The Falcons’ initial 53-man roster has been released, and there will be thoughts on the group throughout the next couple of weeks until the opener against the Eagles. I wanted to begin with the undrafted free agents because they’re the most inspiring stories. For most prospects, getting drafted by an NFL team is a dream come true, but some go undrafted for various reasons — size, level of competition, technique, off-the-field concerns, etc.
Those undrafted free agents are usually signed to deals to fill out the team’s 90-man roster, which is eventually trimmed to 53 men for the regular season. Most try out and are quickly cut, but some have gone on to find success in the NFL, and a few have had Hall of Fame careers.
Warren Moon, Marion Motley, Kurt Warner, Dick Lane, Willie Brown, and John Randle are all enshrined in Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame but originally went undrafted. There are also players who haven’t made it to the Hall of Fame but had extremely productive careers — Rod Smith, Priest Holmes, Tony Romo, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, and Brian Waters are just a few.
This year, the Falcons have a pair of UDFAs that made the initial 53-man roster — Feleipe Franks and Dorian Etheridge. Franks is one of three quarterbacks left on the roster, but I believe he is a placeholder for a veteran who will soon hit the market. He showed potential with his impressive athleticism, but he showed no control of the offense and flawed decision-making. I would expect the team to carry two quarterbacks into the season, but remember, this is the initial 53-man roster.
The other UDFA is linebacker Dorian Etheridge, who played at Louisville, where he was a four-year starter and captain. Coaches praised his intelligence coming out of college, but he’s more than that. He’s a reliable tackler in the open field and a solid box defender. Etheridge possesses the exact character that Terry Fontenot vowed to bring in, and the former Cardinal always seemed like a solid bet to make the roster because of the positional depth and third-phase value.