Sunday, June 26, 2022

Falcons rookie versus four-time Pro Bowl rival

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Drake London is expected to revive the Atlanta Falcons’ passing game as a rookie. The eighth overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft is tasked with exonerating record-breaking tight end Kyle Pitts. He must also become the target of choice in a wide receiver rotation weakened by Calvin Ridleys indefinite ban for betting violations.

That’s a lot of pressure on the first wideout designed this year. London’s task isn’t made any easier by a changing quarterback situation with former Las Vegas Raiders backup Marcus Mariota or third-round pick Desmond Ridder substitute Franchise icon Matt Ryan below center.

London can live up to the bill if it earns the lofty comparison of a fantasy football analyst. He has compared the Falcons’ top draft pick to a four-time pro bowler who plays for NFC South rivals Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a receiver who owns a record unmatched by any passcatcher in league history .

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Mike Evans is the template for what London can get loud Josh Norris from Underdog Fantasy. He told that Ross Tucker Podcast why London compares favorably to Evans: “I think he was almost typecast as a receiver with a controversial catch and jump ball and that was so far from the truth for me. I thought he was… one that could work really well in the slot. And second, just the weirdness that he had reminded me a lot of Mike Evans coming out of Texas A&M.”

While Norris stressed that his comparison doesn’t extend to what Evans has become at the pro level, any resemblance between the four-time pro bowler and London Falcons fans should excite. You already know how good Evans is thanks to his exceptional performances in divisional fights against the Bucs.

Evans is 8-7 against the Falcons according to StatMuse. The same source also noted how Evans has made 81 receptions for 1,236 yards and 10 touchdowns in those games.

It’s fair to say Evans was a thorn in the side of the Falcons, but they’re not alone among his victims. The 28-year-old set a historic pace eight seasons in the NFL:

Those numbers represent a handsome return on the investment the Buccaneers made when they drafted Evans seventh overall in 2014. The numbers are also the kind of production the Falcons hope to see from their own top-10 investment in the wide receiver position.

Living up to the child of the expectations he faces is a tall order for London, but according to Josh Kendall of London, he won’t be short of opportunities the athlete: “London are entering the best space in the league for a player looking for goals. I mean, someone other than Kyle Pitts has some passes to catch, and Olamide Zaccheaus (31 catches) is the only wide receiver on the team to have more than one catch for the Falcons last year. Atlanta has loaded free-agent wide receivers, but none should challenge London at the top of the pecking order.”

It’s a valid argument because the veterans who put the Falcons in the position have little potential to become the most important man before London. Auden Tate, Geronimo Allison and Kha’Darel Hodge combined for just two starts and 16 catches last season.

There are other options including ex-Chicago Bears speedster Damiere Byrd. Like London, Byrd can operate from the slot, but the 5’9″, 175-pounder won’t add a physical advantage from within.

That’s something London can offer after being ranked higher than all other slot recipients in 2021, per PFF College:

There’s good reason to believe the 6’4″, 213-pound London will stay indoors for the Falcons. Pitts is a tight end who often does his best work on the outside after leading all receivers in yards per route when spread wide Scott Barrett of Dank Stats.

The trade in Bryan Edwards, the former Raiders’ third-round pick, also gives the Falcons another vertical threat at the extent:

There will be ample opportunities and space for London to work indoors during his debut season. If he comes anywhere close to the 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns Evans amassed as a rookie, the Falcons will consider using the eighth pick to get a bargain from London.

There will be ample opportunities and space for London to work indoors during his debut season. If he comes anywhere close to the 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns Evans amassed as a rookie, the Falcons will consider using the eighth pick to get a bargain from London.



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