Falcons' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Falcons' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons' greatest source of hope in this offseason lies with the eighth overall selection in 2022 NFL draft.

    This has been an offseason defined by players the team has lost and missed out on rather than the new additions. Trading away Matt Ryan signals the end of an era in Atlanta. Russell Gage heading to Tampa Bay and Foyesade Oluokun getting paid in Jacksonville overshadow the additions of Germain Ifedi and Marcus Mariota.

    But the NFL draft means that hope springs eternal. With the eighth pick, the Falcons are going to be able to bring in a prospect who is going to generate excitement.

    With needs all over the roster, the Falcons have plenty of possibilities. Here are three realistic options who should be at the top of their list.

WR Drake London, USC

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Current needs should not be a huge consideration when picking in the top 10. After all, if you finished in the bottom 10 of the league, the roster needs difference-makers regardless of position.

    However, it sure is nice when a top prospect is available who could fill one of your biggest holes.

    It's fair to question Mariota's viability as starter. He hasn't started a game since 2019, and that was with a Tennessee Titans team that decided to move on from him. But if the Falcons expect him to succeed with the current receiving corps, they are setting him up for failure. Without Gage, their leading wide receiver on the roster is Olamide Zaccheaus, who had 406 yards in 2021.

    So while quarterback is a possibility at No. 8, it's also likely they have a receiver in mind.

    Drake London (scouting report) should be a serious consideration. He's the No. 1 wide receiver on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's big board and draws comparisons to Mike Evans in his B/R scouting report.

QB Malik Willis, Liberty

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    "To me, he's a better prospect than Trey Lance was a year ago and a better prospect than Justin Fields was a year ago."

    That's what an NFC coordinator had to say about Liberty's Malik Willis (scouting report) when speaking to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media.

    We haven't seen what Lance and Fields can do just yet, but that's a pretty bold claim to make given the hype behind both prospects last season. Yet Willis fits the mold of those prospects. He's a highly talented athlete and passer.

    All three possess tantalizing traits but have progress to make to realize their potential.

    The Falcons passed up on Fields to take Kyle Pitts last year. The question is whether they will allow a high-upside prospect at quarterback to slide past them now that Ryan is no longer on the roster.

S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    If the main objective of this draft is to find players who can create an exciting foundation, then Kyle Hamilton (scouting report) should be in the conversation with their first pick.

    As a safety, Hamilton's overall stock gets dinged because it's not a position that typically goes high in the draft. But Hamilton has the kind of skill set that could make the gamble pay off.

    The Notre Dame product is ranked fifth overall on the Bleacher Report big board.

    Bleacher Report scout Cory Giddings wrote that Hamilton is "a generational talent who gives defensive coordinators endless options." That should be enticing to Dean Pees, who is a defensive coordinator capable of getting the most out of a player like Hamilton.

    The Falcons already have an up-and-coming elite cornerback in A.J. Terrell. Hamilton would help Atlanta forge an identity as a team with an elite secondary for years to come.