2022 NFL Rookie Grades, NFC South: Falcons and Saints meet first-round receivers

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Notable free agent signer

Despite running streaks for the likes of Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder, Drake London thrived in Year 1, catching 72 passes for 866 yards and four touchdowns. He is listed as Atlanta’s top receiver going forward. Arnold Ebiketie had the kind of season you’d expect from a second-round pick, getting only one start but playing more pass-rushing snaps than the starter before him. While his numbers haven’t been particularly flashy, he’s put in some solid performances and will need to build on that in the years to come. The Falcons have a linebacking corps that flies under the radar but has given reason to be excited about its future. Troy Andersen’s PFF score wasn’t great, but he found his footing late in his rookie season and ended up ranked third in hustle stops among all Falcons defensemen. (Next Gen Stats defines a hustle stop as a tackle, resulting in a successful play for defense where the player travels more than 20 yards from snap to tackle.)

Arthur Smith’s decision to test Ridder in the final month of the 2022 season didn’t initially bring any wins, but the young quarterback has started to come to terms a bit in recent weeks, helping the Falcons to two wins while completing 38 of 56 passes for 393 yards and two touchdowns in those last two games. Ridder has yet to convince everyone that he is Atlanta’s answer to the future position; However, he wasn’t completely lost, which bodes well for a third-round selection.

DeAngelo Malone played 432 snaps in 2022, split right down the middle between defensive and special teams. He recorded a sack and 29 tackles (four for the loss) as an edge of rotation. Atlanta found its lead back in Tyler Allgeier, who averaged nearly five yards per carry on 210 attempts, eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards and had four touchdowns (three rushes, one received) on a run-first offense. The combination of Allgeier and sophomore Caleb Huntley made for quite a 1-2 punch that no one saw coming.

Justin Shaffer did not make the final 53-man roster and spent his rookie season on the practice team. John FitzPatrick missed his rookie season after landing on injured reserve on Sept. 1. Timmy Horne came through when the Falcons needed help defensively, making five starts and recording 27 tackles in 17 games played, including 66 snaps on special teams. Solid production for an unconscripted free-agent signee.