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The Future of The Falcons' Undrafted Free Agents

The Atlanta Falcons saw big contributions from the UDFAs in 2013. Will that continue in 2014?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There's two ways to look at the Falcons' reliance on undrafted free agents in 2013. The first praises the front office for managing to find multiple undrafted players who contributed to the team this season. The second criticizes the team for relying so heavily on undrafted free agent talent in the first place.

In 2013, the Falcons saw Ryan Schraeder, Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu, and Darius Johnson seize roles. Worrilow was a full-time starter a little after halfway through the season, while the rest rotated in and out of the lineup. All were pleasant surprises, considering their lack of draft status, but the Falcons are a team in need of major upgrades. How many of these guys will have major roles again in 2014?

Paul Worrilow

The team's leading tackler had a whirlwind season. Pro Football Focus wasn't fond of him in coverage or as a run stopper, but Worrilow provided real stability to a middle linebacker position lacking it since Curtis Lofton left.

I think he's got a shot at opening the season as the starter there, as it isn't the most integral position in Mike Nolan's defense and Worrilow has enough promise to make him worth the gamble. It will depend entirely on what the Falcons do in the draft at MLB.

Joplo Bartu

Bartu was quickly overshadowed by Worrilow's huge tackle numbers, but by many metrics he was the better player in his snaps. He's got fantastic athleticism and showed surprising pass-rushing chops, and as was the case with Worrilow, he was incredibly impressive for a UDFA.

Bartu probably will not start in 2014, but he should be able to find plenty of snaps as a pass rushing outside linebacker. If the Falcons don't add starting-caliber talent at the position, I could see him splitting one of the outside jobs with Kroy Biermann.

Darius Johnson

DJ was a fan favorite coming out of preseason, to the point where there was a small-scale riot when he didn't stick on the final roster. At least, that's how I remember it.

Johnson appeared in 10 games with two starts, putting up a 22/210/1 slash line that looks utterly pedestrian until you realize that he was a UDFA getting real snaps outside and inside for a team decimated by injuries at receiver. There were rookie mistakes, but there were also impressive catches.

In 2014, Johnson is likely to be the team's fourth or fifth receiver. He's no lock to make the final roster, but I think his combination of hands, decent wheels and potential make him worth having around.

Ryan Schraeder

The Falcons sorely needed and still need a quality swing tackle. Schraeder showed enough to make me believe he could be that guy in Atlanta for a while, and if the Falcons don't make tackle a priority in free agency or the draft, he should battle Lamar Holmes for the right tackle job. I'm totally serious.

Terren Jones

A massive, massive man that you probably already forgot about. Jones barely saw the field and is all projection and upside at this point. The Falcons would be wise to carve out space for him on the practice squad and give him another year to develop.

How do you see the UDFAs faring in 2014?