Is Slot Receiver Really A Need For The Atlanta Falcons?

Streeter Lecka

Asking a big question.

On paper, this is kind of an obvious question. Of course the Falcons need a slot receiver, and a good one, to keep defenses honest and keep the offense humming like the juggernaut it ought to be.

Aside from the offensive line and possibly and Steven Jackson's age, this is the major concern most fans have about the offense, I would wager. Harry Douglas has never really put up an above average season at the position, the team has injury-prone (Kerry Meier) and unproven (Drew Davis, Kevin Cone, Marcus Jackson) options to replace him on the current roster and they probably won't be spending a high-round draft pick on one.

Given that the Falcons will likely be going the cost-effective or in-house route for slot receiver, it's worth asking how much emphasis they'll be placing on the slot in 2013. The answer is likely not a whole hell of a lot.

Look at this offense. Matt Ryan has his choice of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on an average play. He has Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers available out of the backfield. On the average play, in other words, Harry Douglas or whoever else is manning the slot is likely to be the fourth option at best, the fifth option at worst. On a team without a pass-catching tight end like Gonzo or a decent pass-catching back, the slot receiver might actually be the third option. That's rarely going to be the case in Atlanta.

You need someone who is perceived as a threat, someone who can run fast and make key catches when called upon. Whether you believe Douglas can be that guy likely depends on whether you put more emphasis on his good games or his poor ones, as he has plenty of both. But frankly, teams do need to account for him, because Douglas has a track record of making plays over the middle of the field. It's just enough to give an already dangerous offense more of an edge, and it's why I think Douglas will remain there another season.

Regardless of who ends up playing the position, the Falcons would be well-served to ensure they have cheap depth at receiver, featuring players who can line up wherever they're needed. The single most worrying thing, to me, is not who plays the slot but what happens if Roddy or Julio go down for any length of time.

Who do you think will play slot receiver in 2013, and how much does it matter?

Related Link

A Falcons draft workout breakdown

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