Atlanta Falcons pick USC wideout Drake London with No. 8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft
It was never in any doubt, but USC’s streak of NFL Drafts with at least one player selected in the first three rounds officially reached 21 years Thursday night. It was already the longest active streak in football.
Drake London keeps it going.
With the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected London, making him the highest-drafted receiver to come out of USC since Mike Williams was taken 10th overall in the 2005 Draft.
We have selected WR Drake London with the 8th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) April 29, 2022
When healthy, the 6-foot-4 London played like one of the best receivers in the country. Even though he only played in eight games, he was selected to the FWAA All-American team as a second-teamer and to the AP All-American team as a third-teamer. He was a first-team All-American selection by PFF after recording the highest receiving grade by a Pac-12 player in the outlet’s history (they began grading college players in 2014).
A fractured ankle suffered against Arizona on Oct. 30 forced London to miss the final third of USC’s season, and yet he still finished as the Pac-12’s leader in receptions, yardage, 20-plus-yard receptions, and contested catches (per PFF). At the rate London was going before his injury, he would have ended a full season ranked second nationally in receptions and third in yardage.
London also led the country in contested catches, per PFF, registering 19 in eight games. He was on pace for 28; no one else in the country had more than 16.
“Everybody knew where the ball was going,” London said at his individual Pro Day earlier this month. “I had triple coverage, double coverage all game, and it still didn’t stop me. So whatever they say about (his ability to separate), I could care less.”
A former dual-sport athlete, London looked to play both football and basketball for the Trojans before deciding to make football his full-time job ahead of his junior season.
“My body feels better, stronger, faster,” London said. “I think I just matured in the game. This is like my second year really playing wide receiver, really playing football, so I feel better by the day.”
London didn’t run a 40-yard dash at either the Combine (his ankle was, in his own words, 85% in early March) or his Pro Day. Teams likely wanted to see his speed tested, but London has urged that his tape shows he doesn’t need track speed to win.
“Watch the film,” he told reporters. “At the end of the day, I really don’t have to blow by guys to catch the ball. I mean, I can, but I don’t have to.”
The California native measured in during the Combine at 6-foot-4 with 33-inch arms. Few wideouts at the Combine matched London’s combination of size and length. His basketball background gives him a nice set of tools to work with when he’s going up for a ball.
London has said he modeled pieces of his game after former Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson.
Current Lions wideout and former USC teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown was glowing in his assessment of the growth London has made as a wideout.
“He’s a beast,” St. Brown told MLive’s Kyle Meinke. “The tape speaks for itself—6-4, 6-5, go up and make the big play. When I was there, I remember him being a freshman. He’s progressed each and every year, which is nice to see because when he first got there he was just a raw talent. Then sophomore year he got better. Junior year, you guys saw what he did this year. It’s unfortunate he got hurt, but I don’t think it’s going to affect him one bit.”
The Falcons are hoping not.
London will look to be an immediate contributor for a team that went 7-10 last season and is in desperate need of wideout help. He should be able to play right away, if healthy.
Drae Harris of The Draft Network describes a more-than-capable receiver:
“He is an excellent athlete with regards to jumping ability, body control, and agility for a big receiver. In the run game, he has the potential to be a dominant run blocker due to his toughness, length, and competitive spirit. He is surprisingly very good as a runner after the catch. In the passing game, he is excellent. He has outstanding body control and agility as a route-runner and uses his bigger frame to “big boy” smaller defenders. He is excellent in contested-catch situations and uses his strong hands to secure the football in traffic.”
London ended his USC career with 160 receptions for 2,153 yards (13.5 yards a catch) and 15 scores in 22 appearances.