With the recent report that Peter King thinks there is better than a 50/50 chance Julio Jones is traded, sixth-round pick Frank Darby could be the one directly benefiting from a Julio-less Falcons team. The 187th overall pick was Atlanta’s final selection in the 2021 NFL draft, but sixth-round receivers have found success in recent seasons. The most comparable situation is Scotty Miller and Tampa Bay. Miller came out and made some game-altering plays throughout the 2020 season, including a touchdown catch in the winding seconds of the first half of the NFCCG over Kevin King.
Darby could potentially have a similar impact, but if Julio is traded, his role could expand. The former Arizona State Sun Devil is a play-making receiver that brings energy both on and off the field. He recently lost his mother in February but said he’s always been this effervescent — now it’s only intensified. “She done left another battery in me now,” he told FOX 5 Sports. “So my energy battery plus (hers)? Oh man, call me Duracell!”
Watching his Senior Bowl practices and games was enough for me to know the type of player Darby can be. But if you were looking at his statistics, you’d be hard-pressed to find something to upset you. He averaged 19.7 yards per reception in college over his career — 20.0 and 19.9 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He’s six feet tall, and 200-pounds with a mentality of “every ball is mine.”
Even though he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at his pro day, Darby’s build-up speed is apparent in his ability to beat one-on-one coverage deep. His hand usage is advanced for such a small amount of experience — only 28 games with just 67 total receptions — and his tough demeanor going after the ball translates to his after-the-catch ability, a bullying runner with the ball in his hands.
Darby’s route running needs work, but Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are two of the best in the business. His refinement of that specifically will determine his place on the 53-man roster. If the All-Pro receiver is traded, that will open up a wide receiver spot that Darby could fill. He is a big play waiting to happen a firecracker of a player that hypes up a locker room. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith will be hard-pressed to cut Darby due to this contagious team-first attitude.
Photographer: Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire