Sunday, April 30, 2023

Atlanta Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Atlanta Falcons? What are they saying about the Falcons' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: A-

The multi-faceted Robinson was the best value available for a team trying to build an elite offense. Trading up for Bergeron made sense because of his guard/tackle versatility and Harrison fits as a long, strong base end.

Phillips is small but tenacious; he'll flourish in the slot for the Falcons from Day 1. They picked up a downhill safety in Hellams and short but ferocious center/guard in Gwyn. Signing free agent receivers should be a priority for Atlanta after the draft.

ESPN - Grade: B-

Check out the positions I listed above. There's no running back there. The Falcons got a fantastic rookie season from fifth-rounder Tyler Allgeier, and yet they took Bijan Robinson at No. 8 overall. For a team that went 7-10 and has more than a few roster holes, I just don't get it. If Atlanta was a Super Bowl favorite? OK, go for a luxury pick in the top 10. I wouldn't love it, but I'd get the logic.

Look, Robinson is a tremendous prospect. He might win Rookie of the Year in Arthur's Smith's offense. But the Falcons could get 90% of his production from Allgeier and a couple of Day 3 options. Smith said Thursday night that Robinson is "a lot more than a running back," but that doesn't make this a good selection. They could have gone with cornerback Christian Gonzalez or defensive tackle Jalen Carter or edge rusher Nolan Smith and gotten better value.

Elsewhere, I liked the addition of Matthew Bergeron (38), who it seems will move to guard for the Falcons. He started 39 games at tackle in college.

One question I have coming out of this draft for the Falcons: Who's rushing the passer? I don't see a vastly improved defensive depth chart. Calais Campbell, who will turn 37 before the season begins, is not going to get them 10 sacks. Third-round pick Zach Harrison (75) had just 3.5 sacks at Ohio State last season.

SI - Grade: B

The Falcons ignored analytics and viewed Robinson as an offensive weapon instead of just a running back. Robinson could be a security blanket for second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder and will add to coach Arthur Smith's powerful rushing attack. Suddenly, Atlanta has one of the best offensive trios in the league with Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Atlanta got a little greedy by drafting an offensive lineman instead of a defensive player for the second pick, but Bergeron is a rugged run blocker and fits the offensive scheme. Harrison will be needed to contribute immediately because the Falcons struggled with generating a pass rush last season.

PFF - Grade: B+

Day 1: Teams wouldn't usually receive an "average" grade for taking a running back in the top 10, but it's hard to dislike this pick too much, given how good Bijan Robinson was in 2022. An impressive athlete at 220 pounds, he set a PFF college record with 104 missed tackles forced in 2022, producing a 95.3 PFF grade in the process.

Day 2: Bergeron is a nimble tackle with a very in-control play style. He played significant time at both tackle spots for Syracuse but could kick inside to guard for Atlanta. Bergeron needs to have more of a killer mentality and better hand usage, but this is a good fit for the 6-foot-5, 318-pound lineman.

The Falcons addressed some of the holes along their defensive line in free agency, but it's still a group that could use more young talent. At 6-foot-6 with 36-plus-inch arms, Harrison is now one of the longer edge defenders in the NFL. He's just not likely to make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher, given the lack of bend and a clear pass-rush plan he showed at Ohio State.

Day 3: Phillips is undersized (5-foot-9 with arms just over 29 inches long) and a below-average athlete. That's not a great combination and why he's slid to this point in the draft. However, Clark is a physical, savvy coverage defender who can compete for a role in the slot with Atlanta. He tallied six interceptions and four pass breakups in his final season with the Utes, allowing a 68.4 passer rating into his coverage.

Hellams is a stout run defender, earning an 86.8 grade in 2022 and forcing seven incompletions, which ranked in the top 25 among safeties.

Gwyn is an undersized guard who put up 34 reps on the bench press and earned a very respectable 76.0 pass-blocking grade in 2022. He's an interesting fit in the Falcons' offense with limited lateral movement ability.

Fox Sports - Grade: C+

Having the league's No. 3 run game and using a top-10 pick on running back Bijan Robinson is bold, but also seems neglectful of more obvious needs. Their pass rush should have been a priority, and third-rounder Zach Harrison feels like a half-measure. Did they need to trade up to 38 for guard Matthew Bergeron? Keep in mind they also got corner Jeff Okudah by dealing a fifth-rounder, so there's impact there.

USA Today - Grade: C-

If you subscribe to drafting by the "best player available" theory, then it's hard to quibble with first-round RB Bijan Robinson, who should be a true game breaker, and second-round OL Matthew Bergeron ... so there's that. But is this team really going to coalesce into a legit Super Bowl contender before a good chunk of Robinson's tread is worn off? And Bergeron seems a luxury given the strength of the O-line relative to holes elsewhere — to say nothing of the mystery that is QB Desmond Ridder.

The Ringer - Grade: C+

The Falcons certainly kept true to their identity in this draft, using the eighth pick on Texas running back Bijan Robinson. There's a massive amount of potential opportunity cost with taking a running back that early, and I have to dock them for that—but Robinson is one of the best creators on the ground that we've seen out of a running back prospect in the last decade, so he could help to take the load of carrying the offense off of second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder's shoulders. The Falcons' second-round pick, Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron, brings smashmouth style in the run game that should be a boost to Atlanta's run game as well. And Ohio State third-rounder Zach Harrison—a souped up edge rusher with rare length—gives the team another rotational piece on the defensive line. Add in fourth-round cornerback Clark Phillips III on day three, and Atlanta added some good players.

Sporting News - Grade: B-

The Falcons made a couple of luxury depth picks right away, given the running game and offensive line are strengths, especially after extending Chris Lindstrom and Caleb McGary up front. Robinson is a great talent and can be Arthur Smith's new Derrick Henry, but the Falcons also didn't get more passing weapons for Desmond Ridder. Harrison needs time to have pass-rush impact. The best overall pick for need was Phillips to make more plays in coverage.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B

I don't have a problem with Bijan Robinson going in the first 10 picks — he's the best running back prospect I've seen since Adrian Peterson, he broke 104 tackles last season for the Longhorns, and he can win as a receiver at all three levels. Head coach Arthur Smith has said that he sees Robinson as a weapon as opposed to a running back, and I get it. But with all the needs here, it's a bit odd. I'm also not in love with Bergeron going this high — he's got a lot of athleticism, but some messy tape, at offensive tackle. If the plan is to make him a guard, okay, but this seems like a reach. Harrison is an underrated tweener end with a lot of production and disruption against some major opponents, and Phillips could be one of the steals of the draft in the fourth round. If he were a couple inches taller and a few pounds heavier, he would have been seen as a first-round talent.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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