Atlanta Falcons’ rookie receiver Drake London left the team’s first preseason game with a knee injury on Friday, but initial reports following the game were that the former USC wideout avoided anything serious. Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith confirmed those reports on Sunday. While he didn’t give a timetable on when he expected London to return to the field, he did let everyone know that the team is not concerned about a long-term absence for their first-round draft pick.
“It’s nothing that we’re really concerned about long term,” Smith said via the Associated Press. “We’ll be smart. He’s had a really good training camp. We hope to get everyone back by the time the regular season rolls around…..”We’ll see and we’ll assess it week to week. He’s had a really good camp. He’s got his feet wet, and I’m pleased with him.”
London was injured in Friday’s game after he was tackled by Lions’ safety DeShon Elliott out of bounds on the right sideline after beating Amani Oruwariye for a 24-yard catch. Luckily for Falcons fans, he avoided a serious injury, and they got good news on Sunday.
Last season, London suffered a fractured right ankle injury against the Arizona Wildcats on Oct. 30, 2021. The injury ended his season prematurely, but it didn’t affect his draft stock much at all. He was selected by Atlanta with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Drake London’s contract with the Atlanta Falcons
London signed a $21.53 million contract with the Falcons, which came with a $5.4 million signing bonus. His yearly salaries will be $705,000, $870,000, $985,000 and $1.1 million in 2023, 2024 and 2025 respectively. On the third day of training camp, his roster bonuses will go into effect totaling $813,840, $1.677 million, $2.541 million, according to Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson.
Thanks to the deal, London became the highest-paid rookie wide receiver that has singed his deal, trumping New York Jets wideout Garrett Wilson, who was selected No. 10 overall and signed a $20.5 million rookie deal himself.
Before London suffered his season-ending ankle injury, he saw production in eight action-packed performances for the Trojans. In total, he snagged 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. The 88 receptions tied Michael Crabtree for the most by a Power 5 receiver in his team’s first eight games season, solidifying himself as one of the top receivers in this year’s draft class.
He would go on to finish his collegiate career an impressive 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns on 160 receptions in just 27 career games.
Now that longtime franchise quarterback Matt Ryan is with the Indianapolis Colts, it seems Marcus Mariota will take over the starting job, for at least the beginning of the season. He’ll have the duo of London and tight end Kyle Pitts at his disposal early and often.
The two are a very intriguing pair of big receivers and the Falcons should be able to find plenty of ways to get them both involved in the offense. Pitts led the team in receptions and receiving yards last season, with 68 catches for 1,026 yards and looks to keep that same production going in 2022.
Despite his newly minted rookie status, he’ll be called upon from the first game of his rookie year thanks to the year-long suspension of Falcons’ top pass catcher in Calvin Ridley.
“Would I consider myself a leader? Yes. But at the same time, I am a rookie,” said London during his introductory press conference. “I have to go through all the ropes. Probably going to be carrying shoulder pads and helmets all the time, and you know rookie dinner and things like that. But I would definitely say in the future, I would like to be a leader.”
On3’s Barkley Truax also contributed to the article.