Atlanta Falcons 2024 NFL Draft Class: QB controversy, intriguing defenders, late-round gems

An in-depth look at the Atlanta Falcons 2024 NFL Draft Class.
Bralen Trice
Bralen Trice / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The Atlanta Falcons made the most head-scratching move on draft night.  After signing Kirk Cousins in free agency, the Falcons were projected to address other needs with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.  Selecting Micheal Penix Jr with that pick was a curious move for a team seemingly set at the QB position.

With an offense poised to do some things with former high round picks Kyle Pitts Jr and Bijan Robinson leading the way, the thought was the Falcons would address the defensive side with the top 10 pick.  Or, at the very least add another explosive weapon to the mix with Cousins under center.  What they did instead by selecting Penix is surprise fans and Cousins himself by deciding to secure a potential successor while they had the opportunity.  Could this be a smart move in hindsight given Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury? 

Atlanta Falcons 2024 NFL Draft Review: An in-depth look

Round 1, Pick 8: Michael Penix Jr, QB, Washington

Again, the Falcons made the surprise move on draft night by selecting Penix Jr with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft making him the fourth QB to come off the board in the first 10 picks. 

Prior to signing Cousins to a 4-year, $180M contract in free agency, Penix Jr would’ve made sense for the Falcons with the No. 8 overall pick given the team is believed to be a QB away.  In securing a veteran QB, the thought was the Falcons would use that pick to strengthen their team in another area need.  Instead, they added a talented quarterback who will push Cousins and at the very least gives the Falcons some security at the position given Cousins is coming off that Achilles injury.

While a head scratching move on draft night, this could be a smart move for the Falcons in hindsight.  The 24-year-old rookie QB can learn behind Cousins and if he proves to be ready in the next couple of seasons could give the Falcons trade arsenal if they decide to move on from Cousins. 

As far as this upcoming season, expect Penix Jr to wow Falcons fans throughout training camp and the preseason and push Cousins, but he’ll go into the season as the backup. But if things start to go south for the Falcons offense, Cousins will be looking over his shoulder despite the contract. 

Maybe that’s what the Falcons want.

Round 2, Pick 35:  Ruke Orhorhoro, DT, Clemson

Falcons fans, you’ll have some fun saying this name.  You’ll also have fun cheering for Clemson’s Ruke Orhorhoro, selected with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Projected as a third-round pick, the Falcons may have reached just a little here with the pick, but in Orhorhoro, the Falcons are adding an explosive defender who adds both strength and athleticism to the middle of the team’s defensive front behind starting nose tackle Onyemata David.

Standing at 6-foot-4, 294 pounds, Orhorhoro has quickness to his game and overall tools that should eventually turn him into a consistent pass rusher up the middle.  He’ll start the season as a backup, but don’t be surprised if Orhorhoro earns a few starts along the defensive line, potentially taking some snaps from veteran defensive tackle Jarrett Grady.

Round 3, Pick 74: Bralen Trice, OLB, Washington

The Falcons added Penix Jr’s former teammate Bralen Trice with the No. 74 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. 

A team captain and team Defensive Player of the Year during his last season with the Washington Huskies, Trice is a perfect fit for the Falcons defense.  As a player who brings leadership to the field, Trice’s size and motor as an edge defender will make him a fan favorite in Atlanta.  He doesn’t have top notch speed or athleticism, but he is a smart player who works hard and won’t give up on plays.

As an OLB who can get to the quarterback, Trice will compete with Lorenzo Carter for snaps as an edge defender.  He may just earn the starting role as a rookie given his maturity, hard work ethics and leadership ability.

Round 4, Pick 109: Brandon Dorlus, DT, Oregon

The Falcons stuck with defense in the fourth round with the selection of Brandon Dorlus with the No. 109 overall pick in the draft.  In what could turn out to be a mid-round gem for the Falcons, the former Oregon star led the team with 5 sacks in earning First-team All-Pac-12 Conference honors during his last season.

With length and nice size, Dorlus is physical along the defensive live with the versatility to play in either the 4-3 or 3-4 defensive front.  More of an edge defender, Dorlus will compete for snaps behind Zach Harrison as a defensive end, but could line up anywhere along the defensive front, especially if he adds some weight to his 6-foot-3, 283-pound frame.

Round 5, Pick 143: JD Bertrand, ILB, Notre Dame

Another potential gem in the mid-to-late round, the Falcons selected Notre Dame’s JD Bertrand with the No. 143 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.  A team captain with the Fighting Irish in 2023, Bertrand was a tackling machine with 76 tackles.

Projected as a Day 3 pick, Bertrand will compete for a backup role, but could serve as a special team’s player as a rookie and eventually find his way on the field as an inside linebacker.  Like Trice, his natural leadership ability will make Bertrand a value pick for the Falcons, especially as a fifth-round pick.

Round 6, Pick 186: Jase McClellan, RB, Alabama

With the No. 186 overall pick in the draft, the Falcons turned back to offense by selecting Alabama running back Jase McClellan.

In 12 starts with Alabama in 2023, McClellan led the team with 890 rushing yards and 8 TD. An instinctive runner with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, McClellan is a fit in the Falcons offense except for the fact the team is pretty set at that position with Robinson Jr. leading the way along with Tyler Allgeier and Avery Williams competing for snaps. 

That doesn’t rule McClellan out, but if he makes the team, he’ll be more of a practice quad running back who could find his way on the 53-man roster if someone goes down with an injury.

Round 6, Pick 187: Casey Washington, WR, Illinois

Sticking with offense, the Falcons selected wide receiver Casey Washington out of the University of Illinois.  At 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, Washington has nice size and does have speed running a 4.46 40-yard dash.

Although not a name many may recognize, Washington’s Pro Day put him on the radar for the Falcons as a big-bodied type receiver who could compete for a roster spot as a receiver.  The prediction is he’ll be a practice squad player like McClellan unless he absolutely shines in training camp and preseason games. 

Round 6, Pick 197: Zion Logue, DT, Georgia

The Falcons got themselves a player from the Georgia Bulldogs!

Projected as an undrafted free agent, the Falcons selected Zion Logue with the No. 197 overall pick in the draft.  With massive size at 6-foot-6, 314 pounds, Logue will bring some competition over the summer as a defensive tackle alongside fellow rookie Orhorhoro.  That may be all he brings as he still has a bit of learning to do at the position.  Again, the size is there, but there is nothing that stands out about Logue as far as his playing days at Georgia.  The Falcons reached here and maybe can find a way to tap into his talent where he’ll be a surprise newcomer in training camp.