Drake London is expected to be the Atlanta Falcons’ top wide receiver, but one analyst doesn’t see a “big difference” between the player drafted eighth-overall and a wideout taken in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts.
That’s not a particularly encouraging endorsement of London, who needs to emerge as a legitimate go-to target as a rookie. He’s being tasked with offsetting the Falcons losing Calvin Ridley to suspension for betting violations, along with Russell Gage joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
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NFL Matchup Analyst Compares 2nd-Rounder to No. 8 Pick
Speaking on an edition of the Ross Tucker Podcast, Greg Cosell discussed London and Colts second-round pick Alec Pierce. Cosell, who serves as an analyst for NFL Matchup on ESPN, said he “did not really see a big difference between Alec Pierce and Drake London when I studied the tape.”
This is an obvious endorsement of Pierce, whom Cosell admitted is a “terrific, terrific athlete.” Yet, it’s concerning one of the leading judges of X’s and O’s in the football world thinks there’s not much to separate the 53rd player selected in the 2022 NFL draft from the first wide receiver taken off the board.
Players often outperform their draft status, so there’s every chance Pierce will be as good as Cosell, senior producer for NFL Films, indicated. That would mean playing above expectations, but the Falcons want London to be exactly what’s expected by his draft status, namely the best receiver in this class.
General manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith must’ve believed London merits that label. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have taken him ahead of the many other standout pass-catchers available this year, including Ohio State pair Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, as well as Alabama’s Jameson Williams.
It was something of a risk, but the gamble will be rewarded if London is as productive as he was during his last two seasons in the Pac-12, per PFF College:
Those are lofty numbers for London to aim for as a first-year pro, but these stats also represent the level of output the Falcons need from their primary receiver. The problem is London may struggle to approach those levels without an abundance of talent around him.
Pierce In a Better Situation Thanks to Falcons’ Great
There’s more than a little irony to any comparison between London and Pierce. The latter is in a better situation thanks to the presence of one of the Falcons’ all-time greats.
Matt Ryan was traded to the Colts in March, after 14 seasons establishing himself at the leader in all meaningful passing categories for the Falcons, per Pro Football Reference. Ryan’s a better quarterback than either Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder, the signal-callers tasked with replacing him in Atlanta. Mariota spent the past two seasons as a backup for the Las Vegas Raiders, while Ridder wasn’t taken until the third round this year.
London could be counted on to thrive immediately if Ryan was still throwing the passes for the Falcons. Instead, Pierce, who caught passes from Ridder at Cincinnati during his collegiate days, has a better chance to start fast in the NFL.
The connection between Ridder and Pierce adds another layer of irony, with the receiver often turning even his quarterback’s errant throws into successful completions:
Ridder may have a stronger chance of starting sooner rather than later in Atlanta if he still had Pierce hauling in his passes. By contrast, it’s easy to see why Pierce may soon become a favorite target for Ryan.
Aside from Ryan, Pierce is joining a group of skill players headlined by All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor. The supporting cast also includes tight ends Mo Alie-Cox and Jelani Woods, along with wideout Michael Pittman Jr.
There’ll be less pressure on Pierce to be the main man in the Colts’ passing game. It’s a different story for London, despite the presence of record-breaking tight end Kyle Pitts in Atlanta.
Pitts will remain the leading light, but London needs to become the top target on a wide receiver depth chart lacking proven talent. The Falcons added Damiere Byrd, Auden Tate, KhaDarel Hodge and Geronimo Allison during free agency and traded for Bryan Edwards, but this is a hotchpotch collection of journeymen, special teamers and disappointing draft picks.
London figures to find it tougher than Pierce to put up big numbers early, even though his workload should eventually lead to the kind of performances the Falcons are counting on from a top-10 pick.