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Falcons Rookie Named Atlanta's X-Factor

The Falcons are looking for early returns from their first-round pick.

The Atlanta Falcons have experienced considerable roster turnover at the receiver position, with the departures of Julio Jones and Russell Gage and suspension of Calvin Ridley leaving few familiar faces.

Entering the offseason, the Falcons needed to add talent to the receiver position. After signing Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd, and KhaDarel Hodge, drafting Drake London and trading for Bryan Edwards, general manager Terry Fontenot has created a competitive receiver room that gives the offense a chance to put up points.

According to ESPN, London will be the Falcons' X-factor. The USC star is expected to slide into a starting position Week 1, and with his 6-4, 219-pound frame, has a chance to become an explosive playmaker early in his NFL career.

There's a reason that the Falcons were repeatedly linked to wide receivers leading up to the 2022 draft. They were in desperate need of playmakers to complement Kyle Pitts after losing Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage over the past few seasons. Drake London was billed as a contested-catch receiver, but that's not all he can do. He was the only wide receiver in the 2022 draft class with top-five marks in contested catches (19) and missed tackles forced after the catch (22) last season -- and he did it in just eight games. - ESPN's Ben Linsey

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London is likely to play the role of "X" receiver in Atlanta's offense, but head coach Arthur Smith often moves his weapons around in order to maximize matchups. London can play inside and outside, a trait that attracted Smith to him in the pre-draft process.

"You see the stuff on the outside in the 2021 season," Smith said on draft night. "Go back to 2020 season and watch him inside and he's hard to bring down as a catch-and-run guy who's also super competitive."

London and tight end Kyle Pitts are poised to form an interchangeable duo, giving Smith plenty of options to put his young weapons in favorable positions. The 20-year-old London has already dubbed himself and Pitts as "twin towers."

London will be featured early and often in Atlanta, as his catch radius and ball skills enable him to beat defenders without much separation needed, and his physicality after the catch will create additional yardage.

For a Falcons team not expected to compete by many, London's impact as the "X factor" may not be reflected in the win-loss column. However, if he's able to emerge as a clear No. 1 receiver, it elevates the offense to a new level.