Falcons: Ranking the 10 biggest surprises following the release of Atlanta’s first depth chart

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Let me preface this by saying that most people have different definitions of what a “surprise” is. Arthur Smith has shown to be a no-nonsense football coach, and he takes a bit of an old school approach to conducting his practices and press conferences. It appears that he is taking the same approach to his first preseason depth chart, which by all means doesn’t really mean much. We’ve seen guys who have missed time with injury take a backseat, and we have seen rookies plummet below where we originally expected. Not to worry; I’m sure there are some motivation tactics involved, and this is likely far from the finished product we will see for Week 1 against the Eagles.



10. Mykal Walker listed as LB2

This one isn’t much of a surprise; there are only two spots, and they were pretty much locked up for Foyesade Oluokun and Deion Jones at the MIKE and WILL, respectively. Walker is fantastic in coverage, but he can do a lot for this Falcons defense. With a need on the EDGE, I could have seen him moving into that role as a starter. Not shocked by this, but make no mistake — Walker is talented enough to be a starter.


9. Richie Grant as a third-string Safety

I think as a rookie — Grant is the first safety off the bench on this roster behind Erik Harris and Duron Harmon. Both guys are dependable vets, but Grant will still get plenty of playing time. While Harmon is more of the “Swiss Army Knife” that Dean Pees prefers, Erik Harris is more of a pure box safety that I could see Grant subbing in for on obvious passing downs. However, Grant is still behind Jaylinn Hawkins and T.J. Green, who I think will both make the roster. Even though Grant is a second-round pick and extremely talented, he’s a guy who will have to earn his minutes.


8. Frank Darby as a WR5

You’re going to notice a trend as we go along; this coaching staff is looking to light a fire under these rookies, but with their personality types, I expect them to respond positively. Atlanta targeted high-character guys for a reason, and I think Frank Darby may have the biggest personality out of all of them. He’s currently behind guys like Tajae Sharpe, Chris Rowland, Juwan Green, and Trevor Davis. No disrespect to those guys; they have earned their stripes in practice, but it’s clear this staff wants to see some fight out of Darby as a sixth-round draft pick.


7. Dante Fowler Jr. as the EDGE3

Fowler missed some time on the COVID List, but he’s going to have to take a big step forward if this Falcons team is going to have a competent pass rush in 2021. His production last year won’t cut it this time around, and you know that this coaching staff is looking to ignite that fire to get him back to the 10+ sack per season player he was with the Rams.


6. Jalen Mayfield not listed at Left Guard

When Jalen Mayfield was drafted, most of us assumed he was destined to move over to left guard. At least for now, that’s not the case, as he’s listed at RT3. I don’t think Mayfield profiles very well at right tackle, but I’m also not an NFL coach, and I don’t see what these guys see at practice. Perhaps he’s a placeholder for now, but the Falcons need help at guard, and I’d like to see him get some reps there.


5. The order of the Running Backs

The running back room is a big question going into 2021, but one thing is for sure — Mike Davis was signed to be the lead dog. Unsurprisingly, he’s followed by Cordarrelle Patterson. Things get tricky after that. Keith Smith is listed as RB3, which may just be a formality since he’s a fullback. After that, Qadree Ollison is RB4, D’Onta Foreman is RB5, Caleb Huntley is RB6, and Javian Hawkins is RB7. D’Onta Foreman ahead of Huntley and Hawkins after he just arrived in Atlanta is a bit surprising, but I’ll say it a few more times; this could be motivation for the undrafted rookies.


4. John Cominsky as a reserve defensive lineman

I may have Cominsky a little higher than most, mainly because he isn’t a rookie. He has good, established players like Grady Jarrett and Tyeler Davison in front of him, but Cominsky was dominating at practice by all accounts. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as a Week 1 starter. You could make the argument that Marlon Davidson should be ahead of Jonathan Bullard and Ta’Quon Graham should be ahead of Chris Slayton, but I think the same tactics are in play.


3. Adetokunbo Ogundeji listed as an OLB4

When you have a standout at practice like Ogundeji running with the first-team for most of camp, you expect him to be fairly high on the depth chart. That’s not the case, as Ade currently sits behind Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Brandon Copeland, and Shareef Miller on one side of the ball. On the other side, Steven Means, Dante Fowler Jr., and Tuzar Skipper remain ahead of Ogundeji. Once again, I really think this is just a motivation tactic. The Falcons will play the three or four best edge rushers the most, and as of now, I think Ogundeji falls into that group. I think he’s this low because the coaching staff really sees something in him, and they aren’t going to stop his development by letting him get satisfied.


2. Willie Beavers listed as RT1

I genuinely thought Kaleb McGary was a lock to start at right tackle, especially considering there weren’t many options behind him. However, the staff seems to like the journeyman Beavers, and he’ll get a chance to prove that he should stay in this spot against the Titans. With McGary missing time due to injury and suffering from some inconsistency over his pro career, expect Arthur Smith to make him earn his job back.


1. Kyle Pitts is TE3

This is the only choice for the top spot. You don’t draft a tight end fourth overall to have him serve as your third guy. Not to worry; by all accounts, Kyle Pitts is a very high character and motivated athlete, and Arthur Smith is using that to his advantage leading up to his highly anticipated rookie campaign.



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