How Drake London has become the WR1 In the Falcons Offense

Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened on August 2017, it was built as the new home for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC Photo by Dakota Smith | The Signal

The Atlanta Falcons selected wide receiver Drake London with the eighth pick in the 2022 NFL draft. In a class loaded with supreme talent at the wideout position, London was atop the majority of draft boards across the league.

 “We always start with the makeup. We love the way the young man is wired,” Terry Fontenot said. “He’s a tough, smart, competitive football player. He fits our ethos. He fits the culture we want.”

 London has been a highly touted recruit since his high school days at Moorpark High School in California. He was named All-State in both football and basketball. He was recruited to USC for both sports and even suited up for two games for the USC basketball team, but his football prowess is what turned heads.

 London made an immediate impact his true freshman season with 39 receptions, 567 yards, five touchdowns and 14.5 yards per catch. The following season, London led the Trojans with 502 receiving yards, 33 receptions, three touchdowns and 15.2 yards per reception. These numbers were eye-popping in a shortened COVID season in which only six games were played.

London missed the end of the 2021 season with a fractured ankle, but impressed in the eight starts he did make by leading the team with 88 receptions, 1,084 yards receiving, 12.3 yards per reception and tying the team lead with seven scores. London was third-team All-American, Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Conference.

 London is a big, long-possession receiver who excels at high pointing 50/50 balls. The knock on him coming out of college was that he lacked the desired top-end speed and separation quickness to get open in the short areas of the field. London’s 6’5 stature often makes up for his lack of short area quickness.

He worked extensively outside as an X receiver and occasionally lined up in the slot. The versatility to be able to move a player with that kind of size to the slot will create a lot of mismatches which London will be able to exploit with the lack of size that’s prevalent in slot defenders across the league.

 These qualities made him one of the top recruits in a class full of elite talent at the wide receiver position.  Even in a year in which only one quarterback went in the first three rounds, skill positions were at a premium. With the departure of franchise legend Julio Jones and the suspension of 2018 first-round draft choice Calvin Ridley, the Falcons knew they needed to make a splash in the 2022 draft.

 London has been off to a hot start in his rookie season. Five games into the season, London has 22 receptions, 266 yards, two touchdowns and 12.1 yards per reception. His projected stats for the 2022 season are 75 receptions, 904 yards and seven touchdowns. These numbers would solidify him as the number one wide receiver on the depth chart.

 The knock on London, not being able to create separation at the NFL level, looks to be yet another lazy pre-draft analysis through the first five games of his young career. London has lived up to his top-ten draft pick pedigree so far this season. The Falcons’ offense lacked that true alpha wide receiver heading into the 2022 season. London will be a major focal point of the Atlanta Falcons’ offense for what should be a long time as he continues to develop and blossom into what the Falcons wanted when they drafted him.