Full breakdown of every Falcons undrafted free agent

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As I predicted on Twitter, the Falcons have been heavily involved in the undrafted free agent market.

Lo and behold, the Falcons currently have 20 undrafted free agents that have inked deals. I like a lot of the guys they brought on immediately after the draft. Not everyone will make the team, but I think there are some players who will play meaningful snaps and some very solid options for the practice squad. Typically I like to watch the film and draw my own conclusions, but with finals coming up, I’ll be relying on some help and listing the sources for players I’m not familiar with.

 

Offensive Skill Positions:

 

QB Feleipe Franks, Arkansas

RB Javian Hawkins, Louisville

RB Caleb Huntley, Ball State

WR Austin Trammell, Rice

WR Antonio Nunn, Buffalo

TE John Raine, Northwestern

 

Feleipe Franks wasn’t a shocking addition; I expected the Falcons to take a swing at him or Jamie Newman after (wisely) not using any of their draft selections on a quarterback. He’s one of the few guys I got an extended look at because I thought he would be drafted at some point. Unless Franks is just awful at camp, he’s locked into the practice squad quarterback role with a chance to take over AJ McCarron’s job as QB2. He has a cannon of an arm and good size at 6’6 and 234 pounds, and his 4.55 40 was a lot faster than I expected as well.

Javian Hawkins is another player I have some experience watching, and there’s a lot to like about the home run hitter. On last week’s Talkin’ Birdy podcast, I made a joke about Chris Simms penciling in Javian Hawkins as his RB3. Well, now I hope I’m the one with the bad take. I was a little more bearish on Hawkins because it’s unlikely he ever becomes a feature back with his smaller frame, but he’s lightning-fast and could be used in a variety of ways as a complementary back. As an undrafted free agent, that’s excellent value for a guy I expect to play a lot this year.

Caleb Huntley was a bell-cow for Ball State over his career, carrying the ball 248 times and scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2019. Huntley ranked 13th in total rushing attempts (Hawkins actually ranked 9th). The Atlanta native stands 5’10 and weighs 220 pounds, and he ran a decent 4.76 40-yard dash. Huntley will likely be competing with Qadree Ollison for the goal-line back role, and he has a real shot at making the roster.

Austin Trammell was an All-Conference USA selection all four years of his career and a team captain for the past two seasons. He’ll serve as a slot receiver in the NFL if he ever breaks into that facet, but the Falcons picked him up for his blazing speed and ability to return kicks. He’s a bit undersized, and his routes need some work, but he should contribute on special teams.

Antonio Nunn has an uphill battle to make the roster after Frank Darby was drafted, adding to an already crowded wide-receiver room, but he was a solid pickup. Nunn had a good but not great Pro Day, running a 4.5 40 with a 33.5 inch vertical. Nunn is excellent at the point of attack, but his route running needs some work, and he has issues with drops. We will see if he can make the practice squad in an already tight position group.

John Raine is more of a blocker; scouts say he looked a lot better on film than his pro day numbers would indicate. I don’t think he has a great shot of beating out Lee Smith, but with Hayden Hurst’s fifth-year option declined, he has a better chance of serving as an H-Back if Hurst is traded.

 

Offensive Line:

 

IOL Ryan Neuzil, App State

IOL Joe Sculthorpe, North Carolina State

IOL Bryce Hargrove, Pittsburgh

OT Jack Batho IV, South Dakota School of Mines

OT Kion Smith, Fayetteville State

 

Ryan Neuzil fits the mold of the offensive linemen the Falcons spent their draft picks on — highly competitive, finisher, and a team leader. He isn’t the most outstanding athlete, but he could absolutely beat out Josh Andrews for a swing guard spot or find himself on the practice squad. I’m sure Dwayne Ledford gave this signing his stamp of approval, as the former App State coach likely had a hand in recruiting Neuzil, who arrived on campus in 2016.

Speaking of which, Joe Sculthorpe is a former player of Ledford’s. The Redshirt Senior played three years under Ledford, and he has center flexibility along with guard. The trend continues as scouts rave about Sculthorpe as a cut-throat competitor, and he could easily serve as a reserve guard in Atlanta one day.

Bryce Hargrove is fascinating. From all accounts that I have read, he’s a player that was expected to be drafted. I think out of the three; he has the best chance of making the 53-man roster. His teammate Jimmy Morrissey was a seventh-round pick. Hargrove was one of the better pass blockers in college football in 2020, and he’s incredibly strong with solid movement when pulling. Scouts say he never looks overmatched on tape, even against the best competition, and bulldozes linebackers with ease. His pro day was poor, but Hargrove looked much better on tape. With some technical refinement, he could really be a gem, and I trust Dwayne Ledford to get him there.

I hope Jack Batho IV from the South Dakota School of Mines makes the final roster because that is an all-time name and school combo. I like to imagine that Batho just came to practice, dusted the coal off of his hardhat, and ate everyone alive for three hours. He is a mountain of a man at 6’7 and 315 pounds, and I’m sure Dwayne Ledford is eager to mold him into a monster swing tackle. Batho is a biomedical engineering major and a two-time team captain, so I’m sure the Falcons value his personality, intelligence, and leadership, along with his massive frame. With not much at swing tackle, he could make the roster. Even if he doesn’t, I think he’ll be just fine.

