Falcons news: Question of the Week: Which first-year player are you most looking forward to seeing as rookie minicamp begins?

At least 18 rookies will be introduced to the Falcons personnel in Flowery Branch this weekend.

Question of the Week: Which first-year player are you most looking forward to seeing as rookie minicamp begins?

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The not-so-long wait is almost over: Atlanta Falcons rookies arrive to the facility Thursday for their minicamp over the weekend.

As a quick refresher, there were eight players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft nearly two weeks ago. Their names are Michael Penix Jr. (Round 1, quarterback), Ruke Orhorhoro (Round 2, defensive tackle), Bralen Trice (Round 3, outside linebacker), Brandon Dorlus (Round 4, defensive tackle), JD Bertrand (Round 5, inside linebacker), Jase McClellan (Round 6, running back), Casey Washington (Round 6, wide receiver) and Zion Logue (Round 6, defensive tackle).

There were then another 10 undrafted free agents with whom the Falcons agreed to terms with shortly after the tentpole event concluded. That count broke up into six on offense, three on defensive and one on special teams.

Drafted and undrafted alike, all of the first-year players will be introduced to Atlanta personnel over the course of the next few days.

That prompts the latest Question of the Week: Which rookie are you most looking forward to seeing? The Falcons editorial staff of Tori McElhaney, Terrin Waack and Amna Subhan answer.

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McELHANEY: I go back and forth about who I want to see most. Originally, Ruke Orhorhoro came to mind (but spoiler alert, that’s who Terrin writes about in the next section). I could go the easy route and say Michael Penix Jr., but I don’t think I am going to.

There’s probably a lot of Penix fatigue at this point. You know he’ll be there. I know he’ll be there. I could drone on and on about him being there. But I don’t think I am going to since — of course — we’re all looking forward to seeing him as rookie minicamp begins. That’s a given. And that’s why I am not highlighting him in my section, because if I am being honest, we already know so much about Penix. We can kind of build a foundation in our minds of what we expect from him. We’ve seen what he did in college football for the last two seasons. He sat at the top of the FBS, literally (in stats) and figuratively (in the scope of media attention on Washington).

That’s why I always like picking someone I don’t know much about, someone I am curious about. And that person is wide receiver Casey Washington, the Falcons’ sixth-round pick out of Illinois.

Washington doesn’t come from a Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame or Washington. As a college football fan myself, I have watched many games of these programs over the last two seasons, particularly. These are all programs that find themselves in the top 25 of CFB rankings week-in and week-out. They are also programs that everyone else in the Falcons draft class hails from. Not Washington, though, and I say this in the nicest way I know how: I have not watched a moment of an Illinois football game. Nothing against Illinois at all. I really just think the last time I saw the Fighting Illini in action was when they gave Michigan a scare in 2022. The Wolverines were ranked top five in the country at the time and snuck away with just a 19-17 win. Even then, I only watched the final quarter of that game.

I say all of this to say: Of the draft class, I have watched Washington the least. Which means I am most excited to see what the Falcons saw in him.

He enters into a solidly restacked wide receiver position group: Drake London, Darnell Mooney, Ray-Ray McCloud, Rondale Moore and KhaDarel Hodge. There’s not a true need for Washington, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stand out. He can, and the Falcons have history on their side when it comes to hitting on some late-round picks in the fifth through seventh rounds. Take DeMarcco Hellams for example.

At this time last year, Hellams was entering into a safety position group that had just signed Jessie Bates III to a whopper of a deal. The Falcons still had Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins, and they added Micah Abernathy, too. Safety was set. Atlanta still used a seventh-round pick on Hellams, though, figuring he could help on special teams and be a sturdy reserve option. He was both of those, but as the 2023 season evolved, so, too, did Hellams’ role. And as 2023 came to a close, it wasn’t uncommon to see Hellams starting alongside Bates.

Does this mean anything for someone like Washington? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s always a possibility, and the first chance to make an impression is in rookie minicamp.

WAACK: Ruke Orhorhoro, the second-round defensive tackle from Clemson. His pure joy after his selection was beyond evident. The one thing he seemed most excited about is who he’ll be able to work with along the Falcons defensive line. That, to me, is also what makes Orhorhoro exciting.

First, there was a certain Falcons veteran name-dropped.

“Grady Jarrett, one of the Clemson all-time greats,” Orhorhoro said. “It’s just an honor to learn from a guy that’s been in the league for that long. I can’t wait. If I could do it today, I would do it right now.”

Jarrett was a fifth-round pick for the Falcons in 2015. He only ever missed three games prior to last season’s knee injury in Week 8. He should be back healthy for Year 10.

The college tie is cool. The tie with the Falcons’ other starter may be cooler. Because the second Falcons player praised by Orhorhoro was David Onyemata.

“My Nigerian brother,” said Orhorhoro of Onyemata, who is also a Nigeria native.

Onyemata was a fourth-round pick for the New Orleans Saints in 2016. He switched to the Falcons in 2023, though, and started 14 games. He only missed the three games due to an ankle injury.

So, Orhorhoro has built-in bonds with the two star tackles on the Falcons. If he can capitalize on their experience – pick their brains and develop like them – then he, too, should have a bright future in Atlanta. Hence, the excitement.

Also, I do want him to personally confirm I’ve been pronouncing his last name correctly.

SUBHAN: Bralen Trice made a resolute declaration after the Falcons drafted the outside linebacker in the third round.

“You won’t be regretting this pick at all, Atlanta,” Trice said in his introductory press conference.

I’m interested to see him live up to that assertion.

Instead of taking an edge rusher in the first round — as many predicted — the Falcons decided on Trice’s college mate, quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

Atlanta drafted a total of four pressure players, but Trice was the only designated outside rusher. The Falcons must’ve seen something in him.

Perhaps what they saw was Trice’s energizer-bunny type of effort. That’s certainly what you want out of any player, but especially on defense. Take it from the Washington Husky himself.

“As a pass rusher, if you have a motor like that,” Trice said, “no matter how many times someone tries to block you, there’s going to be one time where you get through and you get to the quarterback, you put him on the ground or you make it his worst day.”

That was exactly the case for many quarterbacks in Trice’s recent collegiate career. Trice registered seven sacks and 78 quarterback pressures (most in FBS) in his final season.

I’m excited to see how that translates in person on the Falcons’ practice field, especially against fellow Husky and now Falcons teammate Penix.

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