The Falcons are two drafts into the new regime’s tenure, and one thing has remained constant: Atlanta’s attraction to the attributes of Senior Bowl attendees. The showcase of draft-eligible seniors in Mobile has become a hotbed for future Falcons. Atlanta’s nine-man 2021 draft class contained four former attendees — Richie Grant, Ta’Quon Graham, Ade Ogundeji, and Frank Darby. And even though he went undrafted, Feleipe Franks was another invitee that ended up in Atlanta.
It’s no coincidence the Falcons have dipped into the Senior Bowl pool, either. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have been outspoken since their first press conference about the kind of players they want to bring in — accountable, intelligent, and tough. The Senior Bowl epitomizes those attributes. Generally speaking, seniors are more dependable and are further developed mentally. There is a positive correlation between a player’s maturity and whether or not they get a Senior Bowl invite, because physiologically, these young men are further along than some of the younger draft-eligible prospects.
And this year, they’re leaning into Jim Nagy’s crop of prospects. Five of the team’s eight selections were in Mobile earlier this year — Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, Desmond Ridder, DeAngelo Malone, and Justin Shaffer — which was second-most among teams drafting prospects out of the Senior Bowl. Malone was even the American Player of the Game. Here’s what I wrote pre-draft about the potential for the Falcons to draft the Western Kentucky product:
Last season, Malone led the Conference USA in tackles for loss (16.5) and was second in sacks (8) while leading the nation among defensive linemen in tackles (88). He’s got every accolade imaginable — two-time Conference Player of the Year and three first-team all-conference honors.
Even though Malone is an older prospect at 23-years-old, he possesses traits coaches can’t teach players — quick first step, athleticism, and a never-ending motor. His pass rush moves are more developed than most prospects entering the draft, spending time as the weak-side defender in an even front. Malone has experience as a wide-9 rusher and spent most of his time standing up rather than having his hand in the dirt.
Given his slight frame, aggressiveness running upfield, and lack of gap integrity, Malone projects as a rotational pass rusher. He’s not strong enough to anchor the strong side of formations, so he’ll be a sub-package player to begin his career.
He’s been mocked in the late third-round, which would provide excellent value for the Falcons.
Photographer: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire
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