Atlanta Falcons Rookie Forecast 2024

Michael Penix Jr. - Falcons Rookie Forecast

Solid Starter

Ruke Orhorhoro, DT, Clemson – Round 2

After getting a lot of criticism for their selection in the first round, the Falcons had another maligned pick in the second round with Orhorhoro. However, Orhorhoro is similar to other picks by this Atlanta regime as he has an excellent skill set with a ton of upside to develop in the NFL. That was the case with Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts. Now with Raheem Morris, the Falcons may finally have a coach in place that can tap into the talent of these special athletes.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Orhorhoro is quick and athletic at the point of attack. He showed the ability create an interior rush with five sacks in 2023 and four sacks in 2022 when he was a rotational player. Orhorhoro has the speed to fire a gap and get upfield while having the strength to shed blocks. Right now, he is raw and lacks a rush plan with developed moves. Over time that could definitely evolve for Orhorhoro.

In the ground game Orhorhoro has the size and strength to hold his ground against downhill runs coming straight at him. Orhorhoro also can disrupt and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He will use his quickness to shoot his gap and create havoc in the backfield. In 2023 Orhorhoro did not always play up to his skill set. He should have generated more tackles as a run defender.

In the short-term, Orhorhoro will probably be a rotational player with David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett. In a year or two he could become a starter and Orhorhoro has the physical talent to be a good pro starter.

2023: Matthew Bergeron, G
2022: Arnold Ebiketie, DE
2021: Richie Grant, S
2020: Marlon Davidson, DT
2019: Kendall Sheffield, CB
2018: Calvin Ridley, WR
2017: Sean Harlow, G
2016: Austin Hooper, TE
2015: Vic Beasley, DE
2014: Jake Matthews, OT
2013: Desmond Trufant, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Bralen Trice, DE, Washington – Round 3

The Falcons have had a number of excellent drafts with general manager Terry Fontenot, and vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith. With new head coach Raheem Morris, I think Atlanta will start getting the most out of their players and correct the short comings of under utilization by the previous staff. The only pick that Atlanta made in the 2024 class that I really didn’t like was Trice in the third round. I think Trice was a good college player, but could top out as only a backup at the NFL level.

In the pass rush Trice (6-3, 265) has a good rush plan and plays with a lot of effort to get off of blocks. While Trice can get tied up by blockers, he has active hands to slap away tackles and showcased an impressive rip move to gain leverage on tackles and shed their blocks. Over the past two seasons, Trice showed developed technique to use his hands and feet at the same time to get the better of edge blockers. Trice has functional upper body strength to scrap with blockers and get free on some second efforts. There is no doubt that Trice is tough, plays hard, and is instinctive. However he has some real stiffness and lacks juice as a pass rusher off the edge.

As a run defender Trice competes and gives an effort to chase down ball carriers out of his gap. He is best in pursuit and plays physical. While he has adequate size to be an edge defender in the NFL, Trice is not overly powerful so continuing to get stronger and hold up against much large offensive tackles coming at him downhill will be a point of emphasis for his development. However, his frame could be close to maxed out.

Atlanta has some young end talent with Arnold Ebiketie and Zach Harrison. I could see Trice struggling to get snaps over them and veteran outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter. Of the Falcons early-round picks, Trice was the one that looked like the riskiest.

2022: Desmond Ridder, QB
2021: Jalen Mayfield, OT
2020: Matt Hennessy, C
2019: Kaleb McGary, OT
2018: Ito Smith, RB
2017: Takk McKinley, DE
2016: Deion Jones, LB
2015: Jalen Collins, CB
2014: Dez Southward, S
2013: Levine Toilolo, TE

Potential Boom Pick

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington – Round 1

The Falcons got killed publicly for taking Penix with the 8th overall-pick after signing Kirk Cousins in free agency, but I think it was a smart long-term move for Atlanta. Cousins is turning 36 before the start of the season, is coming off an Achilles injury, is signed for two years with an option for two more, and has never taken a team deep into the playoffs. Cousins could play well for a time before an inevitable decline takes place, and that could put Atlanta right back into the quarterback purgatory they’ve been in since Matt Ryan aged out. Penix can sit behind Cousins and improve before taking over as the long-term starter.

The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Penix has a quality arm and when he is on he can light up a defense. Penix is dangerous to push the ball downfield and he is very skilled at throwing back shoulder sideline passes. When Penix is playing well, he is lethal along the deep sideline and he lofts in some beauties. Penix puts air underneath his passes and will drop in very catchable passes. Penix also shows the ability to function in the quick passing game in the short part of the field firing some quick bullets into smaller windows to move the ball. Penix is a patient passer that will allow routes to develop and he doesn’t panic when he has to hold the ball. Penix also has some functional mobility to dodge the rush and pick up some yards on the ground. He has quality size and a sturdy build for the next level.

Penix has good intangibles as well. There is no doubt that Penix is a tough leader that will play hurt and gives his team everything he has. He has faced adversity in his collegiate career and fought hard to put his team in the college football playoff.

Penix has some flaws in his game, but getting the opportunity to sit behind Cousins is ideal for Penix and will afford him the time to get better. It worked well for Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love in Green Bay, and it could work well for Penix as well. Penix needs to get more consistent with his ball placement. He needs to improve his mechanics and accuracy when he has to scramble before throwing. Field vision and reading coverage are other points of improvement.

The Falcons have a good situation where Penix could take Wednesday practices during the season to give Cousins more time to rest his arm and rehab his body from game-to-game. They also now have a talented backup that could keep the team competitive if Cousins were to go down with an injury that costs him a few games.

If Penix turns into a quality starter like the way Rodgers and Love did in Green Bay, then it will have been a great pick by Atlanta. I think Penix will develop into a good starter and he could end up being a boom pick for the Falcons.

2023: Bijan Robinson, RB
2022: Drake London, WR
2021: Kyle Pitts, TE
2020: A.J. Terrell, CB
2019: Chris Lindstrom, G
2018: Isaiah Oliver, CB
2017: Duke Riley, LB
2016: Keanu Neal, S
2015: Tevin Coleman, RB
2014: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT
2013: Malliciah Goodman, DE

Future Depth Player

Brandon Dorlus, DT, Oregon – Round 4

The Falcons doubled up on defensive tackles with the selection of Dorlus in the fourth round. While Dorlus is undersized and lacks strength for the NFL, he is a fast and athletic interior pass rusher. Dorlus may not have the run stopping ability to be a three down starter. However, I think he could be an interior designated pass rusher that contributes well in that role. That could make Dorlus a valuable backup and good depth player for Atlanta.

2023: Clark Phillips III, CB
2022: Tyler Allgeier, RB
2021: Darren Hall, CB
2020: Mykal Walker, LB
2019: Qadree Ollison, RB
2018: Russell Gage, WR
2017: Brian Hill, RB
2016: De’Vondre Campbell, LB
2015: Justin Hardy, WR
2014: Devonta Freeman, RB
2013: Robert Alford, CB