The Falcons as currently constructed have plenty of strong positions on the depth chart. For pure top-flight talent, it's tough to beat receiver.
This a team with Roddy White and Julio Jones, two of the best wide receivers in the entire NFL. Harry Douglas is a capable slot receiver. There may be a lot of uncertainty after that, but hell, when you have those three you're in awfully good shape, particularly when you have Matt Ryan throwing them the ball. If the Falcons are going to achieve true offensive dominance in 2013, it will come on the backs of Jones and White in particular.
Without further ado, let's break the position down.
Starter: Roddy White
2012 stats: 92 catches, 1,351 yards, 14.7 yards per catch, 7 touchdowns
What needs to be said about Roddy White? He's one of the league's best wide receivers, no matter what that walking mouth Richard Sherman has to say about him.
White runs crisp routes, makes tough catches in traffic and fights for yardage. He can go up for the ball or slide past a defensive back on a short crossing route. He can do most everything you want from a wide receiver, and he's been doing it for so long we almost take it for granted. We should not.
At 31 White might very well be heading into the decline phase of his career, but the heights he has set up for himself mean the decline likely will be a slow one. He remains a dangerous weapon and a virtual lock for well over 100 targets in this passing game.
Starter: Julio Jones
2012 stats: 79 receptions, 1,198 yards, 15.2 yards per catch, 10 touchdowns
White is one hell of an athlete himself, but he pales in comparison to Jones. An absolute matchup nightmare at 6'3", 220, with massive leaping ability, crazy fast wheels and physicality, Jones can blow by defensive backs on deep balls and take a short pass and turn it into a 30 yard romp through the secondary.
The fact that he hasn't caught 100 balls for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns is a minor disappointment—I'm half-kidding—but this will be a crucial year for Jones. He's developing rapidly, is still just 24 years old and will be in an offense totally focused on passing the football. His upside is as high as any receiver not named A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson, and he forms an absolutely lethal tandem with White.
Don't sleep on Jones. Ever.
Slot Receiver: Harry Douglas
2012 stats: 38 receptions, 395 yards, 10.4 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
On most offenses, Douglas would be considered a fairly successful slot receiver. Given the expectations for this passing game, HD is viewed in some quarters as a bit of a disappointment.
Generally speaking, HD is reliable. He can make the tough catch in traffic. He has good hands. What he hasn't shown the ability to do consistently is stretch catches for extra yardage, consistently beat coverage and get open downfield. All those things ultimately do hurt him.
HD goes in as the likeliest slot receiver this season, and he's virtually a lock for 35-40 catches, 350-400 yards and a touchdown or two in that role. As the fourth option in the passing game, that's probably good enough, but the Falcons may ask Douglas to stretch his legs a little more in 2013.
Reserve: Drew Davis
2012 stats: 4 catches 40 yards, 10.0 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
Davis stepped in and briefly flashed his ability in an October 28th game, catching two balls for 30 yards and a touchdown. He didn't do much the rest of the way.
It's tough to know whether Davis couldn't get playing time because he has three quality options in front of him or if he's just not up to the task. He has decent size and good speed and showed tantalizing ability in that one game, but that's all we really have to go on. Davis may be able to carve out a small role on the offense this year, but I wouldn't be stunned if the Falcons tried to draft someone who could climb ahead of him.
Reserve: Kevin Cone
2012 stats: N/A
Cone is all upside and projection. He has even better size than Davis and a great blend of physical tools, and we've been excited about him for the past couple of seasons now. Thanks to injuries in chief, he hasn't been able to push for any playing time, and time may be running out for him to do so.
Ideally, Cone would come back strong and seize a role, because that athleticism is something to behold. But he has also flashed stone hands at times and may not be long for the roster if the Falcons add talent in the draft. He's the likeliest riser based on talent alone, however.
Practice squad: Marcus Jackson
I like Jackson. I think he's got talent, and nice size and speed. Unfortunately, that also describes two guys who actually had longer stints on the active roster over the last couple of seasons. I can't see him cracking the roster unless he's made considerable strides during his time on the practice squad.
Wildcard: Kerry Meier
Meier would be a great second option at the slot if he was healthy and effective. He's tall, has good hands and was known for running clean routes. Unfortunately, injuries have poleaxed him again and again, and he's now entering his fourth season in the NFL with very little production to show for it.
I'll root for him, but certainly there's a lot of competition in his way.
I wrestled with calling this a B+, because the depth is concerning. The duo of Jones and White and Douglas's general reliability won out in the end, though.
What do you think of the position?