In spite of the Falcons’ offensive needs entering the 2022 NFL offseason, one of the starting receiver positions was expected to be filled by that point.
The Falcons were counting on 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley to be back and continue his success as the team’s top receiver. Having taken time away from the Falcons in 2021 to focus on his mental health and well-being, he appeared ready to return in 2022.
An NFL investigation revealed that Ridley had placed wagers on NFL games over a five-day period in November of 2021, and as a result, he was suspended indefinitely. Although Ridley wasn’t on the Falcons roster at the time, he did place a wager on a game in which the team was involved.
Since gambling is against NFL policy, the league decided to permanently suspend Ridley. After February 15th, 2023, he can submit a request to be reinstated.
After losing Ridley, the Falcons’ receiving corps is severely depleted. They’ll have to get through the 2022 NFL season with a combination of young, unproven receiver talent and mediocre veterans. Their roster features a wide range of physical attributes, with four receivers listed at 6-3 or taller and four listed at 5-9 or shorter.
How strong is Atlanta’s receiving corps? Take a look at how the Atlanta Falcons’ wide receivers stack up on the official preseason depth chart.
MORE: Drake, Why It’s “probably not” possible to see London during preseason. WR depth chart for the Falcons in Week 2
To begin: 1. Drake London
The Falcons selected London eighth overall because they view the USC product as a potential franchise cornerstone.
London, a 6-4 219-pound wide receiver, finished his Trojan career with 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. This was accomplished in his brief eight-game stint with the team before an ankle injury ended his season.
If he can avoid injuries, London should have no shortage of opportunities to score for Atlanta. With a minor knee injury, the 21-year-old was forced to leave his preseason debut after catching one pass for 24 yards.
Rookie @DrakeLondon_ is impressing in the #ATLvsDET game on @NFLNetwork (check local listings) this weekend. Tune in on NFL+. https://t.co/J4YYZSADjC pic.twitter.com/cNc3W377so August 12, 2022 — NFL (@NFL)
The Second of the Olamide Zaccheaus
In the wake of London, population densities drop dramatically. They would be a formidable duo if Ridley were available. Zaccheaus is currently leading Bryan Edwards in the competition for the No. 2 wide receiver position.
At age 25, after going undrafted out of Virginia, Zaccheaus has emerged as a reliable playmaker for the Falcons. In 2021, he set personal bests with 31 catches, 406 receiving yards, and three scores.
Zaccheaus is a legitimate deep threat who has hauled in passes for an average of 14.7 yards per catch in his career, so he should help Atlanta stretch the field next season. The fact that he can also play the slot in three-man formations makes up for the fact that he is only 5 feet 8 inches and 193 pounds, respectively.
During the offseason, the Panthers traded for Bryan Edwards from the Raiders. The Falcons’ 2020 third-round pick didn’t exactly explode onto the scene, but they’re holding out hope that a change of scenery will do him good.
Edwards had 34 receptions for 571 yards and three scores in 2021. He is a dangerous deep threat with his 6-3, 212-pound frame and career average of 17 yards per catch.
Edwards, 23 years old, might not get the nod when the Falcons start in two-receiver sets, but he should see a lot of action when Zaccheaus kicks inside to the slot. Even though many people thought he would, Atlanta currently has Zaccheaus ranked higher than him. However, many people believe he will eventually move up to the No. 2 role.
AMAZING PLAY BY BRYAN EDWARDS (via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/ioyuiZOxxc Tweets from Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport). Date: September 14, 2021
MORE: With Marcus Mariota at quarterback, here’s how the Falcons’ offense will look in Week 4. It was KhaDarel Hodge.
The Falcons have one of the NFL’s worst starting trios at wide receiver, and their depth isn’t much better. If London were to miss time, Hodge (5’11”, 183 pounds), the Falcons’ current fourth receiver, would get more playing time in three-wide formations.
Hodge has caught 30 passes for 430 yards over his 55 NFL games played, including two starts. Not once in his life has he ever scored a touchdown.
Since Hodge’s 2018 NFL debut, he has played for four different teams. Before joining the Falcons, the 27-year-old spent a year with the Rams, two with the Browns, and one with the Lions.
Khadarel Hodge dominates De’Anthony Thomas in a tackling clinic #Ravens vs #Browns pic.twitter.com/ZGk6bm0mjB. Twitter: Browns Replay (@BrownsReplay). On the 22nd of December, 2019
Geronimo, No. 5 Allison
In the beginning of his career with the Packers, Allison showed signs of potential. The 6-2, 202-pound receiver played in 49 games (15 starts) from 2016 through 2019, compiling 89 receptions, 1,045 receiving yards, and six touchdowns.
Although he has been targeted twice since 2020, Allison has only appeared in three games. The 28-year-old seems more like a special teams contributor who, with a return to form, could be a fine backup.
Sixth, Frank Darby
The Falcons selected Darby in the sixth round in 2021, and he quickly established himself as a key contributor on special teams. When healthy, Darby played 53% of Atlanta’s special teams snaps in just 10 games. He should be counted on to serve in a similar capacity as a key depth player in 2022.
As a wideout, Darby wasn’t very productive. He was targeted four times and caught one of them for 14 yards in 20 offensive snaps. He may look big at 6 feet and 1 inch and 200 pounds, but he’s only 24 years old. As the season nears, he has a chance to pass Hodge and Allison.
FURTHERMORE: The 2022 NFL Draft and the Reason the Falcons Chose Desmond Ridder Over Malik Willis
Damiere 7. Byrd
In the last five years, Byrd has played for five different teams, but he has been productive at his last three. The Falcons could look to maximize his potential as a 5-9, 175-pound sprinter who has averaged 41 receptions, 499 yards, and a touchdown per 17 games played over the last three seasons.
Byrd, who is also quite small, used to be high up on Atlanta’s depth chart, but now he is much further down the roster because Zaccheaus is going to start. There is still a chance he will make the team, but it is not certain. The 29-year-old appears destined for either Atlanta’s bench or the practice squad.
After converting a two-point try, the Bears find themselves in the lead. 1:01 left.: NFL app pic.twitter.com/OCPQe9112T #CHIvsSEA on FOX December 26, 2021 — NFL (@NFL)
These are the rest
The remaining Falcons wide receivers are all listed as fourth-stringers or lower on the team’s depth chart. They may compete for spots on the team’s practice squad, but the likelihood of making the active roster of 53 players is low.
Here is the rest of the Falcons’ receiving corps:
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