This is the seventh installment of a series reviewing Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first draft class in Atlanta, which included a total of nine players. We’ll go chronologically through these draft picks in the order they were selected; next up is the Falcons’ second fifth-round pick, who Atlanta needs to take a significant step forward in 2022.
If you’ve missed any other installments, be sure to check them out!
Ade Ogundeji was drafted out of Notre Dame to be the first piece of a pass rush rebuild, which has long been a liability for the Falcons. Ogundeji didn’t quite have the production necessary to turn this group around, but what fifth-round pick would turn around the worst pass rush in the league?
He finished the season with one sack, one fumble recovery, two quarterback hits, 33 total tackles, and five tackles for loss. Rebuilding this abysmal pass rush was never going to happen overnight, and Ted Moachino knows that as it pertains to Ogundeji.
“At some point, he’s going to be a guy who goes in and impacts games for us. It may take a little longer because he’s a fifth round pick instead of a first round pick,” Monachino said at the beginning of the season. “But we still have the same expectation. With all of these players moving in and out of the building, we’re going to ask — at some point — Ade to be the bell cow in the room, and we’re preparing him for that right now.”
That pass rush makeover likely won’t happen in 2022; however, the front office and staff clearly see Ogundeji as a critical piece of that eventual unit. His ceiling is intriguing, and adjusting to the NFL as a fifth-round pick is understandably a difficult process.
First and foremost, Ogundeji had to learn a new position. Playing with his hand in the dirt for the Irish has made playing as a stand up edge a learning process, but his physical tools are all there. His length is the first thing that pops out to me. Ogundeji’s ability to effectively long-arm tackles helps him when defending the run and rushing the passer. His initial punch’s accuracy and counter moves will only improve as he gains more experience. Still, the focus for nearly every rookie entering their first full offseason should be focused on getting bigger, faster, and stronger — Ogundeji isn’t excluded from that group.