is devoid of talent. Marlon Davidson has been underwhelming as a former second-round pick, but he’s still better than the other options, which include Ta’Quon Graham and Anthony Rush.

The strength of Atlanta’s defense is the secondary, particularly the cornerbacks. A.J. Terrell was chosen in the middle of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and he has emerged into a terrific corner. He’ll be playing across from Casey Hayward, who has been a fantastic player for a long time. There’s a chance Hayward will regress because he’ll be 33 in September, but he’s coming off a great year with the Raiders. There’s some question about who will be playing in the slot if Isaiah Oliver can’t recover from knee surgery. Oliver played well as the team’s nickel last year, but it’s unclear how the injury will affect him.

Rounding out the secondary, the Falcons have a couple of mediocre safeties in Erik Harris and Dean Marlowe set to start, but they’ll be hoping that 2021 second-round pick Richie Grant steps up and takes someone’s job.

2022 Atlanta Falcons Schedule and Intangibles:
Matt Ryan was 58-39 at home. However, the Falcons have been a poor 33-41 as a host over the past eight years, so perhaps the magic has vanished.

The Falcons should have gotten a big special-teams boost from Cordarrelle Patterson, one of the top kick returners in the NFL, but they didn’t score on a return, and they allowed one themselves.

Master of the onside kick, Younghoe Koo was 37-of-39 in 2020 and then 27-of-29 in 2021. He’s 12-of-13 from 50-plus in that span!

The Falcons have signed someone named Dom Maggio to be their punter.

Atlanta has some difficult opponents despite the fourth-place schedule. It has to battle the Rams, 49ers, Bengals, Ravens, Browns, and the Buccaneers twice, of course.

2022 Atlanta Falcons Rookies:
Go here for the Falcons Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2022 Atlanta Falcons Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2022 Atlanta Falcons Analysis: The Falcons were spinning their wheels last year when they decided to retain Matt Ryan. It took them an extra season to realize this, but they finally did the right thing and began the much-needed, post-Ryan rebuilding process. Atlanta will be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, but that is perfectly fine because it’ll put them in a position to obtain one of the elite quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft class.

Projection: 2-15 (4th in NFC South)

2021 Projection: 4-13. 2021 Actual Result: 7-10.
2020 Projection: 6-10. 2020 Actual Result: 4-12.
2019 Projection: 10-6. 2019 Actual Result: 7-9.
2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 7-9.
2017 Projection: 13-3. 2017 Actual Result: 10-6.
2016 Projection: 5-11. 2016 Actual Result: 11-5.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Falcons have decided to start over by trading Matt Ryan to the Colts. They have huge holes everywhere on their roster, so they should focus on obtaining the best player available. Trading down would make sense as well so they can fill all their needs.

2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The one thing you can say about the Falcons’ draft class is that they filled some of their needs. Of course, they needed help at every position except tight end, so that’s not saying much.

What Atlanta really needed to do was draft the best non-tight end available at every pick until very late on Saturday, and I don’t think that can be said. Drake London and Arnold Ebiketie were good choices, though I wasn’t a fan of Atlanta trading up for the latter. However, things went downhill from there. Troy Andersen was a bit of a reach toward the end of the second round, while Desmond Ridder was an underwhelming selection, especially with Malik Willis and Matt Corral on the board.

Rather than trading up for Ebiketie, the Falcons should have traded down because they have so many holes on their depleted roster. They failed to address running receiver (they needed multiple), offensive line (until late), defensive tackle and cornerback. They could have fixed more of these problems with extra selections, but they limited their haul because of their trade in the second round.

I don’t hate Atlanta’s draft class overall, but I have to say that the first two days were rather disappointing. I expected more from this new Falcons’ regime.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

8. Drake London, WR, USC – B- Grade
It should come as no surprise that Drake London is the first receiver off the board. I believed it would be London or Garrett Wilson. The Lions had interest in London at No. 2 prior to the combine. So, I don’t think this is a bad pick, as London projects to be like Mike Evans. However, I thought Jermaine Johnson was the better prospect, and there’s more receiving depth on Day 2 than edge-rushing depth.

38. Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State – C Grade
I like Arnold Ebiketie as an athletic pass rusher, and he certainly fills a huge need for the Falcons, who registered only 18 sacks last year. However, why did Atlanta surrender a significant resource for this? There were plenty of talented edge rushers available, so this was not necessary.

58. Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State – C Grade
This is a bit too rich for Troy Andersen, who seemed likely to go in the third or fourth round. This isn’t a Tyquan Thornton-type reach though, so I don’t hate this pick. Andersen is very athletic and should be able to be a solid player in Atlanta’s miserable defense. Where’s the quarterback pick though?

74. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati – B- Grade
I had Desmond Ridder to the Falcons in the second round, but I didn’t like that pick. I just thought it would happen. I appreciate the Falcons waiting and getting good value, or what seems like good value with Ridder. I’m not a fan of Ridder, as he just seems like a fancy backup quarterback in the NFL. Still, Atlanta obtained a young quarterback, which is something it needed to do.

82. DeAngelo Malone, DE/OLB, Western Kentucky – B+ Grade
It’s no surprise that the Falcons are drafting another edge rusher, given that two NFL players had more sacks than their entire team in 2021! DeAngelo Malone is a dynamic, explosive edge rusher whom I had pegged in this area, so I like this pick.

151. Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU – A- Grade
The Falcons finally found a running back! Tyler Allgeier is a raw running back because he used to play linebacker, but he’s a solid prospect who catches passes well. I thought he’d go a round earlier, so I like this pick. Allgeier could eventually start for Atlanta.

190. Justin Shaffer, G, Georgia – B+ Grade
Justin Shaffer is a big guard with some upside. The Falcons needed help on the offensive line, which goes without saying because they had holes everywhere. However, blocking was a major issue that desperately needed to be addressed. I had Shaffer a round earlier than this.

213. John Fitzpatrick, TE, Georgia – B+ Grade
The Falcons needed a backup tight end, as Hayden Hurst is no longer with the team. Adding another tight end here makes sense, and John Fitzpatrick fits the range. I thought he could go a bit earlier.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
It’s likely the end of an era. Matt Ryan somehow led a horrible team to seven wins last year, but he’s likely to be traded in the near future. Atlanta will be tasked with finding a new franchise quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Falcons sign LB Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Falcons sign TE Anthony Firkser
  • Falcons sign OT Germain Ifedi
  • Falcons sign LB Rashaan Evans
  • Falcons sign WR Damiere Byrd
  • Falcons sign WR Auden Tate
  • Falcons sign WR KhaDarel Hodge
  • Falcons sign QB Marcus Mariota
  • Colts acquire QB Matt Ryan from Falcons for draft pick
  • Falcons sign DE/OLB Lorenzo Carter
  • Falcons sign OT Elijah Wilkinson
  • Falcons sign CB Casey Hayward

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Matt Ryan is on his way out, whether it’s this or next offseason. The Falcons need to find a new franchise quarterback. Signed Marcus Mariota

    2. Three Wide Receivers: The new quarterback will need someone to throw to. Atlanta’s receiving corps is in shambles with Calvin Ridley suspended for gambling. Two new wideouts will be needed if Russell Gage is re-signed. Signed Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd and KhaDarel Hodge

    3. Offensive Tackle: Once the Falcons upgrade their receiving corps, they’ll need to improve their offensive line. Right tackle is a big need with Kaleb McGary being a big disappointment. Signed Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson

    4. Guard: Atlanta will need a new guard to pair with Chris Lindstrom.

    5. Two Defensive Ends: Moving to the defense, the Falcons have no pass rush, so adding two edge talents would go a long way to improving the horrible stop unit. Signed Lorenzo Carter

    6. Linebackers: It was no surprise to see the Falcons be so weak to tight ends, given how bad their linebacking corps was. Help is desperately needed in this area. Signed Nick Kwiatkoski

    7. Two Cornerbacks: Cornerback must be addressed as well. The Falcons have an elite talent in A.J. Terrell, but not much else. Signed Casey Hayward

    8. Two Safeties: Atlanta’s top safeties are impending free agents, but they needed to be upgraded anyway.

    9. Running Back: The Falcons had no running game, with Mike Davis being a huge disappointment. Signed Damien Williams

    10. Defensive Tackle: Atlanta has needed help next to Grady Jarrett for quite some time.

    11. Punter: Thomas Morstead’s contract is about to expire as well. Signed Bradley Pinion

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2022 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Casey Hayward, CB, Raiders. Age: 33.
      Signed Casey Hayward

      Casey Hayward just had a terrific 2021 campaign as the Raiders’ top cornerback, but he’ll turn 33 in mid-September, so he could regress soon.

