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The Falcons will use Week 17 as a proving ground for young players

It's the right move for a team that needs to figure out who is worth keeping around.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have played their young players in fits and starts this year, but with Week 17 offering the last chance for rookies and 2016 roster aspirants to make their cases, you should see a lot more of them against the saints.

While we all want to see the Falcons beat the Saints, it is a very good idea to take a long look at borderline players and potential future contributors with your last game of the 2015 season. The Falcons do not have a playoff spot at risk, here, and they cannot finish worse than second in the NFC South or lower than .500 on the year. What they can do is decide whether Malliciah Goodman, who has been inactive much of the year and will be fighting for a roster spot next year, is worthy of that spot. They can figure out how much Jalen Collins has developed, and get one more game tape to review as they try to fix his flaws in the offseason. And they can determine whether Tyler Starr is going to be ready to make a 2016 impact after effectively spending two seasons developing on the fringes of the roster and practice squad.

These are questions worth pondering because there are veterans likely to be on the outs, because the team needs cheap, effective players to fill out the 2016 roster, and because players like Collins, Starr, and Justin Hardy have legitimate upside that could accelerate Atlanta's growth into a genuine contender. A one game sample isn't much, I'll grant you, but it's the best the team is going to get now, and if it makes offseason evaluations a little easier, it'll be worthwhile.

Also, if any of these guys sacks Drew Brees, it'll be tremendous.