The Falcons have the deepest roster of the new regime’s tenure. Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot took over a dumpster fire void of talent but came into this offseason with more cap space than ever before thanks to biting the bullet on a record amount of dead money. The pair loaded up defensively while making supplemental moves on the other side of the ball.
Top to bottom, it’s the most competitive group they’ve had in training camp since taking over a couple of years ago. It will be an interesting couple of weeks before teams are required to get down to the final 53-man roster because the Falcons only have about 5-10 spots up for grabs. Not only are players competing with each other at Flowery Branch, but they’re also competing with other players on the roster bubble around the league.
Interestingly, there are several draft picks from the Falcons’ new regime’s classes that are on the roster bubble and in danger of being cut.
OL Jalen Mayfield, 2021 3rd round pick
Mayfield is well regarded as one of the worst rookies in league history, but there was a reason for that. The Falcons weren’t expecting him to start right away; however, injuries forced him into the lineup. Moreover, it was at left guard after playing right tackle at Michigan. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The experiment went up in flames.
Last year, a back injury kept him out all year, and to begin training camp, the third-round pick has moved back to right tackle. Now, he may never be a starter in this league, but the coaching staff has spoken highly of Mayfield since moving back to tackle. Still, you’d lying if you said his roster spot wasn’t in jeopardy. Because Atlanta’s offensive line depth isn’t great, he should be able to squeak out a roster spot.
CB Darren Hall, 2021 4th round pick
Hall played sparingly during his rookie season but was thrust into a prominent role in the wake of Casey Hayward‘s injury last year. He performed admirably considering the circumstances, starting nine games in 2022. However, he certainly didn’t do enough to guarantee a spot this year. What makes him a roster bubble guy is the cornerback room features a number of quality players — Dee Alford, Clark Phillips, Mike Hughes, Tre Flowers, and Cornell Armstrong.
EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundej, 2021 5th round pick
Though he’s started 27 games over the last two seasons, the Falcons have completely overhauled the defensive front, adding a number of players to Ogundeji’s position group — Bud Dupree, Calais Campbell, and Zach Harrison to go along with Lorenzo Carter, Arnold Ebiketie, and DeAngelo Malone. His production doesn’t jump out. He started 11 games last season and only recorded 33 tackles, five for a loss, one sack and two quarterback hits.
WR Frank Darby, 2021 6th round pick
Darby has stuck around for a couple of years and is having the best training camp of his professional career, but he has just two catches, 74 offensive snaps, and 154 on special teams since entering the league. Still, he has experience with the club and special teams value but will have to beat out the likes of Penny Hart and Slade Bolden. Remember, he was cut last year and wound up on the practice squad late in the year. His biggest asset is his infectious attitude; expect this position battle to go down to the wire.
OL Justin Shaffer, 2022 6th round pick
This is a prime practice squad candidate with all of the competition along the Falcons’ interior offensive line. Matt Hennessy, Ryan Neuzil, and Kyle Hinton are all competing for those final reserve spots.
TE John FitzPatrick, 2022 6th round pick
Shaffer’s Georgia teammate, FitzPatrick, has an uphill battle to a roster spot. The Falcons could keep five tight ends, and that’s his best bet at sneaking on the roster. If not, he’ll have to beat out one of MyCole Pruitt and Parker Hesse, which doesn’t seem likely. He’s a hell of a blocker, so the practice squad would be an excellent place for him to land.
S DeMarcco Hellam, 2023 7th round pick
Hellam will be competing with Micah Abernathy behind Jaylinn Hawkins, Richie Grant, and Jessie Bates. The Alabama product has the leg up on the veteran Abernathy, but your guess is as good as mine to which one the Falcons roll with.
Photographer: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire