When a team is performing badly the blame usually goes on the head coach. We have seen that with the Atlanta Falcons as the cry for Arthur Smith to be fired grows each week. Those cries are certainly warranted but we cannot ignore the significant struggles GM Terry Fontenot has had when it comes to drafting young talent.
Fontenot has yet to prove any worth when it comes to the draft. He has seriously struggled at drafting players who do not have the "generational talent" label placed on them and that is a huge red flag.
Falcons GM Terry Fontenot's draft struggles should place him on the hot seat
When you want to build a winning culture and a talented team for the long haul you go to the draft. The draft is where you find those franchise building blocks that can help keep your team afloat for a decade.
The Atlanta Falcons have not been able to find those players over the past few years and that blame should be placed on the shoulders of general manager Terry Fontenot.
Fontenot has been widely praised for his work in free agency. He has made some excellent signings with the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, Bradley Pinion, Rashaan Evans, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss, and Jessie Bates. Those are all excellent players and all but one of them are still contributing to the team.
However, for every good signing, there is an equally bad (or worse) draft pick. Outside of the generational talents taken in the first round (Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Bijan Robinson), here are the draft picks Fontenot has made:
- Richie Grant
- Jalen Mayfield
- Darren Hall
- Drew Dalman
- Ta'Quon Graham
- Ade Ogundeji
- Avery Williams
- Frank Darby
- Arnold Ebiketie
- Troy Andersen
- Desmond Ridder
- DeAngelo Malone
- Tyler Allgeier
- Justin Shaffer
- John FitzPatrick
- Matthew Bergeron
- Zach Harrison
- Clark Phillips
- DeMarcco Hellams
- Jovaughn Gwyn
Out of those 20 draft picks, the only one who has been a consistently good player is Tyler Allgeier, and you might be able to throw in Avery Williams for what he has done on special teams. That is it.
Two of those players are not on the team anymore—Darren Hall and Jalen Mayfield—and 9 have either been really bad, haven't played much, or haven't played at all—Richie Grant, Ade Ogundeji, Frank Darby, DeAngelo Malone, Justin Shaffer, John FitzPatrick, Clark Phillips, DeMarcco Hellams, and Jovaughn Gwyn.
And then the remainder of the players are still TBD. It has not been pretty for Fontenot in the draft. It has consisted of a lot of disappointment.
When you look at the players he has acquired via trade, only two of them have been good so far; Jeff Okudah and Kentavius Street. The Van Jefferson and Bryan Edwards trades have been disasterous.
Let's also not act like all of his free agent signings have been great; just look at the Mike Davis, Marcus Mariota, Casey Hayward, Damien Williams, Taylor Heinicke, Mack Hollins, and Scotty Miller signings.
I know that it doesn't all fall on his shoulders. Certain moves can also be blamed on Arthur Smith but the point is that Fontenot has been far from elite as a general manager. For the most part, he has made good signings in free agency but he has also failed to draft impact players outside of the first round and that is extremely concerning.
Signing free agents is a good glue to the foundation but sustained success is tied to the draft (just ask the LA Rams). If things keep going the way they are going, the Falcons have no chance of producing consistent winning seasons.
All in all, expect Arthur Smith to be fired well before Terry Fontenot since that is usually how it works in the NFL.