Early prediction for the Falcons 53-man roster

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The Falcons likely have at least one more free agency move up their sleeve before the start of the season. Looking at this roster, it probably needs to be a cornerback, as they only have five serviceable options currently — and that’s being generous. Still, it’s never too early to predict who will make the final 53-man roster. And even though it’s only June, I have a pretty good idea of how it should look. 

Quarterbacks (2)

  • Matt Ryan
  • Matt Schaub

Just like last season, the Falcons will only keep two quarterbacks on the roster. I love Kurt Benkert (friend of the podcast) and believe he can make it as a backup in this league one day. Unfortunately, he happens to be on a team with two really good veteran quarterbacks. All Schaub did in the one start he was forced to make last year was throw for 460 yards against a respectable Seattle Seahawks defense. He’s going to be tough to beat out for the backup quarterback job.

Running Backs (5)

  • Todd Gurley
  • Ito Smith
  • Brian Hill
  • Qadree Ollison
  • Keith Smith

Todd Gurley was finally able to pass his physical, so he’ll be the lead back in 2020. Ito Smith is back after an injury-riddled 2019. As long as he’s healthy, he’s a safe bet to make it as well. And the Falcons placed a fifth-round tender on Brian Hill this offseason, guaranteeing him over $2 million, which makes him all but a lock to be on the 53-man roster, and based on his play in 2019; he more than deserves it. That’s a pretty fantastic running back trio, which will be necessary with Todd Gurley’s lingering knee issues. Qadree Ollison will continue his role as a short-yardage and goal-line back. 

Wide Receivers (6)

  • Julio Jones
  • Calvin Ridley
  • Russell Gage
  • Laquon Treadwell
  • Olamide Zaccheaus
  • Christian Blake

The first three on this list are locks. I would like to think Treadwell is too, but there’s a reason he went from being a first-round pick to accepting a one-year deal worth less than a million. Still, I think he does enough to make the roster. Zaccheaus impressed in limited work and is also in the running as a return specialist. He should start the season on the 53-man. Christian Blake takes the final receiver spot. He’s impressed the last two offseasons and finally had some opportunities on the active roster in 2019.

Tight Ends (3)

  • Hayden Hurst
  • Jaeden Graham
  • Jared Pinkney

Hayden Hurst is the only lock of these threes, although Jaeden Graham should do enough to make it. He’s done a lot to impress the Falcons coaches over the last two seasons. The third tight end spot could go to a couple of different players, but I opted to side with the talented UDFA out of Vandy. Jared Pinkney will surprise some people that haven’t heard of him.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Jake Matthews
  • Chris Lindstrom
  • Alex Mack
  • Kaleb McGary
  • Matt Gono
  • James Carpenter
  • Matt Hennessy
  • Jamon Brown
  • Justin McCray

A lot of players on this list are guaranteed to make the 53-man. Jake Matthews, Chris Lindstrom, Alex Mack, and Kaleb McGary are penciled in as starters. There will be a battle between Matt Gono, James Carpenter, Matt Hennessy, Jamon Brown, and Justin McCray for the starting left guard job, but all of them should make the roster. Matt Gono can serve as the swing tackle. Justin McCray has experience at tackle as well as center, and the other three can fill across the interior if needed.

Defensive Line (10)

  • Allen Bailey
  • Takk McKinley
  • John Cominsky
  • Grady Jarrett
  • Marlon Davidson
  • Tyeler Davison
  • Dante Fowler Jr.
  • Deadrin Senat
  • Charles Harris
  • Steven Means

The first seven on this list should be locked in. The last three are not. The coaching staff hasn’t been impressed with Deadrin Senat in his first two seasons, judging by his playing time. However, with some improvement entering his third season, he should have the upper hand. Charles Harris has the inside track since the Falcons traded a seventh-round pick for him this offseason. However, a player like Steven Means will push him. And if the Falcons add another defensive lineman or cornerback before the season, they will have to fight even harder to earn a roster spot.

Linebackers (5)

  • Deion Jones
  • Foyesade Oluokun
  • Mykal Walker
  • LaRoy Reynolds
  • Deonne Bucannon

Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun will be the primary linebackers. Mykal Walker could play a role, but I expect him to be more of a special teams piece as a rookie. The newly signed Deonne Bucannon is a quality depth piece, and so is LaRoy Reynolds, who previously spent some time in Atlanta before signing a one-year deal this offseason.

Cornerbacks (5)

  • Isaiah Oliver
  • A.J. Terrell
  • Kendall Sheffield
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson
  • Jordan Miller

This is a group that needs another addition before the season begins because, outside of Wreh-Wilson, the other four have a combined four years of experience. And that’s being generous because oftentimes they weren’t on the field. With the way the Falcons current roster is constructed, all of these five will make it. We will see if they make any additions before the season.

Safeties (5)

  • Ricardo Allen
  • Keanu Neal
  • Damontae Kazee
  • Jaylinn Hawkins
  • Sharrod Neasman

There’s a lot of versatility in this group. Damontae Kazee has experience playing corner, but Dan Quinn has already said he will spend 2020 as a safety. We will see if that changes if an injury occurs. Jaylinn Hawkins was one of the Falcons two fourth-round selections this year, but I don’t imagine he will see many defensive snaps. However, he should be a critical piece to the Falcons special teams unit. Five safeties may seem like overkill, but Neasman has a lot of experience with Dan Quinn, and until the Falcons add another corner (which they should), I’ll give Neasman the edge.

Special Teams (3)

  • Younhoe Koo (K)
  • Sterling Hofrichter (P)
  • Josh Harris (LS)

The Falcons have talked about adding a kicker to compete with Younghoe Koo, which is wise, but he did enough last year to be the lead dog entering camp. There will be a battle for the job as the punter between veteran Ryan Allen and rookie Sterling Hofrichter. It’s probably a coin flip, but since the Falcons spent a seventh-round selection on Hofrichter, I’ll give him a slight edge.

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