The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Atlanta Falcons have quickly become one of the most intriguing teams to watch in this year’s event. There are a number of ways the Falcons can go with their No. 8 overall pick, and they’ve got five of the top 82 picks in this draft.
In the lead-up to this important draft for Atlanta, we’re going to be providing our evaluations of some of the top prospects. For those unfamiliar with our process, we’re using Kevin Knight’s own grading system, which you can read about here. This system is still in development and minor tweaks may be made as more data is available.
Today’s prospect is USC wide receiver Drake London. A massive outside receiver, London can win with both physicality and athleticism. He presents a large catch radius due to his leaping ability, which he honed as a high-level basketball player, but London can make moves as a runner with the ball in his hands. He has the tools to be a formidable X receiver at the next level.
WR | Drake London Southern California # 15
RAS: N / A
Games watched: Notre Dame, Oregon StateStanford, UCLA (2020)
Drake London has a high-level basketball background, and he translates that skill set to the football field in the best way possible. London’s 6-foot-4, 219-pound frame gives him a size advantage in most matchups, and he complements that with spectacular leaping ability and body control. His catch radius is exceptional.
London did not run at the NFL Combine, but his tape shows that he’s got good deep speed, although it takes him a bit to build up to it. He does not look shot out of a cannon at the snap. His lateral agility is good for a player of his size, and he uses it effectively with the ball in his hands or to beat press coverage.
Despite its long frame, London proved to be an effective screen and jet-sweep receiver. His combination of contact balance, running power and nimble footwork make him very difficult to bring down after the catch. London was on his way towards a massive 2021 season, catching 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games. A fractured right ankle ended his season early, and teams are sure to take that injury into account while evaluating him.
The combination of size, athleticism and competitive toughness makes London a very promising prospect at the receiver. He should help a team from Day 1 and possesses the upside to become a top-10 player at the position.
London was used as a deep threat to USC, but he builds to his top speed gradually. Has enough speed to be effective downfield. Won’t break away from defenders in a footrace.
Shows excellent looseness in his hips for his size. Can break off routes quickly to gain separation from defenders. Side-steps opponents with the ball in his hands and can string multiple juke moves together.
Catch Ability: 8
London had his share of drops at USC, but this grade is indicative of his special ball skills and immense catch radius. If the ball is anywhere in his vicinity, London can come down with it, as evidenced by his nation-leading 19 contested catches in 2021. He will be a major threat for defenses in the red zone or on third downs.
Route Running: 6
Ran a variety of routes in college and did so well. He’s able to line up all over the field and is a threat when given a two-way go. Shows nice feel for spots in zone and exploits space in the defense when a play is extended.
Elite size at the position; compares favorably to Mike Evans. Weighed 219 at the NFL Combine, answering some questions about how much he fills out his frame. London uses his size to his advantage in virtually every facet of the game to good success.
London’s size is a great advantage to him in this aspect of the game. He has impressive hand usage and quickness to fight against press coverage. Can win with foot quickness. Doesn’t always drive through a defender on slants and quick in routes.
Incredibly explosive leaper, which comes from his basketball background. He will continue to win jump contests at the NFL level, and London displays a natural sense for timing his jumps. Not an explosive runner, and he does not have great immediate speed.
Yards After Catch: 8
Shows excellent balance through contact and routinely breaks tackles with the ball in his hands. Flashes of George Kittle in his combination of power and agility as a runner. He forced 22 missed tackles in 2021, according to PFF, which were eighth-most.
Was on pace for 132 catches, 1,626 yards and 10 touchdowns prior to his ankle injury in 2021. Never had more than 600 yards or five touchdowns in a season before breaking out as a junior. London’s production in 2021 was spectacular in just eight games.
An absolute beast as a blocker. Relishes the opportunity to lock onto opponents, regardless of size. He is an asset close to the line of scrimmage on short-yardage plays because of his blocking ability.
Athleticism: N / A RAS, 17/20
This is just an estimate since London did not run at the NFL Combine and elected to only do position drills at his Pro Day, but it’s a relatively conservative estimate. London’s basketball background will translate well to the NFL.