Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster projection: Deion Jones’ future, QB battle, and more

Falcons Jones

The Falcons roster currently sits at 90 players but will quickly be trimmed to 53 by August 30th. While the front office and coaching staff rigorously evaluate the team’s personnel, I’m going to skip the hard part and go directly to predicting the final 53-man roster.

Quarterback (3)

Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Feleipe Franks

Mariota will probably enter training camp as the front runner to be the team’s starting signal caller, but the rookie third-rounder out of Cincinnati has quickly impressed the coaching staff and teammates with his uncanny ability to lead men and quickly pick up on the offense. Franks has been practicing as a tight end and quarterback, but the 6-foot-6, 228-pounder will more than likely be on the roster come the Fall.

Running back (5)

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, Keith SmithDamien Williams, Avery Williams

The team is reportedly excited about Allgeier because he projects as a three-down, workhorse runner. Patterson is obviously the leader of this group and will command a bulk of the touches out of the backfield, but the third running back is where things get interesting. I’ll go with Williams over Qadree Ollison because of his experience.

Wide receiver (6)

Drake London, Auden TateBryan EdwardsOlamide Zaccheaus, Jared Bernhardt, Damiere Byrd

As you can see, there are a few names missing. London, Edwards, and Zaccheaus are all roster locks, but behind them is a total crapshoot. The Falcons could choose to carry five, six, or even seven receivers. Tate and Byrd will be battling with Frank Darby and Geronimo Allison for those final roster spots, but I gave the final spot to Bernhardt for his value on special teams. Byrd might also not be kept because he is basically just a lesser version of Zaccheaus. However, even for a late-round pick, Darby hasn’t done enough to warrant a spot over Bernhardt.

Tight end (4)

Kyle PittsAnthony Firkser, John FitzPatrick, Parker Hesse

The tight end position is relatively straightforward. Pitts will be the offense’s best player for the rest of his career. Firkser was a free agent signing with experience in Arthur Smith’s offense and is set to be the team’s TE2. FitzPatrick was the Falcons’ sixth-round pick and will seemingly replace Lee Smith as the offense’s sixth linemen. Hesse will be the wild card, though. If the Falcons choose to roll with just three tight ends, he will be the one who is cut.

Offensive line (9)

Chris LindstromJake MatthewsKaleb McGaryJalen MayfieldMatt HennessyDrew DalmanGermain Ifedi, Justin Shaffer, Elijah Wilkinson

I feel this one is also pretty simple. The only linemen in danger of not making the roster are Ifedi and Wilkinson; however, given their versatility to play multiple positions, they’ll make the team. Ifedi could even unseat McGary at right tackle while Wilkinson will battle with Mayfield and Shaffer at left guard.

Defensive line (5)

Grady JarrettMarlon Davidson, Ta’Quon Graham, Anthony RushVincent Taylor 

Davidson and Graham are the X-factors for this unit. Jarrett will be a stud, and he just agreed to a lucrative, long-term extension. Rush is a mountain of a man who helped solidify the interior and stopped opposing offenses from running all over Atlanta’s defense. Taylor is a similar player, but Davidson and Graham must take the next step in their respective development to secure a full-time starting role. Graham still has time, but Davidson is running out of chances.

Outside linebacker (4)

Lorenzo Carter, Arnold Ebeketie, Ade Ogundeji, DeAngelo Malone

This is the only position group on the team that underwent a total overhaul. Only one EDGE defender from the 2021 roster will be on the team this year. Carter was signed through free agency, while Ebeketie and Malone were 2022 draft picks. Ogundeji is the only returning player. Carter and Ogundeji are who I believe will be the starters, but Ebeketie and Malone will take over for Ogundeji on obvious passing downs, given their prowess as pass rushers compared to Ogundeji.

Inside linebacker (4)

Rashaan EvansNick KwiatkoskiMykal Walker, Troy Andersen

Here’s the most significant projection — Deion Jones won’t be on the final 53-man roster. It feels like if he weren’t injured, he would’ve already been cut or traded, even if it doesn’t make much financial sense. Evans and Kwiatkoski are experienced enough to be the starters, but Walker could challenge the latter for a starting spot if he continues to develop. Andersen is an athletic marvel but isn’t quite ready to be an every-down linebacker at this point in his development.

Cornerback (5)

A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, Isaiah OliverTeez TaborDarren Hall

The free-agent addition of Hayward has made this group an area of strength on the roster. Oliver was re-signed and will take over the slot corner role, where he was playing the best ball of his career before a season-ending injury derailed his year. Tabor might be more of a safety than corner but should give Dean Pees the versatility to play some exciting packages. And Hall, who was a fourth-rounder in the 2021 draft, will once again be the first guy off the bench.

Safety (4)

Erik HarrisRichie GrantJaylinn HawkinsDean Marlowe

This safety unit is rather bleak. Many expect Grant and Hawkins to take over as the starters, but if the team were that confident, Erik Harris wouldn’t have been brought back. Regardless, the veteran was solid, and I believe it is likely he’s one of the starters on the back end, leaving the final starting spot between Grant and Hawkins. Ideally, you’d have the young tandem take over for Harris, but I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Marlowe is a reliable veteran who will be a valuable reserve player, especially on special teams.

Specialists (3)

Younghoe Koo (K), Bradley Pinion (P), Liam McCullough (LS)

The team recently signed Pinion, and I gave the veteran a leg up in the punter competition. He should be able to hold off undrafted free agent Seth Vernon. Koo is obviously a lock after signing a five-year, $24.25 million deal following the 2021 season. Beau Brinkley is the only competition for McCullough, but he’s still on the IR.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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