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Atlanta Falcons NFL draft picks 2021: Analysis for every selection

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Kyle Pitts made history on Thursday night going to Atlanta. What that (0:58)

Kyle Pitts made history on Thursday night going to Atlanta. What that might mean for the Falcons. Video by Michael Rothstein (0:58)

The 2021 NFL draft is being held Thursday through Saturday and every Atlanta Falcons draft pick has been analyzed here.

After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland is played host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.

Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player Atlanta has selected will fit.

Analysis of every NFL pick | Updated NFL depth charts


Round 1, No. 4 overall: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

My take: Pitts is the best non-quarterback in the draft and a player new coach Arthur Smith can use all over the field -- in-line, in the slot and out wide if necessary. He may be listed as a tight end, but that’s perhaps an antiquated description for a player like Pitts, who projects to be a dynamic pass-catcher on the Falcons. Consider, too, he’ll be paired at least with Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst next season (we’ll see about Julio Jones) and teams won’t be able to focus solely on him. It’s a pick that makes all the sense in the world for a coach who came up in the NFL working with tight ends.

Why not a quarterback? A couple of reasons here. The first is Matt Ryan. The former NFL MVP still continually completes 65 percent of his throws for around 4,500 yards and at least 25 touchdowns a season. With his contract, the Falcons weren’t going to move on so fast from him which means whatever quarterback Atlanta would have selected would have sat for at least one year -- if not two. The second reason is value. While quarterback is the most valuable position on the field, there are other ways to find one other than the draft. Consider where Arthur Smith (Titans) and Terry Fontenot (Saints) came from. Neither team drafted the quarterback who led them to their recent success. Drew Brees signed with New Orleans out of San Diego. Ryan Tannehill was traded to Tennessee from Miami. So there's no reason to think the draft is the only way to find Ryan’s eventual replacement.

Will this alter the Julio Jones trade question? Probably not, although the selection of Pitts does give Atlanta a bit more cushion if it were to trade Jones before the start of the season. The Jones situation is going to play out regardless of what happens over the next two-plus days. As Fontenot made clear this week, potentially moving Jones now is more about Atlanta’s cap constraints than Jones’ on-field talent. But Pitts would soften the blow to the offense if Jones were no longer with the Falcons by Week 1.


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Richie Grant's NFL draft profile

Check out the highlights from UCF S Richie Grant's college career.

Round 2, No. 40 overall: Richie Grant, S, UCF

My take: Grant is a playmaker -- 10 interceptions in his career -- and has versatility. He can play the deep safety or down in the box, and he has clear coverage ability. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees loves versatile safeties and uses them incredibly well. So Grant should fit in well there.

Plus, he won't need to play right away. The team signed Erik Harris and Duron Harmon in free agency, two reliable veterans, which should allow Grant to ease into whatever role the team has for him. But Grant is the clear future at the position and someone to build the back end of the defense around alongside A.J. Terrell. He's a willing tackler, too, having 70-plus tackles in each of the next three years.

Grant might have had an unintentional indoctrination to the Falcons, too. One of his training partners this offseason was safety Erik Harris, who signed with Atlanta last month. Grant said Harris has been talking to him for weeks about how he’d end up being with the Falcons -- and it actually happened on draft night.

“He became like my big brother,” Grant said. “I love that type of bond.”

And it’s one that could help him adjust in his role -- likely starting off at free safety -- in the NFL.


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Jalen Mayfield's NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights from Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield's college career.

Round 3, No. 68 overall: Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan

My take: Mayfield makes a lot of sense for Atlanta, which needed to find offensive line help somewhere in the draft. He was a college tackle -- starting his sophomore season at right tackle before opting out and then back into the 2020 season. But an ankle injury ended his year.

Mayfield offers positional versatility and should get his first shot to compete for a job inside at left guard. He has good feet, is a good run-blocker and learned in a pro-style system at Michigan, which should aid his professional development early on. The Falcons might have found a Week 1 starter here if he can progress fast enough.


Round 4, No. 108 overall: Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State

My take: This could be a heavy defense day for Atlanta, starting with Hall. He has good size (6-feet, 190 pounds) and -- not surprisingly -- some versatility, as he played some safety as well. He's an instinctual player with six career picks and 31 passes defended -- including 17 in 2019. He's a guy who could develop for a year before challenging for a starting spot.


Round 4, No. 114 overall: Drew Dalman, C, Stanford

My take: Another offensive lineman on the interior to provide some depth -- and maybe potential as a starter at left guard. Dalman played center and guard at Stanford -- primarily at center -- where he majored in mechanical engineering, so intelligence should not be in question at all. His dad, Chris, played for the San Francisco 49ers and his grandfather played semi-pro football. This is a smart pick that has a lot of upside in development.


Round 5, No. 148 overall: Ta'Quon Graham, DT, Texas

My take: A two-year starter for Texas, Graham is an intriguing player who had seven sacks in his career with the Longhorns. His 23 tackles for loss show his promise at 6-foot-4, 294 pounds. And stop us if you've heard this before about a Falcons draft pick, but he's versatile, as he played multiple spots along the Texas defensive line. He was also a captain, which could be something Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith found value in.


Round 5, No. 182 overall: Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE, Notre Dame

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Adetokunbo Ogundeji's NFL draft profile

Check out highlights from Notre Dame's dominant defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji.

My take: Ogundeji -- another team captain -- played in 43 games during his Notre Dame career and had 17 tackles for loss, including seven each the last two seasons. He also had 13 career sacks. He's an edge rusher who can be fast off the line of scrimmage and can be multiple in how he's used in different fronts. He's a bit of a flier, but at this point in the draft he's someone who could end up being a playmaker if Dean Pees can find the right role for him.


Round 5, No. 183 overall: Avery Williams, CB, Boise State

My take: Williams is a player who can provide special teams value right away -- he won Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week awards in three separate seasons at Boise and was the conference's special teams player of the year in 2019. He also has high level return skills, with three kick returns for touchdowns at Boise and six punt returns for scores as well. The Falcons might have Cordarrelle Patterson on the roster, but Williams could be the future at returner for Atlanta. At the very least, he's a special teams contributor early on.


Round 6, No. 183 overall: Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State

My take: Darby is an interesting prospect who never had more than 31 catches or 616 yards in a season, both coming in 2019. But he showed scoring ability in 2019 with eight touchdowns, a sign of what he could potentially become. It's a crowded receiver room in Atlanta and, in what has been a trend with the Falcons' Day 3 picks, Darby was a captain for the Sun Devils last year. He has big-play ability and is someone that shouldn't have to play right away but could serve well to learn from Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Julio Jones (if Jones remains with the Falcons).