The Falcons first three 2021 NFL Draft picks and their current and former pro comparisons

Illustration by Evan Koenigs | The Signal

This year’s NFL Draft kicked off the new era of Atlanta Falcons football. This past April’s draft marked the first for newly hired general manager and head coach Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith. 

The Falcons entered the draft with the fourth overall pick and nine picks throughout the seven rounds. With their first three selections, the Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts, safety Richie Grant and offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield. Each player possesses an opportunity to become an impact player in the NFL and etch their name in the history books. 


Kyle Pitts (No. 4 overall), Tight End, Florida 

Pitts earned a label as arguably the best player in the NFL draft, with some scouts going as far as calling him a “generational talent” at the tight end position. Some even say he was more deserving of being the first pick over Trevor Lawrence. 

So, what compelled the Falcons to make Pitts the highest overall drafted tight end ever?

What stands out about Pitts, besides his 6’6 240lb frame, is his combination of size and speed at the tight end position, which enabled him to catch 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in only eight games for the Florida Gators last year. 

Pitts’ size and speed allow him to line up all over the field, and become a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, and will force defensive coordinators to scheme against him. 

Pro comparison: Jimmy Graham-Calvin Johnson Jr. hybrid

At the height of their careers, Graham and Johnson Jr. were the best players at their respective positions. 

Both were matchup nightmares for linebackers and defensive backs with their speed and strength, which made them impossible to match up with.

Graham and Johnson Jr. lined up all over the field, but notably, Graham, who’s in his 11th NFL season, could play as a wide receiver instead of his usual tight end spot. Graham ultimately revolutionized the tight end position during his four-year stint with the New Orleans Saints, lining up at the X, Y and Z position. 

Wherever Pitts lines up for the Falcons, he could immediately impact the field and possibly become Matt Ryan’s favorite target next season. 


Richie Grant (No. 40 overall), Safety, UCF 

With the 10th pick in the second round, the Falcons decided to boost their secondary by selecting Richie Grant out of Central Florida. 

A three-year starter at UCF, Grant was the second safety selected in the draft. During those three years starting, he collected 258 tackles, 10 interceptions and forced five fumbles. 

Grant fills an immediate need at the safety position for the Falcons since the team lost long-time starting safety Keanu Neal in free agency, and they will look for him to contribute immediately on the defensive side of the ball. 

NFL Comparison: Micah Hyde

Although the Green Bay Packers selected Hyde in the fifth round, he has turned into one of the league’s best safeties. 

How do Grant and Hyde stack up next to each other?

Both listed at six feet tall and 197 lbs, Grant and Hyde provide solid productivity on the field, good coverage skills, and solid run game support.

Over the last four seasons, Hyde has provided the Buffalo Bills with 282 tackles nine interceptions. 

Grant could play a key role in fixing the Falcons’ issues in the secondary, which allowed 4,697 passing yards and 34 passing touchdowns last season, both fourth-worst in the NFL

Jalen Mayfield (No. 68 overall), Offensive Lineman, Michigan

In the third round, the Falcons decided to beef up their rebuilding offensive line by selecting the Michigan offensive lineman.

Mayfield is a well-balanced offensive lineman who can be a dominant force in the run game with his scary athletic ability at 6’5 326 lbs. 

Starting 13 games at right tackle for the Wolverines back in 2019, Mayfield played a big part in a rushing attack that averaged 151.2 rushing yards per game. Still, due to a condensed season and Mayfield only playing two games, the Wolverines saw their total rushing decrease by 20 yards. 

Mayfield can explode off the offensive line, especially in the run game, to reach the second level. That will be key for the Falcons this upcoming season, as the offense only averaged 95.8 yards, which ranked fourth-worst in the league. 

Pro comparison: La’el Collins

Collins has provided a highlight reel on the offensive line for the Dallas Cowboys since entering the league back in 2015.

Known as a punishing run blocker throughout the league, Collins often makes defenders think twice before standing in his way. Over the years, Collins has become a good pass blocker in the league, which has propelled him as one of the best right tackles in the league. 

Mayfield has a chance at becoming the starting right tackle for the Falcons this upcoming season, especially with former 2019 first-round pick Kaleb McGary struggling the last couple of seasons. 

There are big expectations for the Falcons this upcoming season, as they brought in a new general manager and head coach. As for the players, all three draft picks will play a vital role in helping the Falcons get back to finding success, something they haven’t seen in the last couple of seasons.