In what definitely ranks as the coolest news of the week, the Falcons have signed NFL Europa wide receiver Noriaki Kinoshita. It's rare to see a Japanese player in the NFL, and when he's a wide receiver it particularly catches your attention. Not only that, but Kinoshita's favorite team is the Falcons. Between Justin Vincent, Tony Taylor and Kinoshita, I have a lot of new undrafted guys to root for.
Of course, it would be nothing more than novelty if he didn't have some clearly defined skills. At 5'10 and 179 pounds, he certainly won't hold any height advantage over cornerbacks, but the team almost certainly isn't looking to trot him out there as a receiver right away. Instead, I suspect that Kinoshita will be competing with Allen Rossum for the return job. He ranked second in the NFL Europa in combined yards and fourth in kick returns last year. That indicates to me that the Falcons are probably primarily interested in him as a kick returner, which would be a bonus. If he can catch a few passes and show some elusiveness in the open field, he'll probably be an upgrade over Rossum. I don't want to minimize what the aging cornerback did for our return game the last couple of years, but he's horrifying in coverage and is only getting older. With Finneran gone for the year, it never hurts to have another look at receiver, either.
So here's to Noriaki Kinoshita. Hope you find a home with your favorite team.