The Falcons added nine rookies through the draft and then signed another 20 undrafted free agents, putting their roster at 86. Before training camp, they will have to add four more bodies, and it’s possible Terry Fontenot is even able to open up a little cap space and add another impactful veteran at a position of need. But for now, I’m basing this on what the Falcons currently have, beginning with the group of quarterbacks.
Quarterback – 2
Even though I am intrigued by the potential of Feliepe Franks, I would be shocked if he made the active roster this season. There’s no reason for the Falcons to carry more than two quarterbacks, and McCarron was brought in to be the backup; he’s been a more than capable backup quarterback for his entire career. Franks is a solid developmental option for the practice squad, but he won’t be a part of the 53-man roster.
Running Back – 4
Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javian Hawkins, Qadree Ollison
Given that Arthur Smith has stated the Falcons will use a running back by committee approach on multiple occasions, I expect them to carry four running backs on the roster. Mike Davis will see the bulk of the carries; Cordarrelle Patterson will be a gadget option that will also be a key contributor on special teams; Javian Hawkins is an undrafted free agent that could be a perfect change of pace back, and Qadree Ollison can serve as a goal-line option. Unless someone else is brought in before the start of the season, which I think is unlikely, these should be the four running backs on the final 53-man roster.
Fullback – 1
Fullbacks are a dying breed in the NFL, but Arthur Smith still utilizes one, so Keith Smith will make the roster. Smith is also a key contributor on special teams.
Wide Receiver – 5
Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby
I only have the Falcons keeping five wide receivers. Cordarrelle Patterson can also play some wide receiver, and I’m sure he will throughout the season. The first three on this list are set in stone unless, of course, the Falcons actually do decide to trade Julio Jones. I still don’t see it happening, but it’s a possibility. I gave the last two spots to Olamide Zaccheaus, who has had some success in recent seasons, and Frank Darby — the Falcons’ sixth-round selection in this year’s draft.
Tight End – 4
Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Lee Smith, Jaeden Graham
Pitts, Hurst, and Lee Smith are locks to make the roster, and I also included Jaeden Graham. Smith loves two and three tight end sets, so keeping four tight ends on the roster makes sense, especially since Graham is a terrific athlete that has shown some promise in short spurts early in his career.
Offensive Line – 9
Jake Matthews, Jalen Mayfield, Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, Josh Andrews, Bryce Hargrove
Chris Lindstrom, Jake Matthews, and Kaleb McGary are the only sure-fire starters, while Mayfield, Hennessy, Dalman, Gono, and Andrews will battle for the final two spots on the line. There’s a good chance the Falcons carry nine offensive linemen, which could be an opportunity for an undrafted free agent, but I think the Falcons will look to add a veteran in free agency before the start of the season if they can open up some cap space. For now, I’ll include Bryce Hargrove, someone that we talked about at length on The Talkin’ Birdy Podcast.
Interior Defensive Line – 6
Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, Tyeler Davison, Ta’Quon Graham, John Cominsky, Jonathan Bullard
I expect Marlon Davidson to turn some heads this season alongside Grady Jarrett. I also really liked the selection of Ta’Quon Graham in the fifth round of this year’s draft. He should provide some production in a rotational role as a rookie. Cominsky will play some on the inside and outside of the defensive line, and Jonathan Bullard rounds out a pretty deep group of talented players.
EDGE – 5
Dante Fowler Jr., Barkevious Mingo, Steven Means, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Adetokunbo Ogundeji
This remains the weakest unit on the Falcons roster, and they didn’t do much to add to it through the draft or free agency. If Dante Fowler cannot bounce back, Atlanta will likely once again have an abysmal pass rush. Mingo adds some versatility off the edge but has never been one to rack up the sacks. Both Means and Tuioti-Mariner have flashed, but again, neither should be expected to turn into a pass-rushing specialist. Ogundeji was the Falcons’ only addition through the draft — a fifth-round selection out of Notre Dame.
Linebacker – 4
Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun, Mykal Walker, Brandon Copeland
The Falcons defense is littered with holes, but off-ball linebacker isn’t one of them. Jones, Oluokun, and Walker can rival most linebacking cores in the league, and the addition of Brandon Copeland gives the group some decent depth.
Cornerback – 6
A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, Fabian Moreau, Kendall Sheffield, Darren Hall, Avery Williams
A.J. Terrell will be the team’s #1 corner, and as of now, it looks like Moreau will be starting opposite of him. The new regime has no attachment to former draft picks Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield. However, I still like both of their chances to make the roster unless Terry Fontenot can add another veteran body before the season. Darren Hall was a fourth-round pick this year and has a chance to make an impact as a rookie. Avery Williams was selected in the fifth round and will undoubtedly be a special teams contributor in year one.
Safety – 4
Richie Grant, Erik Harris, Duron Harmon, Jaylinn Hawkins
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Richie Grant will be starting Week 1, but expect both Erik Harris and Duron Harmon to see the field early and often. I liked what I saw out of Hawkins in limited snaps last season, but he’s definitely entering camp as the fourth safety.
Special Teams – 3
Younghoe Koo, Sterling Hofrichter, Josh Harris
Nothing surprising here. Koo proved to be one of the most reliable kickers in the league a year ago. Hofrichter wasn’t spectacular as a rookie, but he showed enough to be considered the starting punter going into camp, and Harris will once again be the team’s long-snapper.
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