When Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot watches Space Jam, he must root for the Monstars because he's building his skill positions in the same manner as the film's antagonists. The Falcons are placing a basketball team around their unsettled quarterback position, and it's the franchise's best path toward respectability.
Entering the NFL draft, an argument could easily be made that Atlanta featured the league's worst roster. A similar discourse can still ensue, though Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith veered off a traditional path in an attempt to be as competitive as possible this offseason.
An adage has circulated in the NFL about building a wide receiver corps much like an NBA roster. Varied skill sets make the position, thus making the entire offense more difficult to defend. The group should include a shifty point guard (quick underneath slot receiver), a post-up center (big red-zone target) and so on and so forth. In the Falcons' case, their approach has been a little more literal.
By featuring Drake London, Bryan Edwards and Auden Tate, as well as tight end Kyle Pitts and John FitzPatrick, the Falcons now have five targets who are 6'3" or taller. Of the five, Edwards is the only one under 6'4". FitzPatrick, whom the team selected in this year's sixth round, is a massive tight end at 6'7" and 250 pounds.
These moves aren't new by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Falcons aren't the only team undertaking the same offensive shift. The Indianapolis Colts are another example with their group of targets—Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Dezmon Patmon, Mike Strachan, Mo Alie-Cox, Jelani Woods and Andrew Ogletree—all stand between 6'3" and 6'7". A certain amount of success seems to derive from a commitment to finding size mismatches within an offense.
"The teams with the biggest receivers didn't all field great passing attacks, but some did, including four of the top five teams in pass offense DVOA," Football Outsiders' Mike Tanier wrote. "But the win-loss records here are remarkable. Nine of the top 10 teams had winning records, six made the playoffs, and four won their divisions."
Aside from Olamide Zaccheaus, who's the Falcons' leading returning wide receiver and listed at 5'8", the primary options in the passing attack will be giants looming over opposing defensive backs.
Today's tendencies lean toward more speed and explosivity to create chunk plays and lessen the chances of making mistakes within the passing game. That's why receivers Ja'Marr Chase (6'0", 201 pounds), Jaylen Waddle (5'10", 182), DeVonta Smith (6'0", 170), Garrett Wilson (6'0", 192), Chris Olave (6'1", 188), Jameson Williams (6'1", 179) and Jahan Dotson (5'11", 182) all heard their names called in the top half of the first round over the last two draft classes.
London is the outlier compared to other recent selections.
The Falcons made the USC product this year's WR1 with this year's eighth overall pick. London is literally a former basketball player who played for the Trojans' hardwood team. At 6'4" and 213 pounds, the 20-year-old target is the biggest wide receiver taken among the top-10 selections since Mike Williams in 2017. Otherwise, Mike Evans and Calvin Johnson are the only two bigger than both to enter the draft in the last 15 years and become top-10 picks.