Falcons Land WR Compared to A.J. Brown in New 2022 Mock Draft

A.J. Brown

Getty A.J. Brown celebrates a score vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

Julio Jones getting traded to the Tennessee Titans last offseason left the Atlanta Falcons thin at wide receiver. The problem still persists a year later, after Calvin Ridley took time away from football to look after his mental wellbeing.

Ridley is now a trade candidate, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s leading wideout for 2021, Russell Gage, is also a pending free agent.

The Falcons can find a new playmaker at the position with the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, according to the league’s official site. In the process, head coach Arthur Smith can land a wideout who compares favorably to a player he coached with the Tennessee Titans.

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Falcons Get Bigger A.J. Brown

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah has the Falcons taking another version of Titans’ star A.J. Brown in the top 10, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks: “Head coach Arthur Smith had tremendous success with A.J. Brown in Tennessee, and Burks is a taller version (6-foot-3, 225) of the third-year Titan. He is incredibly strong at the catch point and his blend of speed and strength creates huge plays after the catch.”

Securing a pass-catcher even remotely comparable to Brown would be a coup for Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot. Brown became a breakout star during the final two seasons Smith served as offensive coordinator for the Titans.

Smith helped Brown post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2019 and 2020. He became the focal point of the Titans’ passing game, a do-all receiver equally capable of stretching the field vertically or working the middle and piling up yards after the catch.

Burks showed those same traits during his junior year with the Razorbacks. He posted career-highs in receptions, 66, and yards, 1,104, per sports-reference.com. His numbers also included 12 touchdowns, 11 through the air and one on the ground.

While Burks possesses field-stretching speed, he does most of his best work from the slot, as numbers from PFF College Football show:

The Falcons need a prolific target like Burks to give defenses more to worry about in 2022. No Jones or Ridley in the lineup meant opponents could tee off on quarterback Matt Ryan.

Defensive coordinators won’t be able to commit as many players to the rush with Burks around to beat single coverage. Those same play-callers would be given a few more headaches by Burks’ ability to imitate the league’s best dual-threat weapon.

Comparisons to Deebo Samuel Should Tip the Scales

If Smith and Fontenot need a decisive factor for taking Burks off the board early, it should be the prospect of getting another Deebo Samuel. The crown jewel of the San Francisco 49ers‘ imaginative offense, Samuel has redefined his position this season by adding a legitimate rushing threat to his excellence as a receiver.

Many, including PFF’s Doug Kyed, see similarities between Samuel and Burks:

Kyed is not alone in making this comparison. SB Nation’s Stampede Blue writer Luca Sartirana also thinks Burks has the potential to be used the same way as Samuel:

The numbers offer further encouragement Burks will be able to beat defenses in more ways than one at the next level. He turned 14 rushing attempts into 112 yards and a touchdown this season.

There’s potential for a creative offensive staff to unleash both facets of Burks’ game in the NFL. He has the frame to handle the inside runs Samuel and the Falcons’ own converted wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson, thrived on in 2021. As Jeremiah pointed out, 6’3″, 225-pound Burks is taller than 6’1″, 226 Brown, who is another physical runner with the ball in his hands.

Drafting Burks would give the Falcons an effective bookend to go with dynamic tight end Kyle Pitts. It would also leave Fontenot to use the second and third rounds to find help for the offensive line and pass rush, the other two areas the Falcons must fix this offseason.

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