    2. Lorenzo Carter, DE/OLB, Giants. Age: 26.
      Signed with Falcons

      Lorenzo Carter logged five sacks in his return from a torn Achilles. He should be healthier next year, and he’s only 26.

    3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Raiders. Age: 28.
      Signed with Falcons (2 years, $18.75 million)

      I’d like to say that Marcus Mariota is a young quarterback with potential despite his final years in Tennessee, but he turns 29 just before Halloween.

    4. Auden Tate, WR, Bengals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Falcons (1 year)

      Auden Tate caught only three passes in four games last year, but he’s a talented receiver buried on a very deep depth chart. He should be able to compete for a larger role elsewhere.

    5. Germain Ifedi, OT, Bears. Age: 28.
      Signed with Falcons

      Germain Ifedi has been a fine pass protector in recent seasons, though he missed a chunk of 2021 with a knee issue.

    6. Elijah Wilkinson, OT, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Falcons
    7. Damien Williams, RB, Bears. Age: 30. — Signed with Falcons
    8. Damiere Byrd, WR, Bears. Age: 29. — Signed with Falcons
    9. Kha’Darel Hodge, WR, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Falcons
    10. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, Raiders. Age: 29. — Signed with Falcons
    11. Anthony Firkser, TE, Titans. Age: 27. — Signed with Falcons

    Atlanta Falcons Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Younghoe Koo, K, Falcons. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Falcons (5 years, $24.25 million)

      Younghoe Koo has been an elite kicker in recent years. He was 27-of-29 last year and 37-of-39 prior to that. He’s 13-of-14 from 50-plus over the past three seasons.

    2. Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR, Falcons. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Falcons

      Cordarrelle Patterson has made the full transition to running back. He did very well this past season, making some big plays. His age (31) is a concern, however, and it’s worth noting that he did less as the 2021 season progressed.

    3. Russell Gage, WR, Falcons. Age: 26.
      Signed with Buccaneers

      Russell Gage became the Falcons’ No. 1 receiver when Calvin Ridley left the team. Gage did a solid job in the slot.

    4. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Falcons. Age: 25.
      Isaiah Oliver was having a great start out of the slot to the 2021 season before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

    5. Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Dante Fowler’s 11.5-sack season in 2019 is looking like a major fluke. Fowler has notched a total of 7.5 sacks in the two years since.

    6. Thomas Morstead, P, Falcons. Age: 36.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Thomas Morstead finished 11th in net punting last year, but he’s now 36.

    7. Hayden Hurst, TE, Falcons. Age: 29.
      Signed with Bengals (1 year)

      If it wasn’t for Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst would have been a solid producer this past season.

    8. Duron Harmon, S, Falcons. Age: 31. — Signed with Raiders
    9. Fabian Moreau, CB, Falcons. Age: 28.
    10. Erik Harris, S, Falcons. Age: 32. — Re-signed with Falcons
    11. Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Falcons. Age: 27. — Signed with Jaguars
    12. Matt Gono, G/OT, Falcons. Age: 26. — Signed with Giants
    13. Mike Davis, RB, Falcons. Age: 29. — Signed with Ravens
    14. Tyeler Davison, DT, Falcons. Age: 30.
    15. Lee Smith, TE, Falcons. Age: 34.
    16. Jonathan Bullard, DE, Falcons. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings
    17. Steven Means, DE, Falcons. Age: 32. — Signed with Ravens
    18. Mike Pennel, DT, Falcons. Age: 31. — Signed with Bears
    19. Brandon Copeland, DE, Falcons. Age: 31.
    20. Jason Spriggs, OT, Falcons. Age: 28.
    21. A.J. McCarron, QB, Falcons. Age: 31.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

    2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 16

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12