Kion Smith is another lineman with a mean streak, but the left tackle will likely serve as a guard in the NFL. He’s a violent blocker, and I’m not surprised the Falcons double-dipped on small-school left tackles. He has played left and right guard, so his versatility likely appeals to Atlanta as well.

 

Front Seven:

 

IDL/EDGE Zac Dawe, BYU

IDL/EDGE Eli Howard, Texas Tech

EDGE Alani Pututau, Adams State

EDGE Kobe Jones, Mississippi State

LB Dorian Etheridge, Louisville

LB Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State

 

Zac Dawe is another “inside-out” player that Dean Pees could use in various ways, and he had a very productive career at BYU. In 2020 alone, he started every game and posted seven tackles for loss, two pass breakups, and two sacks. Dawe was one of the top recruits coming out of high school in Utah but had a bit of a strange path to the Falcons after the coaching staff attempted to move him to the offensive line, and he left the school completely to work as a security guard. Dawe isn’t the best athlete and has struggled with injuries, but his strength could allow him to serve as depth on the edge or interior. He’s already 25, so he may be maxed out physically, but he certainly fills in a very thin positional group.

Another older prospect, Eli Howard was a walk-on that played six years of college football. He has had some injury problems, but he is a fantastic teammate and a great guy, by all accounts. Howard led the Big 12 in pressures in 2019 along with being a First-Team All-Academic Member. He had 20 career sacks over four seasons at Texas Tech, so there’s some production there as well. Howard is a high-character and smart individual, and while he’s a limited athlete, his strength and technique got him a lot of wins at the line of scrimmage. He’s a dark horse to make the roster, but I think he could easily be a practice squad addition.

Alani Pututau is your classic small-school standout, and he terrorized opposing competition in 2019. 24.5 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks is pretty impressive, no matter the competition. He’s an outstanding athlete with a relentless motor, and he’d likely serve as a stand-up 3-4 edge rusher in Pees’ hybrid scheme. Like most small college edge rushers, Pututau will have to develop a plan of attack instead of just bullying guys who aren’t on his level. He’s very explosive, and while he hasn’t seen anything close to an NFL offensive linemen yet, don’t be shocked if he makes the roster.

I like Kobe Jones a lot — while he mostly served as a rotational edge rusher, he projects well as a stand-up 3-4 pass rusher. He had two sacks against Tulsa in his final college game, but his body needs some refinement along with his technique before he sees an NFL field. He’s another guy who is praised for his academics, and I think the Falcons could mold him into a solid contributor if he makes the practice squad.

Even though he isn’t an offensive lineman, Dorian Etheridge is another player with a connection to Dwayne Ledford from his time at Louisville. Etheridge was a four year starter and team captain for the Cardinals, so his character obviously appeals to Atlanta. He’ll likely be a big staple on special teams, his athletic traits would likely limit him in coverage.

I think Erroll Thompson has a great shot of making the roster as a pure MIKE to help defend against the run. The former high school standout running back does a great job of filling run lanes, and he seems always to know his assignment. Once expected to commit to Alabama, Thompson decided to go over to Starkville and was very productive for the Bulldogs, posting 312 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, ten sacks, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Thompson is pretty one-dimensional, I don’t think he’s going to offer much in coverage, but I believed the Falcons needed to add a “thumper” at some point in this offseason. Thompson should fill that role quite nicely as a physical player and sure tackler.

 

Secondary:

 

CB/S JR Pace, Northwestern

CB/S Marcus Murphy, Mississippi State

S Dwayne Johnson Jr, San Diego State

 

While everyone who reads my articles knows that JR Pace‘s teammate Greg Newsome II was one of my favorite players in the draft, Pace is a pretty solid pickup as an undrafted free agent. Pace, like Richie Grant, is a versatile piece that moved all over Northwestern’s stingy defense. The Atlanta native tested pretty poorly, but he has great size and ball skills, hauling in eight career interceptions. Pace has a good shot of sticking with the lack of depth on the roster at safety.

Marcus Murphy is an athletic specimen with good coverage technique, but he was an undrafted free agent for a reason. He didn’t look like a willing tackler at Mississippi State, and he got dinged for his effort by scouts. Once thought of as a guy who could be drafted on day two, Murphy now has to prove that he’s committed to football before sticking on any roster. With proper coaching, this can be fixed. He’s one of the more talented players on this list, so he was worth a signing.

Dwayne Johnson Jr was a special teams warrior for San Diego State for a few seasons before starting in 2019, when he was named an All-Mountain West honorable mention. He didn’t test very well at his pro day, but he’s a massive and physical safety that will clean up against the run. He could also serve as a sub-linebacker in nickel or dime packages if he makes the roster. If he makes the team, he will likely serve as an understudy that starts on special teams and moves into a box safety role.

 

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