The lone member of the Atlanta Falcons going in the first six rounds of ESPN average live drafts has not played an NFL down yet. That is, of course, rookie RB Bijan Robinson and there is little argument about his popularity here. The Texas product should offer immediate fantasy dominance. There are other young Falcons, however, who came into the league with significant statistical promise and fantasy managers do not share enough optimism.
Third-year TE Kyle Pitts and second-year WR Drake London are special talents who might not have looked like superstars last season, but surely fantasy managers should not give up on either of them yet. Perhaps this is a bit of an unfair characterization, since Pitts is a seventh-round pick in ADP and No. 7 at his position, and London is 31st among the wide receivers, a solid ninth-round choice overall. Neither is exactly forgotten, but each should outperform these rather tepid expectations.
Pitts became only the second tight end to surpass 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, joining Mike Ditka many moons ago, and fantasy managers expected him to greatly increase his touchdown total in Year 2. Well, he doubled it -- from one score to two -- but his overall production suffered as the Falcons leaned heavily toward running the football, and then a knee injury ended his season prematurely. The No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft out of Florida, Pitts still boasts elite size and speed and he should thrive this season.
Similarly, London, the No. 8 pick in the 2022 draft from USC, suffered from Atlanta's preferred offensive style and the play of quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder last season. London's first season was disappointing, but his numbers improved working with Ridder in the final weeks, and he topped 100 receiving yards in the finale. London was heavily targeted in the final month. He will be heavily targeted in all the months this season. He is a future WR2 option in fantasy.
ESPN Fantasy projects much from Robinson, as he goes in the first round of most drafts. Ridder did not look like the next Joe Montana in his brief time as a starter, but fantasy managers should bet on talent. Pitts and London are drafted in all leagues, but at a curious discount after their 2022 seasons. Things will improve. Ridder is talented and nobody should look at his small-sample statistics after four games. Do not give up on these young Falcons yet.
Here are other players, ordered by ESPN ADP at each position, who seem to last longer in drafts than either their skills or prior statistics demand they should. Do not give up on them yet!
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers: Everyone seems to love Brock Purdy and perhaps the 49ers do as well, but Lance offers considerable upside with his legs. Fantasy managers should not dismiss him in deeper formats.
Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles: Injuries derail him on an annual basis, but few players can say they have averaged 5.7 yards per rush in their career. There will be ample space to run behind an elite offensive line if Penny can avoid injury.
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers: Nobody debates Christian McCaffrey's greatness, but one 17-game season does not make him durable. He has a history. Mitchell, hardly durable himself, is good and will be involved, too.
Darren Waller, New York Giants: A top-three TE option as recently as 2020 derailed by health issues, Waller gets a new start on the East Coast and should see a significant target share.
Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals: Another 100-reception season seems unlikely, but Ertz averaged 11.6 PPR points per game in 2022, sixth among tight ends. If he recovers from ACL surgery for September action, he will see targets.