Falcons Rookie Compared to 4-Time Pro-Bowl Rival

Mike Evans and Antonio Brown

Getty Drake London has been compared to a multiple Pro-Bowl receiver who tormented the Falcons as a member of the Bucs.

Drake London is expected to revive the Atlanta Falcons passing game as a rookie. The eighth-overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft will be tasked with easing the burden on record-setting tight end Kyle Pitts. He’ll also be required to become the go-to target in a wide receiver rotation weakened by Calvin Ridley’s indefinite suspension for betting violations.

That’s a lot of pressure on the first wideout drafted this year. London’s task won’t be made any easier by a quarterback situation in a state of flux, with former Las Vegas Raiders backup Marcus Mariota or third-round pick Desmond Ridder set to replace franchise icon Matt Ryan under center.

London can live up to the billing if he earns the lofty comparison made by one fantasy football analyst. He’s compared the Falcons’ top draft pick to a four-time Pro-Bowler who plays for NFC South rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a receiver who owns a record unmatched by any pass-catcher in league history.

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Bucs’ All-Time Great a Suitable Template for London

Mike Evans is the template for what London can become, according to Underdog Fantasy’s Josh Norris. He told the Ross Tucker Podcast why London compares favorably to Evans: “I think he was almost typecast as a contested-catch, jump-ball wide receiver, and that was so far from the truth for me. I thought he was… one, could operate in the slot really well. And two, just the shiftiness he had, it reminded me a lot of Mike Evans coming out of Texas A&M.”

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

Evans is 8-7 against the Falcons, per 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 has been a thorn in the side of the Falcons, but they aren’t alone among his victims. The 28-year-old has set a historic pace during 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 type of production the Falcons hope for from their own top-10 investment in the wide receiver position.

London Facing Massive Expectations

Meeting the kid of expectations he’s facing is a tall order for London, but he won’t be lacking for opportunities, according to Josh Kendall of The Athletic: “London walks into the best room in the league for a player looking for targets. I mean, somebody other than Kyle Pitts has to catch some passes, and Olamide Zaccheaus (31 catches) is the only wide receiver on the team who had more than one catch for the Falcons last year. Atlanta has loaded up on free-agent wide receivers, but none should challenge London at the top of the pecking order.”

It’s a sound argument because the veterans the Falcons added to the position hardly possess the pedigree to become the main man ahead of 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 edge from the inside.

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

There’s good reason to believe 6’4″, 213-pound London will stay inside for the Falcons. Pitts is a tight end who often does his best work on the outside, having led all receivers in yards per routes run when split out wide, according to Scott Barrett of Dank Stats.

The trade for former Raiders’ third-round pick Bryan Edwards also gives the Falcons another vertical threat on the perimeter:

There’s going to be ample opportunities and space for London to work inside during his debut season. If he even comes close to matching the 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns Evans amassed as a rookie, the Falcons will consider using the eighth pick to acquire London a bargain.

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